Wednesday, 2 January 2013

E-Learning and Digital Cultures

I have just started participating in my first MOOC (mass open online course) – it is a free course offered by the University of Edinburgh entitled E-learning and Digital Cultures:  I’m mentioning this because…

Firstly, the course itself does not begin till the 28th January – but many of us having received our welcome email have been speaking with prospective course members in our FaceBook Group:  since late November. Given how hard it can be to get our students to engage in Web 2.0 even on courses that are under way  it is intriguing to see what can happen when engaged and motivated people are linked this way. I am inspired – but wonder how to transfer this to my own students at a later date…

AND, given that if I want to tackle an issue from the student perspective, I find the best way is to set it as a question for students to answer…  I have already offered my students the opportunity to work this problem out for me, as an assignment question on my new Peer mentoring in practice module, viz.:  Is there a role for online peer mentoring? How can we create online communities? If any students choose that topic, I can feed back their responses here.

Secondly, I am going to take the opportunity to blog about the course – its ups and downs and learning opportunities – here in Last Refuge rather than by setting up a specific blog for that purpose and that purpose alone. So for my convenience – and yours if you follow – here are quick links:

Space to think & try some new ideas:
           Keep a wish list with pictures on Pinterest
          Join our QuadBlog experiment
          Study Group for the course
          Feel overwhelmed? Vent here

We can add ourselves to the
           Google Map
           Blog list and:
           Read the rules

           edcmooc course page
           course members who themselves are tutors: Group page

Student room:
         Facebook group
         Twitter people on the course

Tech Tools:
           Tech tools for education
           What’s your recipe?

Journals, articles and videos all related to this course, and to the wider field of MOOC’s and technology:

The library is online at Diigo; we can add ourselves to the group. Tag any link with edcmooc so it’s easier for us to search: Diigo

First question posted in our ‘classroom’:
Q: What is your definition of “Digital Culture” ?

So – on becoming an on-line student:

1: How sensitive are we: First of all I leapt into the FB group – introduced myself – read other people’s introductions and ‘liked’ them as a way of saying hello… Then I got upset that no one liked me back (one kind person did – but only one). A younger me could have felt so rebuffed by this that I might not have come back again. I mention this not to celebrate my new maturity or to sigh over my poor weak former self – but to note that this sort of unintended ‘rebuff’ could be exactly the sort of thing that ‘tells’ our tentative students that this on-line space is no more welcoming of them than the traditional classroom… So what’s the solution? Set ground rules e.g. Don’t bother ‘liking’ anyone – just browse around and get involved when you want to… Be warned – there are more lurkers than active participants at first – don’t be upset if no one ‘likes’ you are what you say?

2: How overwhelming it can be:
Web 2.0: We have been invited to communicate with each other via Blogs, QuadBlogs, FB, Twitter, Google+ and probably more… I stopped even being able to think after those were mentioned. I have joined the FB group – and I will keep this Blog – but the thought of multiple conversations going on in all those different spaces does my head in (as we say in the vernacular). Solution? With a small group – I think offer just one main dialogic space – though of course people would still be free to take forward their own conversations in as many other spaces that they wanted. With one space everyone knows where the discussion is taking place – and everyone can be connected with everybody in a targeted and time efficient way. In a mass course – perhaps divide people up by on-line space of choice – so some will be dialogic in FB and some in Google+ - but you don’t need to feel that you have to be in all of those spaces to keep on top of things...

FaceBook: I have my FB linked to my work email – I do a bit of Web 2.0 as part of my job… Every time anyone posts in the #EDCMOOC FB group – I get an email. There are about 135 of us in the group at the moment, but already there are 32,000 course members. If everybody joins and posts my in-box will be even more overwhelmed. Today when I was brave enough to look in my in-box there were over 200 emails – and it is the holidays. I don’t know how to divert these #EDCMOOC FB emails to a separate in-box: they come from different contributors linked by subject – not by correspondent. Solution? Warn people that this will happen – and suggest a positive frame of mind. Perhaps another idea would be to get a separate email account for situations like this – and not to use one’s everyday one at all. That way all the alerts can go into that one account and they can all be deleted at a stroke: no in-box need ever feel so deluged again. Too late for me for this MOOC – but something to think about for another time.

People: There are so many people posting in the FB already before the course proper starts; how do I manage this? Some time has helped here; after a while I can see the people whose posts interest or intrigue me, so these are the names I will look for first – and these are the people whose Tweets and Blogs I will also try to get a handle on. Sadly these are not the people I am likely to be quadblogging with – because so many of them, being all proactive and engaged, have already formed quadblogs with other people. Solution? Be philosophical this time – and snap up the interesting proactive people quickly next time!

Twenty-six days and counting till the course actually starts!


mybackyard78 said...

Nice observations Sandra. I'm the same on a lot of them. I don't mind getting the FB e-mail updates as I can quickly scan content & don't miss any posts. On point 2, I think it's worth pointing out that the course leaders only mentioned Twitter, blog, Flickr, YouTube as Web 2.0 tools. The FB group was student initiated so I think that is why it's a bit sprawling - there is no-one "in charge" as such. To begin with I thought that was great, but I see more now how some basic ground rules would probably help in a big group like this. If only to help signpost people.

I hope you find someone to quadblog with. I'm sure you will.


Unknown said...

You are absolutely right, Chris. I do now like the FB alerts in my in-box and I get a sense of what is going on and I am reassured that I will not miss anything important. I was just reminding myself of what it felt like at first - when work was also so busy - and everything felt so overwhelming - and all those email alerts made me feel that my whole life was spiralling out of control. I don't feel that way now - but I want to hold on to some of these initial impressions in case it helps me help others overcome their own fears. Best, S

Unknown said...

Hi Sandra,
I like your post, and agree with you. It can be overwhelming; it is annoying when you post a question and get no response, but like you said, sometimes it's not an intentional rebuff; it's just like traditional face to face interactions, sometimes you click with certain people, or say something that interests some but not others...the lack of face to face dialogue makes it even harder. We have so little information to go on about people to form dialogues...makes it even harder than in a face to face interaction when you are meeting new people. I know I have read posts and wanted to comment or like and got sidetracked and forgot to express my thoughts. I think your advice is a good one, especially if we're using these social sites with younger students and even with adults...everyone deserves a little attention if we post something, but don't take it personally, or stop posting if you don't garner any attention at all in the form of comments or likes. By the way, just because you are not in a particular quad, it doesn't mean you can't comment on these blogs, and interact with these people. Once I get my blog up and running, you can visit my blog any time. I'll be sure to visit yours again as well and post comments.

Britt Watwood said...

Sandra, you wrote the post I was thinking of writing! I have been feeling many of the same concerns.

I have to admit that I have held back on joining any quad blog groups until I see more about how the course is going to unfold. I will also admit to not "liking" people in FB (though I do tend to like people). :-)

Neat blog - I have just added it to my Google Reader list of blogs I follow.

e-purser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
e-purser said...

Hi Sandra - I got active on all the various spaces last month simply because it was the best time of year for me to do so, being in the southern hemisphere where the academic year ends with the calendar year - if the course was starting up in March or in August, forget it, I don't think I would have even signed up let alone started FBing and Tweeting and G+ing and all the rest! But I think the point, or the opportunity to explore, is simply to play around and find out which of these options feels most comfortable, and then just stick with that for most of your conversations. I certainly don't imagine or want to keep up with all of them, but I've taken the opportunity to learn how to use those that were new to me - having an audience means you can learn very very quickly and decide what works best, and I'm so grateful to the course and the active participants so far for allowing that to happen. It's been fun - but I know once the new academic year starts here I will have to disappear from it all pretty quickly, so I'm just having fun while I can, and making friends along the way - it's great, but it shouldn't come with any sense of obligation or identity stress :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Britt and Emily - it is really good to get any sense that any one has read a blog that I've written - but your positive responses are great!

Unknown said...

Hi Sandra,

You can see the length of some of the fb threads. Sometimes if you are caught up in one or two, then more conversations get tricky to manage, and so it is easy to focus and miss someone new coming into the group. But you are in the group now and I can see nobody is overlooking your contributions! This is a great post, and you are definitely not alone in your experiences.

Like Emily, I go back to work soon (a week tomorrow), so I'm making hay while the sun shines.

And I connect with Ary's comment about getting sidetracked on fb. I tend to go to the edcmooc page from my notifications, and so only those posts come up, not the new ones. So If I remember to go to the page where I see every post, then I read them, intend to respond, but sometimes never arrive back at them.

And as Chris says, it's a bit sprawling. I have been away at the beach for a couple of days, and just visited the fb site, and it now looks a bit beyond me, I am too busy this week to take some time to scroll through all the conversations and re-engage. Even twitter I have lost the plot with, and I can see there are lots of interesting links to read.

Students from my own course are starting to contact me for the start of our academic year, and so I will probably now only be able to concentrate on my own blogging group and the course for real. As will probably be the case with most of the edcmooc students.

I have taken inspiration from your post, I think giving your students the question about forming an online community is a FANTASTIC idea. Our group is a great model, but we are very keen and doing it for the learning and not assessment. I wonder what your students will come up with. Keep us posted!


drrbb2nd said...

Hi Sandra,

I'm a part of your quadrablog and thought I would have a look at your blog today. I'm sorry I'm so late to the discussion. It looks like others have already pitched in and have some good suggestions.

One thing I liked about what you said was you are using this MOOC to have your current students participate. I think this is a great idea. Have you been getting good feedback from them?

I've posted one blog already and plan on doing another one before class begins on Monday. My blog is:

I look forward to interacting with you and others over the next few weeks.


Kay C said...

Hi Sandra
I'm part of your quad blog - and I love your post about trying to find a way in the many different areas of discussion and dialogue. I have found Google Plus to be easier to manage than Facebook although I do still lurk on there also - my problem is that I feel like I'm missing out if I don't check everywhere, then I'm overcome by too much info!! You are welcome to check out my blog at

Unknown said...

Thanks again to Rick and Kay C - I have left comments on both your blogs - which I have enjoyed reading. This has been the week from work hell for me - but I am 0.8 (i.e. I am fractional and officially work four days per week) and can sometimes actually not do too much University work on a Friday - so today I am finally plunging into the course, making notes, doing some of the reading - and planning to write my next blog... Tally ho!

Unknown said...

And thanks also to Angela for her feedback - I am trying to follow your blogs also!

Anonymous said...

Hello again edcMOOCers!

Inquiring Minds Want To Know Your Blogging Backstory!

Many of us in edcMOOC either blogged throughout the course, or used quad- blogging to connect with other edcMOOCers.

Whether you were a new or experienced blogger, what role did blogging play in your overall edcMOOC experience?

We want to hear your blogging backstory, and we need your help!
It’s human!

A few of us edc alum are writing a short paper about the role of blogging and quadblogging to foster organic peer to peer learning in a mooc.

Would you please visit our most human survey, which takes a jiffy to complete, to share your invaluable information! Thanks in advance edc moocers for your help!