01 February 2009

On-line learning (2)

The on-line course is now getting going; there are 22 participants including me and several tutors, of whom two have so far made an appearance. Several initial impressions;
  • Every post is (at this stage) religiously responded to by the tutors. That really matters on-line. Frankly some of the responses are banal, but that is not the point. In class, I can nod, make eye-contact, smile, or note a key-word on a flip-chart. All such responses send "message received and (at least) valued", and they require no deliberate effort. Not so on-line; perhaps as the learning community grows (there are only about 4 contributors to date) the tutors will back off a little. If they don't, there is the danger of creating a "hub-and-spoke" pattern of communication which might inhibit direct "network" interaction between participants. I don't think that is very likely with mature, confident participants, but it could well happen with undergrads. (Of course, all this is my opinion and speculation--one of the things I am hoping to learn is whether or not it is well-founded.)

  • I'm not exactly finding it difficult to navigate the site, but it is a little unnatural. The tutors have provided an excellent and comprehensive user guide/course orientation/study guide. I remember working with Steve Ryan and Bernard Scott in 1996 on my first "resource-based learning" course, and their emphasis on the Study Guide. I initiallly thought it rather patronising, but later learned how necessary it was. But it remains a really tricky job to "pitch" it just right. And my own ambivalence testifies to that. Part of the time I am irritated by the assertion of the plonkingly obvious, only to have to refer back to it because I have missed something...

  • ...but of necessity the course site is segmented into separate areas. Each week or assignment has its discussion board, there is a virtual coffee-bar (where participants are already unsure about what belongs and what should be elsewhere) and so on. In the real world---for better or for worse---we would move, slide, elide between these different conversations, without too much concern about what belonged where. Uh oh!...

  • ...The net does not do ambiguity! (sorry, folks, if this is self-indulgent, but the problem/necessity [?] of ambiguity in curriculum design has been a preoccupation of mine [and colleagues] for many years).
Enough for now.

1 comment:

  1. Hi James

    it's the third tutor here; )
    I think your comments about the need to respond to every post is very interesting and I was reflecting about this myself this morning. As a tutor I find it very hard to post a response that I feel has nothing pertinant to say - although like yourself agree that it is vital, partiularly at the beginning of a course when no response (and no validation) could result in a participant not coming back.

    Once the students gain confidence then it is much more rewarding to see people responding to each other in a more natural way, with less need for reassuring acknowledgments. So a point well made I think and hopefully we'll see that happening on this one - looking forward to reading your future reflections too and hope you don't mind me commenting.


Comments welcome, but I am afraid I have had to turn moderation back on, because of inappropriate use. Even so, I shall process them as soon as I can.