After going over the best feature of Breeze, I thought nothing could be better. However, after learning about WebEx, I think I stand corrected! WebEx just embodies community building. The very first icon is all about sharing--it's very learner-centered. You can share presentations, whiteboards, documents, and web sites. You can also use the laser point or use the marker to draw attention to a certain passage.
The faciliator also has a lot of options in setting up the WebEx meeting--maybe even too many options. I like to just quickly set up the meeting.
Before I go on too long...what tool do you think you'd like better? Why?
My thought for today involves the five community building tools we will present on in the CI 5330: Learning Communities course. There are three genres of tools in the five tools: Course Management Tools (WebCT and Blackboard), Videoconferencing Tools (WebEx and Breeze), and TappedIn (Teacher Prof Dev Tool).
My probing questions: Is it fair to judge these tools against each other against the necessary ingredients? Should tools just be analysed within their genre?
Responding to debating students, complaining students, and dominating students can be especially difficult for an online facilitator. Online environments are precarious because it's one-way communication without the critical visual cues, e.g., body languages. I found the discussion about different tones, voices, and critical thinking strategies to be a great resource for the future. The key is know when to use the different tools at a facilitator's fingertips. Online facilitators have a tough job.
I was struck by the roadblocks to effective moderation, and I was glad the authors of the text spent some time on the eight different roadblocks. I know that I am guilty of the question mill. I love to use inquiry-based strategies, but I know I go too far sometimes. Students may feel overwhelming and answer only one of my probing questions.
We (Merryn, Jeff, & I) are developing an activity where students pick a voice, tone, and critical-thinking strategy that they feel would best serve a particular scenario. I love problem-based learning--I hope it will be an effective exercise.
I like the idea of using audio and video clips to help foster a sense of community with students in an online environment. One of the strategies that we use with the School Technology Leadership Initiative (STLI) is the use of a tool called Apresso. With Apresso, we can send compressed video files to our students (often consists of a talking head) with a table of contents of the themes included. Sound and video cues seems to gives a personal touch to students.
Some points of interest from the readings:
1. Strategy of breaking into smaller, collaborative breakout groups. I've been in an online class that used this strategy--as a student, I found it to be very rewarding. I learned a lot from my classmates, and we took turns serving as moderator for our session (p. 84)
2. Strategy that discusses the "hybrid" model. This is the model for the STLI. Hybrid, or blended, learning approaches are the focus of my dissertation research for the next two years. The immediate community building from the F2F session is amazing to see--then students take those relationships and transform them to the online environment. It's been very successful for the STLI (p. 85)
3. Our book alsosuggests a course can have too much discussion and too much constructivism. I guess this makes sense. If you have too much discussion, students can be overwhelmed by the number of posts. If the course is too constructivist, student may be receiving enough guidance to move forward (p. 96-97).
This class, CI 5330--Distance Learning: Learning Communities, explores many of the ideas that excite the researcher in me. I often wonder about some of the same topics we read about regarding online learning communities. I was very intrigued by our book's (Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators) discussion of authoritarian versus authoritative dialogues. As a student who takes online courses, I see the distinction as well as the importance of the distinction. However, as an instructor, I find it very difficult to be perceived as giving expert insight instead of looking over their shoulder. Instructors in an online environment play a very difficult, yet important role. It really is an art to be learned.
Here are some questions I had from the reading; I'm very interested in your thoughts on these questions:
1. Do any studies examine the pedagogical advantages of scheduled, asychronous assignments (p.5)? It seemed like INTEC and TLC used this approach for technical reasons (bandwidth, etc), but I could see some real pedagogical benefits to a scheduled asychronous approach. Anyone know of any studies out there?
2. Did you understand the "Moderator as Thief" concept (p.14)? Help!
Also, in our online courses for the STLI, my supervisor created an area called the Lounge for idle chit chat among our students. I loved this area--now I have research to back it up (Social Dialogue, p. 20-21).