Today my course has officially gone live.  The next four weeks I’m entering the unknown and I hope I enjoy the ride.  As stated before this is my first time teaching online and my students are also new to learning in a fully online environment.  At least I’m starting this journey with previous teaching experience and a copy of Salmon’s e-moderation book as my trusty guide.  I need to take a deep breath and embrace the unknown.

Since my last post I have been tied down with my last assignment which I just managed to submit today(phew!).  Along with this I’ve chosen the participants and gave my course a well needed makeover.   So it’s been pretty full on and I’m expecting for it to get even busier as the month progresses.  I need to start writing my literature review and at the same time give my 100% to the online course as well as keeping regular updates to this blog.  I really want to try to make it as successful an experience as possible for the students taking part.  The first stumble I encountered was technological difficulties.  Thankfully I decided to make sure that prior to the course starting, students would check if they were able to download and access Second Life.  Unfortunately two students were unable to do this due to having old computers with  weak bandwidth.   Luckily I made sure of this before starting.  I don’t want technology to interfere too much to the development of the course but I realise that it will create unavoidable problems which I need to address as they arise.   I’m unsure how students will cope with creating their own blog and whether they will find difficulty when trying to add widgets along with adding videos and images to their blog posts.  Hopefully I will be able to direct them via skype if they are unsure how do to anything. Furthermore, I’m also extremely anxious about how students will react to using Second Life and I worry that I don’t have enough experience using this platform to competently assist them through any difficulties they encounter.  One student already voiced their concerns about using SL, asking if it was necessary to use it.  I advised  them to try not to worry about Second Life and told them that ‘It is very new to me and my advice is just to go with the flow’.  This is something I need to also repeat to myself.  Even if I’m unsure and anxious I can’t let students be aware of this and therefore,   I need to remain as upbeat and confident  as possible.

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It’s truly amazing how things can change from sending an e.mail or a quick tweet.  The buzz of rapid response takes a shape of its own and can become overwhelming and almost impossible to control and reign  in.  Once it’s out in cyber space there’s no knowing how it will develop.  I started the week with two potential participants and ended up with  too many to choose from.  Although I should be pleased about this and embrace the influx of response I instead started to panic.  I wanted to interview all potential participants but realised this would not be impossible so I decided to conduct a questionnaire on survey monkey.  This meant that I could decide from their responses who would be the best suited for the course.  Please check out my questionnaire here: Andy’s questionnaire.   If you have students who would be interested then please give them the link.

Since receiving responses to my questionnaire I am unsure whether students will be able to dedicate enough time to the course and whether their internet connection and computer will be powerful enough to use Second Life.  I am also concerned about the logistics of making sure that all students will be able to meet together in Second Life due to the different time zones and whether there are restrictions in certain countries to actually access Second Life.  More importantly I’m apprehensive about whether my course will be able to satisfy the diversity of participants individual  needs and expectations from the course.

I should be rejoicing rather than panicking about the amount of interest in my course.  I’m sincerely grateful for all my friends on Facebook spreading the word and in particular Gabriela, Sunny and Tracy who have been extremely supportive and managed to find me several interested candidates.  Sunny sent my e.mail to over 400 students at her University in China and I was floored with the amount of e.mails sent to my inbox.  Thankfully the questionnaire I created has made it more manageable to choose.  Since making this blog available for everyone to see I have had an immense amount of support and was really grateful for Nicky Hockly and Shelly Terrell for spreading the word and tweeting about my blog.  It’s astonishing how twitter is such a powerful tool to create a buzz and connection with other practitioners.  It really makes you feel that  there are people interested and the sense of community encourages me to continue.


Is it possible to make a course for busy people?

How difficult can it be finding participants for a new innovative on-line course?  I thought it would be a breeze but I was proven to be very wrong.  I reckon my first problem was believing that my snapshot of a course was innovative.   When you finish creating a new course you feel very proud of what you have achieved and tend to not be as critical as you perhaps should.  The more I step away from the course the more I see changes that need to be made.  However I view it as a template which can be adjusted depending on my students needs.  I firmly believe that it needs to be flexible and will only work if it adopts a learner-centred approach which takes into consideration sociocultural factors.  I think this is exciting as instead of following a book I can develop tasks around my students and cater for their interests.  At the moment I’m still trying to confirm participants to take part in the course and assist with my research project.  Initially I contacted my friends in Japan as I believed they fitted the bill for my course.  I was looking for busy office workers who would not have the time or energy to attend an English classroom but had the enthusiasm and drive to practice English. Living in a context where English is not used, it is very difficult for them to continue to learn English and develop fluency. I think that learning over the internet can make this possible and that the advancement of mobile learning means that English can be learnt on the move at a time which is convenient for the learner.  I sent out several e.mails emphasising that this course would be flexible to their needs and stated that it would cater for people with busy lifestyles.  With this in mind I was very disheartened when I only received a couple of replies that said they were too busy to take part.  Since then I have contacted ELT friends who have been very supportive and have also tried to spread the word and used their contacts from previous jobs teaching English around the world to try to find some willing participants.  Again nothing happened and I was starting to panic.  Luckily this panic subsided once I was introduced to Elizabeth who has been unbelievably helpful in gathering me some very enthusiastic German students.  I recently interviewed some over Skype and I started to feel that the my research could actually go ahead.   It seems that the dissertation will be full of ups and downs and I need to accept that this is all part of the process.

Spreading the word

May 10, 2011

Thankfully my perseverance paid off and I started to receive some encouraging e.mails from practitioners and potential participants.  Two friends in Japan were very interested in taking part in the course and thought that it would be an exciting experience but at the same time they  were concerned that it may take too much time to contribute.  I replied by reassuring them that it would be a flexible course and was purposely build for busy people who don’t have much time to practice English due to their demanding lifestyles.

As you all know the Royal Wedding this month was an occasion celebrated all over the world.  I have to say that I was amazed at the surge of royalist support and instead of joining this joyous atmosphere I decided instead to spend my time wisely working on my last assignment with the royal snoozefest on the tv in the background.  While this event was happening my father was attending one of the many street parties occurring all over the world in celebration of the Royal wedding.  With a background of champagne flowing, dainty cupcakes and copious amounts of red white and blue bunting my father talked with Elizabeth who is an ESL teacher with over 30 years experience teaching in Germany.  From this chance encounter I have been in daily contact with Elizabeth and she has provided me with several interested Germans who are looking forward to participating  in my course.  It is these moments that put some much-needed energy back into your project and I am now starting to feel that my research is  becoming a reality.

Finding participants

May 10, 2011

In order for this research to commence I first need to find participants.  The past couple of months I have contacted many people in the hope that I can find some likely candidates to take part in my online course.  I decided to use ‘facebook’ to contact my friends in Japan and also asked other EFL teachers if they knew of anyone who would be interested in joining the course for one month.  It has been a very stressful process and I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to find some participants.

Here is my original message which I send to several people:

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