Learning to juggle(Stage 1 and 2)

June 4, 2011

Pheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew! The course has gone live and I’ve reached the weekend with no disastrous stories to tell(touch wood).  I hoped to find more chances to express my thoughts during the week but this is the only time where I’ve found I can sit back and  reflect.  Prior to the course starting I wanted to make sure that the students chosen for the course were able to access second life and had enough time during the week to dedicate to the course tasks.  Students were chosen from different cultures so that there would be a more global atmosphere where students would have the opportunity to interact with others who they would otherwise not have had the opportunity to meet.  The initial e.mails I received from students ranged from excitement to apprehension about what the course would entail.  I really want make sure that everyone has a worthwhile experience.

The prior induction and first task incorporate the first(Access and motivation) and second stage(Socialisation) of Salmon’s model.  Students are greeted with a welcoming page and clear instructions are provided about how to take part with encouragement  provided for students to engage with one another and interact.  I was dubious whether I had provided enough information or even too much and wanted to get the right balance so that students were well-informed but at the same time not overwhelmed.  Before releasing the first task I provided students with the course outline and netiquette and asked for them to introduce themselves.  The first task requires students to write a blog post introducing themselves to the other students.  Students are encouraged to read each others blogs and make comments on any posts which they find interesting.  I wanted the task to be manageable so that students could become familiar with collaborating and comfortable creating their own blog.  Salmon’s model seems to only mention a Computer mediated conference(or forum), however I wanted to make sure that students could produce something which was self-directed and at the same time encouraged them to visit other students blogs rather than just sharing the same platform.  At first I was encouraged to see that students were using the comments boxes to introduce themselves but they did not seem to be interacting with each other.  I need to realise that it will take time for students to socialise and I can’t expect it to just happen.  Therefore,  I need to try my best at this early stage to encourage students to engage so that they can form a rapport with each other which can motivate students to support each other throughout and feel that they are not alone.  A problem I noticed with using a blog for the course meeting place was that students were unsure where to put their comments.  I need to make it clearer that the comments should be posted at the bottom of the corresponding task.  I also feel that maybe having lots of different student blogs to look at may prove to be time-consuming and I wonder if it would have been better just having one platform like moodle which has everything in the one place.

I have decided to incorporate a face-to-face synchronous component each week via Skype so that students  can ask any questions about the course and express their feelings.  At first I was apprehensive about talking over Skype and I was unsure whether this would be effective and worthwhile.  After talking to three students I became more reassured and encouraged about using it.  The students were very enthusiastic and expressed excitement about learning online and talking with me over Skype.  Sharing my screen with the students was helpful in showing and talking them through the course blog and  reassured them what was expected for each task.  At the end of the conversation I issued each student with an mp3 recording of our conversation for them to reflect on what was said.  Talking over Skype gave students an opportunity to  talk about their feeling with regards to interacting with other students and the usage of technology.  All students seemed to be comfortable with making their own blog and requested to be corrected if they make any errors.  It was very effective to talk with students and I was able to gain an understanding of how they were feeling at this early stage.  After talking to the students on Skype I noticed that they started to  comment more on other students blogs and they also made more blog posts.  It seems that the Skype chat made the course feel more  personable and engaging due to the face-2-face element.  At the same time students could practice their speaking and listening skills and share personal anecdotes.

I have to say that I really enjoyed talking with the students but at the same time I’m completely exhausted.  I have to make sure that I continue this blog as well as conduct the course and at the same time read relevant literature and start to write the dissertation.  It’s going to be a full on couple of months and I will just need to learn to juggle without dropping any vital components.  Let’s hope I become a competent juggler by the end of August.


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