Online Learning – A student perspective

It has been almost three years that I have been advocating the use of Moodle as an opensource course management system, though for only a week have I been on the other side of that recommendation.

My overall impressions have been good, especially in the ease of establishing an online profile. After logging in the first time, I was taken to the profile page and uploaded a photo I had lying around from the last conference I was speaking at, put in a bio and set up a blog in a few clicks. Beautiful.

The course I am in is being led by Sharon Derry, a member of the great league of learning scientists. (is that safe to say Sharon?) We are looking to study and hopefully create an online community and have spent our first week reading up on some of the foundational literature on group cognition, effectiveness and communication.

In Stahl, “Communicating with Technology” the topic of groupware came up in an academic setting, directly following a historical chart outlining the move from individual to social education theory. I took great interest in this article due to my history of working with the Microsoft Exchange groupware product and my daily dependence on things like oracle calendar here at the University. Unfortunately, I am still at a loss on how exactly to communicate the benefits of such a system so that it is adopted.

We also read an article, Kozlowski & Ilgen, “Enhancing the Effectiveness of Work Groups & Teams” that outlines some of the scholarship on team dynamics that lead to task fulfilling, viable workgroups and a paper by Akkerman et al., “Reconsidering Group Cognition” which illuminates the transition into a social-cultural perspective.

Moodle does a fantastic job for this format of class. The articles are easily found and the forums couldn’t be nicer. However, the synchronous chat that we used for our hour class time was not very effective. There was a lag time of at least 10 seconds for every statement I wrote (in iChat you actually see the others typing in real-time) and I didn’t see the ability to do any private chatting. In addition, there was no spell checking which of course revealed exactly how ignorant I really am.

Technology aside, I am curious to see how to properly facilitate for a group of this size (8 or so students) in a text chat. I personally found myself struggling to keep up with the often divergent conversation. It felt as though by the time I had something to say it was no longer relevant. I also noticed a tendency to create acronyms on the fly to reduce typing speed at the cost of confusion. With certainty I can say that a traditional discussion around a table is a much more natural form of discourse, though I hope that I will adapt to this mode of communication the way I have adapted to all the others.

Has anyone seen any best practices for facilitating for online chat?

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