Individual Reflective Report for Padraig McDonagh
(word count excluding references and appendix 1,037 words)
By way of introduction I must say that this module exceeded my expectations in so many ways. I felt inspired by the many facets of online learning and enthused by the myriad of possibilities that lie within our reach (see appendix 1 excerpts from my blog). I am genuinely excited at the prospect of running online modules and from my reading I can see that the tutors on this module have adopted so many of the best practices that it would be hard for a student to “fall off the grid” or be a “passenger”.
Week one was the induction week and at the time I didn’t appreciate the importance of this session. For most students it was a straightforward check of our online facilities, but for others it highlighted the scope for issues with technology when running an online course. Some students – it seemed to be particularly those using iPads – had issues with the webinar software and this was the ideal time the resolve them. If I was running a purely online course myself I would definitely organise one, if not two, induction sessions to ensure that technology would not be an issue. As it was, later in the course, our Wiki group used google hangouts to have some meetings and even then the technology did not work exactly as intended. After some research we managed to sort it but it did delay things slightly. Manton (2009, p.45) a practitioner from University of Oxford, stresses the importance of preparation and the fact that online learning must be better planned to produce better learning. There is no single template that will suffice for running an online course but I know that when I run one there will have to be a large checklist written in advance.
Week two was the first live webinar and I found myself switching my attention between the tutor speaking, and the chat window. I rearranged the default windows so that the chat window was directly beneath the tutor’s face and this helped! This session also showed the value of having two tutors, one to speak and the other to watch the chat window. It was very effective and was something which our group mirrored when we presented our work in progress via webinar. I did a little digging and found some very good resources on webinars before our WIP, in particular on MOOCs from Rodgriguez (2012) which echoed a lot of what the tutors on our module were doing.
The online discussion forums were up and running at this stage and it was a revelation to watch them in action as we were encouraged to post, comment on each other’s posts and generally engage with our classmates. The watchful eyes of the tutors, combined with their prompts and comments were the catalysts we needed to keep posting and go back to others posts more than the required minimum. It helped me realise the commitment required to run an online course and reading Edelstein and Edwards (2002) confirmed this.
Week three was a mixed bag for me as the debate was just starting up, we had formed our group for Wiki work, and a close friend of mine passed away. I found it hard to divide my loyalties between the larger debate team and the smaller Wiki group, I felt that the smaller Wiki group needed me more and prioritised that. It was good that I got involved early, volunteering to chair the group for the first week, pushing the first deliverable of the Learning Agreement, as events outside the course meant I had to leave the work for a while. Coming back to the Wiki group was easier as I had invested more in it and I found evidence of this in Wegerif (1998) where the sense of community was very supportive.
The debate side was very interesting and I was sorry I could not contribute more but I had be strategic with my time to try to catch up as recommended by White (2008) she also highlighted the idea of “phase changes” in an online course, which make re-entry easier. In my work I run a course on Network Security and I feel an online debate on Internet safety, or Government monitoring, using someone like Edward Snowden as a debating point would be very valuable. It is something I am seriously considering using as we have Moodle and I have used forums successfully in the past to get students to share stories relating to the subject I was teaching.
Week four was the work in progress Webinar, as well as great insights from Michael Seery and Tadhg O’Connell from Skillsoft. Access to Industry figures and practitioners is just another example of an advantage of doing a course online. People might be more willing to give up an hour of their time from their desk (or the cleaning room in Michael’s case) than travelling, talking, and maybe being expected to stay for lunch or a tour etc. I discussed an approach with my group colleagues the night before our presentation and created a small Wiki so we could all share our thoughts on best approaches. We also used a Google presentation file shared so that we could work on our prospective slides and comment on each other’s work simultaneously.
Week five was a masterclass in online group dynamics and co-ordinating effort and schedules. Our group worked very well together and it was interesting to see the efficiency and “rhythm” that evolved from our relatively short time together. We established roles and responsibilities quite easily and despite a little anxiety over one group member’s contribution we were all able to agree on a final submission, partially because we all agreed the main goal was to achieve success in the assignment, as recommended by Borg, Kembro, Notander, Petersson & Ohlsson (2011) It was also interesting to reflect that despite us agreeing a timetable which should have seen a 9 p.m. submission time the Wiki was still not finished until 23:50.
In conclusion, I must repeat my statement of excitement at the prospect of using the many techniques I learned on this module in my own work, both in a fully online, and blended format in the future.
Borg, M., Kembro, J., Notander, J., Petersson, C., & Ohlsson, L. (2011). Conflict Management in Student Groups-a Teacher’s Perspective in Higher Education. Högre utbildning, 1(2), 111-124.
Edelstein, S., & Edwards, J. (2002). If you build it, they will come: Building learning communities through threaded discussions. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 5(1).
Manton, M. (2009,) Effective Practice in a Digital Age, Joint Information Systems Committee, p.45.
Rodriguez, C. O. (2012). MOOCs and the AI-Stanford Like Courses: Two Successful and Distinct Course Formats for Massive Open Online Courses. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning.
Wegerif, R. (1998). The social dimension of asynchronous learning networks. Journal of asynchronous learning networks, 2(1), 34-49.
White, N. Catchup Strategies in Online Coures, retrieved 19th February 2015 from http://www.fullcirc.com/2008/09/11/catch-up-strategies-in-online-courses/
Appendix 1 : Reflective excerpts from my blog are here