04 February 2009

On-line learning (3)

I logged on "casually" tonight, to find 71 unread messages. Too much. I logged off.

Face to face, the rules influencing contributions and attention to them are hugely complex and we all filter and attend selectively and wilfully ignore and prioritise, and we do it in "real time", as contributions are made and conversations unfold.

I don't know how to handle this as a "student". As a tutor, I just had to get on with it, and I was rarely off-line for long enough to let messages build up. After all, tutoring an on-line course was part of my core business, as it were. Paradoxically, I was less selective in my attention than I would have been in a real classroom.

I've read some of the posts, and thought, "Hmm, interesting point, I might respond to that---but no, don't be silly, responding only encourages them!"

---and that is of course really interesting in terms of being one one side of the fence or the other. As a tutor I desperately wanted this intercourse and debate; as a student I want to cut to the chase and get the substantive content. All these ideas from my fellow participants who (with of course all respect) don't know much more than I do are all very well, but... In class, the lecturer/teacher/tutor would (because the conversation is synchronous) close it down and move on. That option is only available via draconian measures on-line, which are experienced as censorship while being "normal" class management in the face to face world.

Of course, the other factor is to ask just how real this on-line course is? There are two issues here;
  • first, this is a course about on-line learning so it has attracted people who are interested in it, and presumably have more to say about it. My comments about "don't encourage them" might be quite irrelevant/otiose in the context of a required course for undergrads.
  • On the other hand, the distribution of contributions seems at first glance (the tutors have access to the stats, so they may confirm later) to follow the same broadly power-law distribution identified by Bales et al in the 1950s on participation in groups in general (see here)
Enough. In the time I have spent writing this, I could probably have learned more by reading those 71 posts, and perhaps responding to them and joining the debate rather than standing (arrogantly?) and sniping on the side-lines. And this critique is about the issues inherent in e-learning; it implies nothing about any individual or indeed implementation.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for thought provoking reflections, links to you writing and Bales.
    Did/do classrooms ever aspire to equal participation vs. equal opportunity? Bales seems to suggest they might have at that time.


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