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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Making Changes

May 25, 2011

At the moment I have been very busy finishing my last assignment before I can actually start the dissertation process.  I have to say that I’m very anxious about what lies ahead.  I really need to change the course which I developed as it has too many tools to cope with and I need to think of tasks which will be suitable for the learners needs.  With not much time left to pursue my research I now need to restructure my course so that it is more manageable in the short time frame which I have. This is all very new to me and I suppose I was naive in thinking that I could incorporate so many tools into a short course. Furthermore, I don’t have any experience teaching online so this will be a challenge and I fear that it will become a very stressful experience.  However, I’m sure it will be an immense learning opportunity and at the end of the process I will have a great insight into teaching online.

I recently got in touch with Isil Boy who has a very helpful blog, offering many different ways to incorporate web 2.0 tools into practice and provides advice on how to use technology effectively to support language learning. Isil was very encouraging and offered me some advice which I need to seriously think about:

 “I was just wondering about the number of the tools you used. Especially Second Life is a big challenge. Or, if you want to use more tools, creating a Mini Ning Network would be good to collect all the works on one place, and you can see all the members with their individual pages. Considering wikis, I use pbworks and embed “groupboard” for online chat and whiteboard, which is free 🙂 Maybe you can use it to make it available for synchronous communication. Finally, you can use #andy hashtag to chat with students.”

This advice was a wakeup call and made me seriously consider whether I should make drastic changes to my course.  I’m now starting to really question whether my course expects too much from the learners.  Moreover, I don’t want anxiety over the use of technology to distract them from the learning experience.  I’m particularly nervous about teaching in Second Life as it is new to me and I’m taking a big risk including it in my course without much experience.  I decided to contact Heike who is continually supportive and encouraging.  She has agreed to meet me in Second Life to show me around and offer me advice and tips.  I’m really grateful that Heike is willing to offer her time and I’m sure this will relieve some of my anxiety.  I’m interested in discovering the benefits of language learning in Second Life and really don’t want to erase it from my course as I think it is an exciting place for students to learn and offers a great potential for language learning.

Isil Boy: http://isilboy.blogspot.com/

Heike Philp : http://www.virtual-round-table.com/profile/HeikePhilp

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.