We had our Elluminate-based session yesterday. Unfortunately I forgot to record the session. I think I should be able to adequately describe the session nonetheless.

The session was roughly composed of and can be considered in three phases – Access, Experience & Discussion.

 

Phase One – Access

Most of the problems with the session were computer-related (surprise).
Fifteen minutes from the session start time, I discovered that Irene didn’t have a headset. We managed to source one, and logged into the computer at the computer suite that I had booked for the purpose. Unfortunately the computer within this suite was blocked from accessing Elluminate. With five minutes to go, I returned to my office and managed to log in one minute before we were due to start. Irene now needed to install the java application to her computer, and log in to Elluminate. While walking through the audio-set up she discovered that she was unable to turn up the volume slider when trying to listen. As all of this was going on, Karole was having trouble with her mike. We had discovered previously that Irene’s headset didn’t have a mike, so here I was about to start on an Elluminate session (now 10 minutes late), and only 1 out of my three participants actually had a mike. One also couldn’t hear anything through her headset, but luckily enough was sitting next to me. Lucky for me I’m a bit of a stress management expert – BREATHE. 😉

On the upside, three out of three people were able to log into the session.

Reflection

I tried to ensure easy access to the Elluminate session for the participants (through directing them to the auto-setup wizards on the Elluminate site, and instructing them to allow time for downloading software) and although there were still problems with access, most of these were due to me trying to use a computer that I hadn’t used/tested previously for this purpose (pretty silly in retrospect). In the future I’ll endeavour to pre-test any computer and or network that I intend to use for educational purposes.

I think that I managed the needs of the participants pretty well. I’m happy that external participants had no major problems connecting with the session, as I believe that minimising technology-related issues is of prime importance in online education (Pillay, Irving, Tones, 2007). I was able to direct the participants who were already logged in to play around with the interface while I helped Irene get logged in.

I didn’t get stressed by the situation, and so was able to be calm & collected in communication with my students.

Phase 2 – Experience Technology

Once we were in the session, the participants were able to use messaging, and Ash (with the sole microphone) got the hang of talking fairly quickly. I demonstrated the use of power point in Elluminate, but unfortunately there was a lack of participation when I asked for people’s impressions of the proposed delivery model. I wanted the participants to type text-related impressions onto the screen, and then to use these as a basis for discussion but I didn’t get anything much to work with, so I moved on.

As we moved out of Elluminate into WikiEducator, blogs, and finally Pageflakes I used the hands up tool to determine if people could see on their screen what they needed for each stage of the directed exercise, and this was very successful. At each stage I was describing how each of these platforms would be used in the course. In the blog stage of the exercise, participants were supposed to login to their course blog, then copy & paste material from their WikiEd course page to their blog.

Unfortunately only one out of the three participants had managed to read their email prior to the session & set themselves up with a google account. As a result only one person was able to log into their blog & make their post. I made the most out of this by talking everyone through the process, and to finish off, we moved to look at the pageflakes-based course hub. The post that I had just made through my blog showed up, but it was at this stage that I found out the post made by the other participant had not been made correctly, as it didn’t show up (both here & on the course blog).

Reflection

The lack of participation in the group discussion was disappointing despite my use of open-ended questions, and encouragement of open discussion (Dobson, 2006). I am really interested to know what my staffs impressions are of this “brave new world”. I can interpret this in two contradictory ways

  1. When I asked for discussion, they were struggling with figuring out the communication interface, and this was distracting them from actually engaging with what I wanted to talk about (McQuillan, 2007b).
  2. They’re happy with what I’m proposing, and trust me enough to jump in & make the best of the experience

It was also disappointing that the blog-posting exercise wasn’t particularly successful. In retrospect perhaps I could have been more directive with my instructions on how to go about setting up a google account, or perhaps we could have spent some time at the start of the session. The participants are all very busy people, and probably saw this as just another thing to do. If I had either made it easier for them (being more directive), or embedded the process within the session this might have been more successful.

I’m surprised that there was a problem with the blog posting because I thought that the process was fairly simple. I did give step-by-step instructions but perhaps my familiarity with blogging has led me to see this process as easier and less complex than it actually is? I guess the main thing that I can take away from this is that engaging with computer applications will probably be more difficult than I expect it to be for a considerable proportion of the group that I am involved in facilitating. I probably need to drop my expectations of participants in terms of how self-directed they are able to be (given that self-effiacy is a pre-requisite of self-directed learning (Connor, 2004)).

However with those negatives in mind, it seems that the participants did get a sense of how the software applications will fit together in the delivery process, and were not overwhelmed with the prospect of gaining familiarity with these platforms. As these were the main objectives of the session, I still rate this section of the session a success.


Phase 3 – Discussion & Playtime

After the guided session we had some time to discuss what we’d just done, and how people felt about using these technologies next year. No-one seemed completely freaked out by what I was proposing which was a good sign, although there were requests for regular training/meetings based on working with the technology (already planned).

We spent some time after this just playing with the interface, and I have to say that the participants seemed to learn much more from this than the guided experience that I had designed for them previously.

Reflection

While participants seemed to develop skills in using the messaging window & in communication using the talk button, they seemed to learn quite a bit more and gain more confidence from the unstructured playtime in the Elluminate environment at the end of the session. This really adds more weight to Derek Chirnside’s suggestion to “practice & play with the tools before you use them” (McQuillan, 2007a), and it’s something I will definitely give more time to in the future.

Overall Reflection

Ithink that the balance of directed activities and facilitation worked fairly well in the session given the time constraints and learning outcomes. In terms of Salmon’s 5-stage model (2004), I think that the group was best characterised by the first level (Access & motivation), and to some degree the second (Online socialisation). Accordingly my aims were to provide access and an introduction to the technological platforms, and then to discuss any issues that arose. The model seemed to be appropriate in this case, and I will use it again.

Note

The reflections in this process have been informed by Bronwyn Hegarty’s three step reflective framework (2005), although the descriptions of reflection above do not follow the structure of the model.

References

Connor, C. (2004). Developing self-directed learners. Oregan, USA: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Retrieved on November 11, 2007 from http://www.nwrel.org/planning/reports/self-direct/index.html

The citizen’s handbook – a guide to building community

Hegarty Reflective Framework and Template. Retrieved on 20 November, 2007 from http://www.wikieducator.org/Hegarty_Reflective_Framework_and_Template

Managing technology glitches in online educationhttps://massageonline.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/managing-technology-glitches-in-online-education/

Time, familiarity and socialisation.https://massageonline.wordpress.com/2007/09/12/time-familiarity-and-socialisation/

Pillay, H., Irving, K., & Tones, M. (2007). Validation of the diagnostic tool for assessing Tertiary students’ readiness for online learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 26:2, 217 – 234

Salmon, G. (2004). The 5-stage model. Retrieved on 18 November, 2007 from http://www.atimod.com/e-moderating/5stage.shtml

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