15 February 2009

On-line learning (5)

We have been set up in small groups to work on a task, preferably via a wiki.

The group is self-managing. That is probably the right strategy, because imposing the burden of chairing a group on an individual is unfair when it will last for a week or more, and when the tutors have had no chance to assess capabilities... But. A chair will emerge, and it is interesting to reflect on who will assume that role under the circumstances. Is that person likely to preside over the best possible "product" from the group?

It so happens that for various reasons I took my eye off the ball this week (that might not be the best metaphor, since I have never been able to catch balls even when looking directly at them, but...) With two consequences;
  • I don't know where to find the group report, still less contribute to it, so
  • I feel more left out, and less inclined to log in to find what I am left out of...
I report this not to complain, by any means. ("For Brutus is an honorable man“ OK!) but to reflect on the limitations of on-line communication.

There are no back-channels. For good reasons, I can't "whisper" to a friend, "What's going on?". Nor is there a "new readers start here" facility. A course leader might well argue that to incorporate such a facility would be to give carte blanche to every free-loading lurker to check in when it suited them and to feign participation. But it all depends on what you think people are there for, and I confess that I am now highly ambivalent about the course.

On the one hand, I am ever more intrigued by the challenge faced by course designers and tutors, of reducing the subtleties of pedagogy to the concreteness of rubrics and procedures, like trying to capture the flow and tumble of water in stone. And I am impressed not only by the skill of the tutorial team, but also by their commitment.

On the other, I am frustrated by what seems increasingly to be the demonstrable failure of the model. Rightly, I think, the tutors are trying to promote interaction between the course participants. But I have only the vaguest idea of who they are. We did an introductions exercise, but the other people are still merely labels to me. I have no sense of them as people. Earlier, I went back to the introductions to check on who was "speaking", but it was too much hassle. So I found myself responding to everyone in the same way...

The introduction of small group working is an interesting shift. OK, it's not surprising that I can't hold in my mind the distinctive characteristics and characteristic opinions fo a couple of dozen people. But perhaps I ought to be able to do so for half a dozen? Perhaps. I have failed because I took my eye off the ball, but I don't know what would have happened had I not. (As it were!)

So perhaps this conversation within the group and a broadly socially-oriented pedagogy and indeed epistemology is a challenge too far for e-learning? Or just for a 64-year-old? Or is this topic the ultimate challenge for e-learning? (For new readers, the topic is "on-line tutoring and blended learning")

Incidentally, I have finally got the book. It came from India--there's globalisation for you.

I'll stick with it, but if I started with a motivation score of 7/10, it is now about 3/10. Of course, if I had not been distracted and kept up a constant contact every day, the outcome might well be very different...

No comments:

Post a comment

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.