We are the Internet Explorers, and we have spent the past nine weeks exploring the idea of open networked learning as part of ONL152. Now, at the end of the course, we have gathered our work for posterity, and present it here along with thoughts and reflections that we hope will spark further course development and offer future PBL groups some insight into the course.
A bit about the Internet ExplorersEdit
Who are we? Edit
The first task we completed was a group introduction and the result that we posted on the main ONL 152 page can be found here.
How did we approach the PBL group work? Edit
Overall our group worked really, really well together. We were efficient and productive and our hangouts were focused and fun. But it's important to tell the truth here: things didn't just magically work from day 1! It took us a while to figure out how much structure we actually needed in order to work effectively, and the first two weeks of the course were chaotic.
The thing that helped us get over the chaos was a set of group rules and rotating leadership. For each topic we had a different group member take responsibility for leading the group work, and we established a general workflow that we used each week and modified as needed:
- New topics open on Wednesday. Everyone takes the day to read the topic for the week and to think about the scenario.
- The leader sets up a hangout on Thursday at 5:30 CET. Everyone who can make it joins the hangout and we discuss the scenario as a group. The leader takes notes in a Google doc for that topic and together we agree on a small list of focus questions.
- We go off and investigate these questions individually, sharing as we go and chatting whenever we can. It’s really important to be in touch often!
- We all post our findings on the shared document. We also make sure we read through these findings before the next hangout so that we all come to the meeting prepared.
- The leader sets up a hangout on Sunday at 5:30 CET. Everyone who can make it joins and we discuss our findings. We decide on what findings we want to report and what tool or approach we want to use. A few people volunteer to collaborate on the final presentation (in whatever form) and try to do so synchronously.
- The final shared product is posted on the main ONL152 page by Tuesday.
- The leader writes a collective reflection on our process that week (what worked, what was difficult, anything new we discovered) and shares it with the main ONL152 community.
The leader's responsibilities were:
- schedule and lead hangouts
- create a new doc for the new topic
- make notes collaboratively during hangouts
- post a brief summary of each hangout in the group forum on Google+
- keep track of the process and write a short reflective summary on behalf of the group
Overall, this approach meant that everyone knew what was expected of them. We also made sure to keep open lines of communication and to check in regularly (often multiple times a day), which meant that we were able to help each other out.
The course topics Edit
Topic 1: Connecting and networking Edit
In our first real assignment we focused on how to get the learners/students to connect and work together in the beginning of the online course. We used our own experience from the first weeks of the course and ambitiously read quite a lot of literature on the topic to assemble an online learning survival guide for students.
We all felt lost during this week and it was not clear how we should divide the work within the group. The benefit of this initial frustration was that we as a group agreed to the above mentioned approach how to work as a group for the rest of the course.
Topic 2: Digital literacy Edit
This topic challenged us to explore what it meant to create a digital portfolio and to put ourselves in the shoes of someone unfamiliar with this idea. We really resonated with the scenario for Topic 2 (after all, we're collectively creating digital portfolios as we work through the different topics), and so we decided to explore the key questions it posed.
After a slow start where many of us felt isolated and unsure of how to build real connections with each other, our group really came together during this topic. Our hangouts became really productive (they're really the best way to get planning done), and we found a good balance between independent work (dividing tasks lightened the load for everyone) and collaboration (both synchronous and asynchronous). We explored a new tool, Wix, and had to do some creative problem solving when we discovered that only one user can edit a Wix page at once. Some of us had a tough time working with this tool, but we sought support from the group and successfully worked through the challenge.
We also came to see the many, many facets of digital literacy, and we learned that by expanding our own digital literacy we also explore new tools and different aspects of human behaviour. Our group members have really varying online footprints and approaches to creating and curating online content, which has made for great discussions full of new perspectives, reevaluated assumptions, and really good learning.
The final product for this module was a little guide to creating a digital portfolio that explores some of the important considerations that you might want to keep in mind if you need to make a digital portfolio of your own.
Topic 3: Collaborative learning and communities Edit
The scenario we chose for this topic raised an important concern that a course leader might face when considering the design of an online course: how do we get students to engage with each other online? Issues of flexibility, motivation, and return on investment were central in this scenario. We produced an online questionnaire/survey about collaborative learning in online communities.
Our main interest was to learn more about collaborative learning, especially how to motivate students to participate in the course. The survey/questionnaire was produced in Google Forms. The tool is easy to work with and we could all see the draft of the survey at the same time, which meant that we produced the survey collaboratively in a Google hangout.
Topic 4: Flexible and mobile learning Edit
We had a break between this and the next topic so we had almost 2 weeks to do this topic. In the first hangout we discussed how you define flexibility? Opposing forces – flexibility vs structure. How can you stimulate the student to participate? By creating ownership within the student group one establishes a form of flexibility and let the group itself create their own structure. We started by choosing scenario 2 but were a bit confused since we also seemed to go into the other scenario. We were thinking to do this in a grid presentation:
- Structured vs Flexible
- Asynchronous vs synchronous
- Individual vs collaborative
- Passive vs Active student involvement in learning (Teachers lead – student lead)
- Advantages vs disadvantages – (Who owns the learning?)
We revised our thoughts from the last hangout based on the fact that we last discussed that we wanted to answer a range of questions doing the grids. Since we might have wanted to answer too many questions and we should perhaps start off with focusing on flexibility when discussing the differences between traditional learning and e-learning. This gave us a focus point, which we automatically led us to touch on a few of the grids we created earlier. We talked about presenting this both from the teachers and the students perspective and we wrote our own thoughts about the different grids and then we presented i through the tool Popplet, a mind-mapping tool that is very easy to use. You will find the result here.
Topic 5: Open Educational Practices Edit
This topic was about "How do we get students to engage outside classroom, using a blended approach to teaching - still residential course with online element.". We reviewed both strengths and weaknesses of online digital tools to create engagement with students and teacher outside the classroom. We used the MUSIC module as framework to evaluate the tool and presented the assignment as a Thinglink.
Topic 6: Designing Learning Environments Edit
For this topic we decided to focus on: “How can we keep the students actively engaged and enthusiastic in the early stages of the course?”.
Our initial discussion was based on our own experiences from this course and we all felt to some degree:
- Frustration in the beginning
- It is hard to combine the course with life outside ONL 152
- Internal deadlines important
- Important that we created the document were we agreed about how we should work
- Our document for each topic gives us structure and confidence
We decided to use a part of our survey from Topic 3. We are asking a poll posted on the main ONL page “Which of the following four approaches is the best approach to promoting student engagement in the early stages of an online course?” November 23 we had 9 answers, (% of the responses in the poll).
- Respond regularly to students online (44%)
- Schedule regular video chats (11%)
- Use icebreakers (44%)
- Help students find similar interests (0%)
We had a couple of days were the members of the group read relevant literature and summarized their findings in our group document. In our next (and final) hangout for the topic we discussed what we had read and written. We tried to conclude what what was most important to keep the students actively engaged and enthusiastic in the early stages of the course.
We decided to present this as a comic with three characters: The student, the Superteacher and the Supervillain. The comic describes distractions or reasons the Supervillain use to pull the student away from the course while the Superteacher is using different pedagogical approaches to help the student to stay focused on the task. We tried the tool Pixton but decided to insead use the free tool “Create your own Comic” The final product that we posted on the main ONL 152 page can be found here
The PBL group collaborated very well on this topic and we have developed an efficient way to approach the scenario and go through the different stages of the fish model. It was fun to use a new tool and to presenting our findings as a comic. The drawback of a comic is that it is hard to present more than a brief summary of your findings. However, some of the members continued discussing the topic in their blog post which added thoughtful insights.
Topic 7: Concluding week - future perspectives Edit
For this topic we decided to create this Wikia page. This page is a summery of our work, presentations of assignments, blogs and thoughts.
Our thoughts Edit
We have talked a lot about our experience in this course, both what was great and what could have been better. Looking back on what we have experienced, struggled with, and accomplished, here's what we think:
- Learning to do group work online is really challenging but really rewarding!
- Getting involved early is critical! We had a slow start and it was incredibly frustrating. The group work presented logistical challenges that we had to work hard to overcome in order to be productive. It was only after we laid out our ground rules and started communicating regularly that we started to have fun. We were able to have very focused one-hour Google hangouts where we discussed what we had done, worked through issues, made collective decisions, and planned our next steps.
- Our group was really diverse, with different educational backgrounds and starting levels of digital literacy. In the end this turned out to be a blessing because we were able to see so many different perspectives, but it made it tough to get everyone on the same page at the beginning.
- As we moved through the course we all felt an increased sense of responsibility to one another. Schedules conflicted and sometimes people weren't able to join the hangouts or do much work in a given week, but we communicated with one another and things evened out pretty well across the whole course. This sense of responsibility was a great source of motivation for us, and at one point or another we all felt that if it weren't for our commitment to the group, we probably wouldn't have done the work.
- Perhaps a downside of the closeness of our group was that we didn't really feel much need to engage with the larger ONL152 community. Yes, we posted our weekly products on the main Google+ community page and sometimes we explored what other groups or individuals had done, but overall we were much more interested in our little club than in what else was out there.
- We would have liked to be challenged more in the actual course work.
- We found that the scenarios, while certainly accessible, were a bit simple. This meant that we didn't actually need to work through all the readings for a given topic, which in turn meant that we didn't always make the time to do the readings. We all agree that we fully intend to return to the resources we've discovered in this course as we tackle future challenges of online or blended learning, but in terms of actually doing the course work each week, the readings weren't a top priority. Had the scenarios actually pushed us to synthesize the readings and solve more complex problems, things would definitely have been different.
- Our facilitators had a pretty minimal presence in our group. It is certainly true that we ended up becoming quite independent and didn't require support in getting the work done, which meant that it wasn't necessary to give us structure. But it felt like this meant our facilitators just left us alone. We would have preferred if they had pushed us harder! True, we couldn't have found more hours to work, so doing more work wouldn't have been possible, but we would have loved it if the facilitators had raised the stakes on the work we did do!
- We would have worked harder if we felt that we were actually being assessed in a meaningful way. Each week we read the scenario, looked around a bit, discussed our thoughts, made some sort of product, and posted it on the main ONL152 page. If we were lucky, a couple of people gave the post a +1 or wrote a comment. But these comments were always a variation on "great job!" and never offered any kind of constructive criticism or challenged points we raised.
- We didn't always pay much attention to what other groups produced because we didn't have to. A great addition to this course would have been critical peer review. This would have challenged us to actually engage with what other groups shared and pushed us to be more sophisticated with our approach to the work.
- We would absolutely recommend this course to our colleagues!
- The learning experience has been really rewarding. We have built a valuable network and the resources we now have access to will be of great use in the future.