Monday, February 4, 2008

Facilitating Online Learning Communities: Assignment 1

I joined an open access course last year: Facilitating Online Learning Communities. I am now officially enrolled and am in the process of completing the four assignments. Assignments 3 and 4 were concerned with the Elluminate sessions that I ran for midwives last year. Assignment 2 discussed my experience of wikis.
Assignment 1: Reflecting on your learning.

Discuss the characteristics of an online community and the implications for learning and teaching.
Evaluate online communication tools in given learning contexts.Articulate the skills for maintaining a successful online community.
Summarise the ideas, experiences and understanding of at least three other participants in the course and whether you agree with their postings - perceptions and beliefs about facilitation.
  • Carolyn: The plethora of tools and resources makes it seem that the sky is the limit with regards to online teaching, learning, collaboration and communication. It is very exciting and very easy to get carried away with the array of possibilities of social networking. But the challenge is to engage with students and midwives, and facilitate opportunities in such a way that they are challenged to participate. It is the learner that should drive social networking for learning and not the tools.
I absolutely agree with Carolyn that the leaner's needs and abilities has to be at the center of social networking and e-learning. And I believe the theme of her blog has been similar to mine - all these tools that we have learned about are fantastic, but our experience of them is not likely to be the same as the midwives and students we work. So the key to facilitation of any social networking tools or flexible delivery programs that we introduce in midwifery must be very well supported and scaffolded.
  • Graeme: Impediments to social networking in education and flexible delivery continue to be lack of access to adequate technology eg broadband. This discriminates against students who do not have that access. Whilst it is right and proper that students are at the center of learning, there are times that students have to be 'taught', and this has to be in a face-to-face context at times. There are times when the role of teacher and facilitator changes according to the needs of the student and education program. The unpredictability of technology can be problematic and the lack of academic rigor and evaluation is a barrier to wholesale uptake of social networking.
I have really enjoyed reading Graeme's perspectives on this course because he has maintained a degree of skepticism about the value of social networking, which at times has echoed my own questions. I have enjoyed his challenges which have balanced my very enthusiastic and somewhat manic explorations and adoption of social networking tools. I believe that his reminders about evaluation of this technology is timely if our aims are to provide education programs that are grounded on best practice and evidence-based teaching.
  • David: Technological breakdowns can be a frustrating problem so it is advisable to have an alternative plan. Lack of participation in online activities can be part-way addressed by giving participants the opportunity to 'play' and experiment with the technology. Strategies need to be put in place to encourage interaction eg making instructions and information as detailed and as simple, and presenting them in such a way that people will put them at the top of the list of their priorities. A balance of directed and facilitated activities is effective.
David and I teach in similar practical professions that are require a high degree of 'hands-on' education/teaching, so we have to address similar issues with how we deliver program material in a flexible way. I agree that we must remember that only 10% people engage with social networking. If it is the same with our students, we need to work out to increase the level of engagement.


Brickell, G. and Herrington, J. (2006). Scaffolding learners in authentic, problem based e-learning environments: The Geography Challenge. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 22(4), 531-547. [accessed 4/2/08]

Galea, V., Stewart, T. & Steel, C.H. (2007). Challenge FRAP: An e-learning tool used to
scaffold authentic problem-solving processes. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning.
Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007. [accessed 4/2/08]

Hakkarainen, P., Saarelainen, T. and Ruokamo, H. (2007). Towards meaningful learning through digital video supported, case based teaching. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 23(1), 87-109. [accessed 4/2/08]

Kikuchi, H. (2006). Motivational factors affecting online learning by Japanese MBA students. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 22(3), 398-415.

Oliver, B. and Goerke, V. (2007). Australian undergraduates' use and ownership of emerging technologies: Implications and opportunities for creating engaging learning experiences for the Net Generation. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 23(2), 171-186. [accessed 4/2/08]

Stewart, S. & McLoughlin, C. (2007). Design features of an e-mentoring system for the health
professions: Choosing to learn in partnership. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning.
Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007. [accessed 4/2/08]

Image: 'Fire in the sky'


Anonymous said...

This community is just awesome as it tells more about online training.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for that, online education.