Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Final Post for FOC_09

I found it really interesting to actually go back and read some of our comments on all the posts-gosh- we were quite busy weren’t we….. I have just read HervĂ©’s final post and it inspired me, as I too will make the effort to continue to read the summaries and the recordings… and hopefully keep up the contacts. Only problem now is-how to summarize it all a few sentences?

Online Community: All I can say is: ‘you get out of it what you put in’. We ended up as a community but started as a network. We got to know each other a bit better as we became a community…because we had to work together on common projects. I wrote my posts here in two parts, because at the time I felt like I had ‘fallen of the rails’…in terms of participation. A community certainly works better when it is facilitated, (or prompted by a shared need), if the ‘need’ is there, it will flow. Choice of the channel of communication is important- participants need to have access, and be confident with the technology. Trouble is with all the web 2.0 connections- how do we keep track-I still think “all this” is heady stuff…..The idea of a social contextualiser- wow- that we need to be reminded of who we "know"- ""because "this" is making us crazy"".

Facilitating/Moderating/Teaching: There was a huge amount of commentary around this topic- especially relevant to me was the blurring of the roles and whether the facilitator can be a participant (or do they have to have different hats). I still think the meanings depend on the context of the learning situation and the formality- a ""teacher can ‘facilitate’ our learning by guiding us…""to quote a part of this post (again)-… Sometimes you just have to tell (them-to teach). Other times, suggest and explore (facilitate their learning)..."

Discussion Forums: I wrote so much here :-( I think the secret to keeping discussion forums ‘alive’ is to have regular contributors (which may or may not be the moderators) and to have some sort of RSS feed going to make it easy to contribute. Forum posting are usually not as detailed as reflective blog posts. Forums tend to be more synchronous, with less time between posts. Perhaps that’s why Twitter is popular- fast and simple; don’t need to think too much…

Blog Networks: At the beginning of the course, we were experimenting with the uses for the different platforms. I now understand that the secret is ‘filtering the information’ and gauging the ‘context’. Micro-blogging (Twitter) is becoming more popular-but it’s hard work to keep the connections going…you need to take the time to build a PLN and have a way of keeping up with the information- commitment and focus…...But it’s also a skill to be a reflective writer. Networks will change focus as people drop in and out and needs change.

Wiki Collaborators:
This part of the course was a bit challenging-the Wiki has been the hardest platform to get our heads around, but it was good to dissect them and find out what goes on behind the scenes-the community is in the discussion page. I can now appreciate how much effort goes into the community aspect.

Virtual Worlds: I didn’t make a posting here, so there is no link (only a virtual one). But I loved reading Stephen’s post, and some of my experiences mirrored his. I made an avatar- got into second life twice, but missed the meetings with Sarah for a couple of reasons:
1. Did not have the right hardware at home (for the evening sessions)- and have now since brought a laptop, so no excuse I guess.
2. Getting into the Computer lab here at UCOL where it was loaded was restricted to times when students where not using it. Heather and I managed to set up one session, but spent 45 mins with our IT helpdesk trying to get the updates loaded, so we missed Sarah- we ‘text chatted’ to her in 2nd Life but couldn’t ‘meet’ properly. When I did ‘get in’, later on that morning, my only solid experience apart from fling all over the place, was ‘meeting’ another educator from the US but she got a bit bored with our antics, so she disappeared. Obviously she knew I was a novice!!!! Again, the technology overwhelmed me and I ran…My avatar looks quite cute though- so I suspect a bit of “voyeurism” comes out in us all when creating our avatars…..I attended a really good presentation session from the eFEST about the foundation learning unit (click here) and my comments would be that since the learning curve is so steep, and the technology drain so huge, this is the one time where SUPPORT and extreme FACILITATION would be needed, and I am sorry that I missed the FOC_09 sessions. Again, though there is a huge amount of support and information out there, it’s a case of needing a reason and making a commitment- perhaps more than the other networking platforms. However, I think that the same excuses for non-participation would be relevant in 2nd life as in our First Life!! I know who to call when I want to have another go though.

Social Networking Platforms: I didn’t make an official post under this heading either, but I think everyone is familiar with my social platform with NING- what a journey - with 17 members. I had never used a social platform before like this. I confess though, that I was encouraged via the eFEST NING. However, when I was planning what to do with it in my event, I misunderstood the purpose and thought it worked more like a WIKI. One of the disadvantages with the NING was that I missed some posts because I must have switched off the “email notification”….I joined the site , and enjoyed the experience, but haven’t gone back. Did we have a purpose for it? Thank you to HervĂ© for his valuable contributions on Security. Why use Social Networking Platforms in Education? – to gather in people and engage them for a defined purpose/for a certain period of time perhaps?

Reflecting on the different types of Online Communities:
•Choosing the right platform for the purpose of the group is important.
•Having some sort of familiar ‘background’ helps- e.g a community of practice.
•Social communities can be less intimidating than ‘professional’ ones…so if we can be clever, combine the two.
•Based on others people’s comments on this course, the importance of having a PLN are becoming increasingly obvious.
•Like other channels of communication, it’s good to be familiar with more than one. That way the connections that you make are more likely to work if you are use the preferred channel of other participants
•Prioritise, prioritise and allow time to ‘play’ so you understand the differences.

Feedback on the Course: The course has been a really full-on journey, and if I had written this post one week ago- it might have been written differently. But having had some time now to recover from the hectic planning and participating in most of the mini-events, where I felt totally overwhelmed at times, (flat tack at work as well), I have now ‘rested’ for a week or so, and I feel better about my overall level of contribution after refreshing my memory of all the Blog Contributions here. I think we discussed the level of participation and the regularity of posting the weekly tasks on our final Online meeting, its always going to be hard to fit everything in, and lapses are a regular occurrence with our own students- so why should we as learners be any different? So -well done Sarah, for picking up the course and keeping it going after Leigh. I can’t help but wonder if we would have all been able to keep up with him anyway? Yes, it was a challenge, both technically and personally (time wise), but worth it in the end. The synchronous meeting events were always a surprise, we got a range of perspectives each time as we all participated at different sessions, and that was great. I hated the time I spent sorting out Elluminate, as it wasn’t kind to us at UCOL. I prefer the WikiEducator to Wikiversity- but can’t really quantify that. Maybe it was the ‘editing behind the scenes? In terms of doing something better- it would have been spending more time reading peoples Blogs. The recommend 5-6 hours a week is on the low side. I also think we relied on the FOC-09 Google email too much for communication- and not on the Course Wiki- or Course Blog- or was that just throw-back from time limitations towards the end? I think with a course like this- it would be different every time it is run, depending on who participated. In the beginning I got a bit hung up on separating the informal participants vs. the formal participants, so it was neat to see Chris and Wille hanging in there at the end!!!! Thank you all for your contributions. I really don’t know if I could recommend anyone else as a facilitator for next time- so hopefully Sarah will take it on…I would be tempted to sign up again, just for the experience of keeping a network going.
Thanks All.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mini Conference Event- My own evaluation

Event organisation: My event (20th Nov 2009) was planned to be in two complimentary parts- as a lead in, I created a NING social site, for interested participants’ to contribute to, be prompted by and to engage in discussion and Q&A. The second part of the event was to be the facilitated live session Q&A with our eLearning Advisor at UCOL, Kevin Brennan. Kevin and I both thought that we would share the load, and had planned the session sequence around topics as they arose on the NING site. I was also able to introduce Donna Thompson, our Moodle Administrator, as a fervent Twitter user. I was intrigued by the use of NING during the recent eFEST conference, in September, as a prelude to a day of open-face-to-face sessions. I was hugely impressed by the level of participation on the NING prior to my own ‘event’. Thank you everyone for joining, it was a huge learning curve for me- as it got a bit busy at times, but certainly was worth it. As participants added their contributions, it gave me direction for the presentation as well. So this was where ‘relevance to the audience’ was catered for, because the audience was able to contribute and have a resource to link into after the presentation.
Promotion: Initially my thoughts on the event were posted on the Course Wiki, and with some feedback I finalised the format and used the FOC Google group, the WIKI, my own Blog (2 updates), and Twitter (with limited success) to advertise the event. I ran a poll to determine a suitable day but in the end it was down to a suitable time for Kevin, and trying to fit into the original schedule for the FOC course assessment. Colleagues at UCOL were also informed. What was quite interesting for me was that I had two Nursing lecturers from UCOL join the NING as they heard about the event via Sarah’s Tweets. A huge achievement I thought, for me, because this networking was also a follow on from the eFEST/T&L conference held here recently, so Kevin and I were able to create some dialog here at UCOL and we think we will try and repeat the experience in-house here in the New Year. If I had spent more time with Twitter before the event, I probably could have got more people involved but I decided to focus the energy into making sure there was content on the NING site as well. Twitter (or should I say actually using it) is still eluding me, but that is more of a time factor rather than an aversion. Having said that, I was blown away by having nine participants during the live session, plus there were several others who had told me they could not make it. I think as a group, the FOC09 Google group email got a bit overwhelming at times and we did not use the Wiki enough for promotion and updates, so it was quite hard to keep track of all the changes and updates. I would say that most of us probably under estimated the time need for prep and promotion, and centralizing the updates would have helped.
Technical Access and support: There was some confusion about whether my event was to be on Elluminate or not. On the Wiki I had initially advertised it as such, but I decided to engage my (second) back- up plan (sadly without actually saying so on the Wiki). However, it was notified, in time ,on my Blog, on the FOC 09 email group and on the NING site. I had described there that the back up plan was going to be implemented early, (Skype). In my mind I had planned that anyone thinking of attending by that stage would be using the NING page, so apologies for the confusion.
As I have already mentioned earlier on my Blog, I chose Skype because it was the one platform I thought could rely on. Experiences with Dim Dim around the time I was planning were not as successful as we hoped. Elluminate just was not going to be reliable enough at UCOL, and believe me; I spent a considerable number of hours working with IT Help both at UCOL and Otago. It seemed to me that it was worth the risk in Skype. I was also aware that Skype seemed to be reasonably available to most people. My presenters were confident with it. If I had a choice, the platform would be something of a combination of Elluminate and Skype- multiple participants being able to talk together with a shared desktop. In terms of support- I thought I had allowed enough time to be able to scrape up the ‘stragglers’- I knew I had one colleague at UCOL here who could not get into Skype- and I asked the group to wait, no fault of hers- she had a new ‘image’ on her PC and didn’t realise she couldn’t access Skype . One other participant went to the NING and was waiting for the Skype call- I was able to pick her up in time though. So a bit scrappy at first but we survived.
What would I do differently? Not sure if I could do anything really. It always seems to take about 10 minutes to settle into an online session, no matter what the platform. I guess just make sure that you can keep people “amused” with a story or two. I was lucky; I had my presenter(s) in the same room, and not across the globe. So we could even share the headset when Kevin’s call crashed!!!!
One of the little gems for me was seeing the Skype screen with all the little icons flashing as people spoke, and the little pens scribbling across the page when Kevin asked a question. I was kept busy keeping track of the text chat, making sure that people got their questions answered. I have checked the script- I think we covered everything and I promised during the session I would tidy up the script- and I have- shared it on Google Docs. The recording was a 50MB MP3 file. We could not record in Skype- so a downfall was that only the presenter’s side of the session is heard. But I do think that the script covers it, plus our responses. If anybody who participated takes the time to listen, feel free to add comments about your version of the session, as there was some very animated discussions.
General Comments: As others have said, it’s one thing to read about ‘facilitating’ and another to actually ‘do it’, especially in an online environment. If I was a by-stander to my event, I would say it went reasonably smoothly, with a few technical issues, mostly related to the number of users in Skype- and calls dropping out, but nothing that wasn’t handled with care. After listening to the recording, I don’t think I sounded too stressed but there were certainly a few moments dealing with people dropping in and out where I was a bit nervous. I was also aware that some people could ‘chat’ but not ‘hear’. Kevin and I found that humour worked best, and because we chose not to have web cameras, no one could see our gritted teeth. We had a session plan printed out, so we were confident of the content, but of course the one thing you can’t plan for is failure of the technology or the users. We wanted to show some twitter streams, and had practiced the sharing of the desk top- (new version of Skype) but sadly could not share in a multi-user call.
We started setting up for the presentation about 2 hours before hand; made sure the laptop worked, made sure the headsets were working, played with the audio and the recorder- on reflection, I was surprised how much time was spent preparing for the event.
I believe that I was able to provide a facilitated live session that complimented the asynchronous discussions on the NING sit, using a co-presenter/facilitated approach, with plenty of time for Q&A. My lasting impression after this session is that the facilitator is just as busy during the session as the presenter, and plays a big role in preparation and follow up support. As a facilitator I tried to make sure I was as participatory as I could be, due to the nature of my session and that certainly kept me very busy!!!

Thanks again for the experiences everyone.

Part 1

Part 2

Transcript on Google docs:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Summary of my Mini-event

Running a bit behind schedule with finishing up this course. Apologies for the delay in posting a summary of my mini-event. My intentions were good, but I got a bit carried away with listening to as many of the other events as I could.....and didn't get organised Please check my NING Site for an annotation of the Skype discussion, plus a transcript and MP3 recordings of the session. To make the most of the summary- you'll probably need to look at the links on the NING again.

Skype Transcript link here:
Recordings: Part One here
Part Two here

My Reflection of the event to follow shortly.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Update # 2 for Mini Conference

Hi All

After all the flurry last night with Kirshan's event, I thought it timely to update my plans for my event on this Friday 20th, 11am.

As this is, in part, an asynchronous event on my NING site, you need to pre-register on that ( there are some great comments coming through already), so do keep an eye on the postings.

These will contribute to the discussion that Kevin and I will have on Friday. It would also be useful if you created a Twitter account and followed as part of the experience.

Details of the event platform will be posted on NING, as I now plan to use SKYPE so I need to form a group prior to the event. You will be able to text chat to us, maybe even a live chat!!!Believe it or not, but we have had a lot of trouble here at UCOL with use of Elluminate and I really don't want to promise at this stage that we will use Elluminate.

Please let me know if you have any queries, email me via the Google group or direct here


Monday, November 9, 2009

Updated Details

Please check the Course Wiki for Updated details.

Please make sure you visit the NING site prior to the presentation and see what the latest postings are.

Check out the

Thanks to all.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Twitter Joke

I registered on as I thought this clip on Twitter was quite neat

If you can't see the whole joke, just click on the image.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Plan for Mini Conference

More 'details' soon....please check the poll for your preferred time slots

Title: Twitter-All you need to know (Can we use it for Education?). Presented by Kevin Brennan, eLearning Advisor, UCOL, Palmerston North, NZ
Aim: To explore the use of Twitter in Education via asynchronous discussion prompts/ Q&A before a facilitated presentation session, day and time to be advised.
Tools: Elluminate Meeting room 'here'
Back up: If Elluminate is not available at UCOL in time, I will arrange Dim Dim (details will be posted on the NING conference site

Key Link: Keep up-to-date 'here'
NING will be used as a place to share comments, post questions and discuss a week before before the planned event.
Date of Event- when the poll has ended, I will post the days (16th, 19th or 20th November)


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brief Wiki Notes

I have just listened to the WIKI meeting recording from 2 Oct and was sorry that I missed it. I was struggling to think how a community could develop in a WIKI but then once I started thinking about the use of Wiki Educator and open-source eduction resources, then it became a lot clearer (along with Wayne McIntosh's comments). I had never appreciated the use of the discussion tab- ahhh-thats where the community 'lives'.....Also- the question of whether a Wiki can be used as a respository was discussed. For me, that concept is brought about by the removal of just using static resources in education and now, introducing the use of living documents, in a WIKI (esp. Wikieducator). I took a few minutes to look at wikipedia and searched for
'online community' and then looked at the discussion tab as Wayne/Sarah suggested. I was amazed at the work behind the article resource page that I was looking at- the 'discussions' spanning over 3 years!!! Surely that was a community effort? same goes for the global warming example Sarah gave us- amazing....

Has anyone looked at the free training workshops yet ? (probably like me, running behind schedule without adding more to the pile..maybe after the course!)
thanks Debra

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Blogging-better late than never I guess..

Unlike Rachel I cannot use the excuse I have been on holiday but I did have that conference and have been busy catching up with life after that, and now have students enrolling on a new online course, as well as looking after a colleaugues programme while she is in China!!!!
I was interested to read that the concept of blogoshere sort of got off the ground during the 2001 US Invasion of Afghanistan - a warblog community forming from the journalists present.

I have always thought of a 'blog' as a web-based diary, an idividual entity but I loved meeting this term-"the universe of discourse", implicating the use of blogs in (or for or as) a networked community -the "world of words"...the sphere of appears though, that it is not enough to just run your own blog, what's needed is to blog for a purpose- to create connections with other bloggers and be able to keep track of these connections- certainly no mean feat.

On top of that, there is blogging in the business world, where it seems that to have a blog on your advertising web site is 'the latest trend'. But are they making connections? or are they just 'web-logs'.

Check this one, I subscribe to a free email service from NZ Gardener Magazine.
The weekly emails are great, full of really interesting stuff. People obviously email the magazine, through the web site, as there are always links in the emails with people's questions etc. But the Editor of the magazine also runs a Blog. She appears to be the only one writing on the blog- and there is only one comment. I haven't interviewed her, but my initial observations are that with some facilitation, the blog could be used a bit more, readers could be invited to participate on the blog. Going back to the purpose of the blog though, it might have only be set up only as the editor's personal blog, and maybe she was not expecting to create a blogging community of gardening enthusiasts. A search on Google for gardening blogs in NZ only showed this one. If I have time, I will email her and ask her what the intent was, and what she thinks of trying to expand the network.

A blogging network, for me, then is a group of like-minded people, writing blogs, joined by a common thread of interest by the bloggers, the joining occuring by action- making the connections (both technically and personally): by technically I mean- RSS feeds, tracking software etc: By personally, I mean a
motivation and committment from particpants to partipate. Be it shared knowledge or seeking similar, or sharing experiences.
But the community aspect doesn't just happen.

As previously mentioned, I recently attended the eFEST Open space unconference day, as part of T&L Conf 2009- the eFEST organisers set up a social networking site, to be used before, during and after the conference. During that day, we had access to a WIKI,
and it records the various discussions held during the day. One of the group sessions was on Communities of Practice and how do we (as educators) get our peer support....and how would like to get that support- have a look at the notes page- there are some comments that might be of interest- in my group we discussed that there are so many blogs- forums- out there, how do you start??? That facilitators ARE needed to drive the communities, and that virtual communities can still benefit from f2f- e.g a conference can spark the need, and people can connect later on via the networks set up at the conference (as is the case for this conference). Time was a big issue, and many people still used email amongst exising colleagues. I put in a good word for our FOC_09 attempt at building a community.....but it takes time to build the relationships. A degree of commitment and specific focus is needed.

Onto the next topic Wikis.....catching up slowly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

twitter et al

Hi Herve
I am not sure if Sarah will reply to you here, but thought I would add a comment. I have been particpating in the eFEST / Teaching and Learning Conference here at UCOL this week (still am) and all I seem to be hearing is TWITTER/.......people (educators) seem to be embracing it, but I suspect that is because it was used as a social tool for getting people to connect prior to, and during the conference. I have been involved in discussions where educators have new ideas about how to use it with their students, but mainly as a replacement for texting.....and I think it is because its new to them and some of the presenters are strong advocates. But I have heard twitter mentioned in the context of things like ""I can use twitter to have a conversation with my students "" - that is a bit scary to me, because it seems so one -sided. Yes, its quick and you can get the message out there really easily- you don;t have to worry about whether the student is connected to the LMS before they get your message (if they are online, they get the tweet..).. etc etc. But can you have a conversation??? Will be interested to hear others comments....


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blogging Networks- at least starting to think about them...

I haven't done much investigative work yet (oops- time is marching by again), but I have been reading the blogs on this course. I am getting more interested in the history of the blogging regime, and how its being used in Education (and other areas). It seems that as the forms of web 2.0 communication evolve more, the uses change and blogs are now being used for a lot more than perhaps they were originally intended? Even for Business purposes Rachel? -I checked out our own institutes public web site and there is even a blog there-sadly though-its not being used obviously :-( so not much marketing there....)

I found this comment with respect to blogging being the killer Web 2.0 application that has the capacity to engage huge numbers of people (again) . It got me thinking about the reading we did earlier from Mark Pesce
"This, That and the Other") and the need for a 'something' to contextualize our social networks(of which Blogging is part). It seems that Blogoshere is a start.....I will need to keep reading it seems...I recognise 'Technorati' but only just...

I always thought of blogging as a just a reflective journey, more for self interest, rather than a social medium. From an education point of view, though, it looks like "it" ("This?") is starting to replace that weekly trip to the library where you used to go and read through all the latest journals and serials (to keep an eye on publications and news- I know, years ago, before we had the Internet on our Desktop computers at work). Now- you track your learned colleagues' blogs straight from our desks, and there are so many of them it seems!!! How do we start to connect? How do we chose who to follow?

It seems that 'the web' is a huge, huge, hyperlinked hyperspace that needs a huge commitment to start with, but once the connections are started, you just have to keep on the tracks and never get off, otherwise it will be too hard to reconnect- if you do, then there will likely be some new Web 2.0 software that reconnects you...

A good place I thought I would start with is with previous eFEST conferences, and check out people who I listened to over the last couple of years- see what they have been blogging about-

I'll post again when I have done more research....


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another note on Forums

I was reading Herve's post and saw Sarah's comments about how many discussions forums are actually like "real communities" and do they need to be real communities etc. After spending a bit more time reading the different FOC blogs, there seems to be perhaps a bit of a theme (and maybe someone else has already noted it as well), in that the level of support and community feeling is based around the purpose of the forum- perhaps the community is more apparent in the social forum settings. Perhaps in some of the educational forums, the posts are so few and far between, hence the community feeling is not there at all. I thought of a forum I do belong to, which I rarely use for my own purpose, but I still get all the posts. It is the TANZ Network Support forum for Tutors who work on the Nat.Cert. Business (First Line Management).

Now, it's used as a network more than a group (I think), but it is 'not an open forum', and works across all the TANZ institutions delivering the programme ( support for both Blackboard LMS and Moodle). It is facilitated in a way, in that there is one person/group responsible for all the admin bits, and keeping the content current- and who makes sure that the queries are answered. It used as a technical forum, a way of keeping all the different tutors connected with all the changes on the programme, a way of accessing marking schedules (all the providers are delivering the same programme-all 'online'). It's "the place" to go to for all things to do with the programme. I have always thought it a bit 'dry' and not very receptive to chatting, but recently, I posted a query related on uploading Assignments on Moodle (not for this particular programme, but for a similar one, on Moodle). I was a bit overwhelmed by the responses, and the people who replied were a great support.I got the replies really quickly too. So in terms of the community feel, it sort of seemed to me at the time, that there are people 'out there' who are happy to help and connect, but they are not "there" all the time. If I look at the forums now, they look quite inactive, but I suggest that when the time comes, people are "out there", ready to post!! So the community is acting abit like on an "as needed" basis. perhaps not a really active community but an effective network never-the-less (for me anyway :-))

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Discussion Forums-finally a posting

Hi All

Can't believe how quickly this fortnight has gone. I admit, I haven't yet looked at the readings for this topic yet- that will happen this weekend. But I thought I would post this before the meeting tonight.

Heather and I have been talking about this a bit in the office during the week, and we both decided that its actually quite hard to pick just one, as there are so many different types of "presences' online now. And given that we are still getting our own heads around what an online community consists of, and whether the community is a group, or a network, I couldn't help but think of the special 'community' aspect when I was choosing "my forum".
So the forum I set out to research for this topic is the KiwiBiker Forum.

I ride a motorbike and already knew that the forum existed. I have used it for checking out information previously, but I am not a member. I was however, able to talk to a regular member, and we had a good chat about how the forum works. The reason why I thought this would be a good example, is that it has been running since 2002-or 2003. There is already a strong community feeling amongst 'bikers', it's almost a sub-culture, and even if you don't know anyone else who rides a bike, you only need to pull up to a petrol station or cafe and if there are any other bikers there, a conversation will soon start up. I was quite sure then, that the online
forum would show the same sense of community.
The posts are conversational, usually short and to the point, with plenty of 'slang and MTB lingo' used, with a few 'unmentionables' for good measure. A glossary of terms would probably be useful or 'newbies', and in this case, there is probably legitimate reason for 'lurking' so that newbies can get a sense of the culture. Thankfully the site allows this.

After speding some time looking at the forum collections, I could almost be persuaded to say its both a 'network' (open for veiwing, and provides connective information) and a 'group' (closed to non-members for contributing but has boundaries by way of each of the threads being self-limiting, no cross over).

The features that I have looked for here (in an online community) are based on the other blogs and the meeting we had, as follows:

-same interests/purpose
-communicate towards a common objective
-able to gain something by taking away something (shared knowledge, questions answered (in the case of the discussion forums))
-like-minded people
-level of contribution is by choice
-"trust", this can be an issue in terms of can it be built up 'online', and how long does it take???

I was quite impressed with the web site layout, and as a first-timer you are immediately drawn to a FAQ's link, which also lets you know that you may have to register to "post" anything. I discussed with my forum member interviewee the
differences in 'facilitating' and 'moderating' that we as a group have discussed recently, and we both came to the conclusion that this forum (which is actually a collection place of many smaller forums) is 'moderated', rather than 'facilitated', and that the forums are in fact 'self-facilitating'. I mean that the contributors themselves tend to keep an eye on what is happening. The layout of the website tended to help with this. The top of the forum 'home page' starts with the general forum, then as you scroll down the different groups are displayed-
general, motorcycle sub-groups, mechanics, competition etc.
In each section, there is a link to the forum, and a short description, then on
the right hand side of the screen, a link to the latest post, with the number of threads, and the number of posts, the most recent first.
I am amazed at the sheer numbers, and my interveiwee thought that this was one of the longest standing active discussion forum arenas (NZ based only). He goes onto the site every day or so, but doesn't always contribute. He has regular 'forums' that he visits, and follows those more with more interest.

In terms of the features I listed above, this web meeting place is definately a 'community', that uses the services of moderators rather than facilitators. We couldn't see an immediate benefit of have a facilitator present, unless it was
for the section where meetings and events are listed. The events are posted by the moderators, not the members.There is a clear link to the moderators details for each forum. They act as housekeepers, they move posts into more appropriate
collections, they track posts for misleading content (that might put riders in danger for example), and generally keep an eye on things. There is also a website administrator, who ensures that the links are working, and that the registration is working.

In terms of any other benefits of having the services of facilitators, the idea of 'co-ordinated events' appears to already happen, by nature of the different threads starting up, each one a mini-event. My interviewee thought this
'just happened'. But he also thought that if some posts weren't moving along, the moderators "helped out", in which case they may be acting as facilitators :-)!!

It's an open community, membership is voluntary, and you can view the posts without subscribing, but can't "do" anything until you 'register', thus the members are protected in a way, therefore dealing with the trust issue. As a non-member, I cannot click on a link to see someone's details. I suspect that in this type of environment, people who are "flamers" and "timewasters", "show offs" etc would soon get 'moved on'....... or dealt with publically. I get the feeling that mostly, its an environment that is encouraging and supportive, while being razor sharp on current issues.

It seems that most of the participants are males, it's welcoming and well thought out (im my opinion anyway). There is a "forum" for women bikers however.

We also talked about the sheer size of the 'forums'. There is an archive
(restricted to text only, no graphics). However, all the threads are searchable. Again, you have to be a member to do this, thus forcing contribution.

Threads: 102,271, Posts: 2,220,992, Members: 16,451, Active Members: 4,487
WOW- how does that compare to Google Groups ? I don;t know, will have to look I guess.

Hopefully I'll make it online tonight and hear how the rest of you are getting along.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I have just read Stephen's blog and found the following point to note/consider in terms of a facilitator being a member of an (online) group (or is that network ???)-from Nancy White's guide:

Facilitators as Role Models
Facilitators are the most emulated members of a group -- no matter if they are modeling positive or negative behaviors. They are often the first members to be challenged. Integrity, patience, a good sense of humor and a love of other people will be valued in any host. And as virtual communitarian Howard Rheingold so aptly wrote, "One point of heart is worth ten points of intellect."

Sometimes the facilitator is also a "member" of the group. Keep in mind when playing multiple roles in a community that people may not know what role you are "playing" at any one time and react in ways you might not anticipate. Facilitators might see themselves as also "just members" of the community. Members may not. This distinction becomes critical when there is cause for intervention or problem solving. No longer will you be perceived as "just a member." And in some cases, you will never again be considered in that role. You are most often held to a higher standard.

I had just assumed that the Facilitator would be considered to be a member of an online group (or network or community?)- but this suggests otherwise. Already, connotations of the facilitator appear here as the "higher being", therefore the blurring of the role of teacher/facilitator comes to my mind again...and the need for the expectations of each role/part to play to be made clear. More to ponder...

Monday, August 24, 2009


I was doing some reading in preparation for this weeks topic- and came across this link-
Nancy White's glossary is mentioned in the extra resources on the Wiki for the previous topic (Online Communities), and the new book she is co-author on looks very interesting, Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities. Have a look at her blog, anyway, looks like some good reading there.

It's been interesting to read some of the blog entries, while I try and determine the roles/skills of teacher, facilitator or moderator. Krishan and Rosceli have captured some great definitions.

To teach is to provide instruction, to impart knowledge, but I also note that Webster also tells us that to teach is also to 'guide us' in the studies of.....

'To be taught' is to acquire knowledge or skill, to know how to do something.

How is this different from the role of a facilitator? i.e one that helps bring about an 'outcome', by providing assistance or guidance?

Could a teacher guide us in our studies by facilitating our learning?

To facilitate then, suggests that the process is more informal than the formal imparting of knowledge. A facilitator I believe is more like the 'guide on the side', rather than the 'sage on the stage'. However the roles seem to overlap, and interpretation differs ( Mark Nicols explains this well-as a reply post in Leigh Blackall's blog " be a good teacher is to be a flexible and committed agent dedicated to student's learning, and multiple strategies will be applied. Sometimes you just have to tell (them-to teach). other times, suggest and explore (facilitate their learning)..."

There is a huge amount of comment on Leigh's blog, and I am still working my way through it all. A particpant in last year FOC08 came up with a great thought ( that the meanings will be different depending on the context (as with our own evolving FOC09 community).
Like Daryl, I find the shift in a teacher's role-to being one of a facilitator (see above) as noted in the Australian Flexible Learning Quick Guide to Effective Online facilitation- to be changing in our e-learning environment. In a f2f environment, the role of teacher and facilitator can be seperated, (i.e teacher-lecture versus tutor-tutorial) but I am starting to think that the terms (or roles?) maybe merging together in an online environment. Online facilitation is the act of managing learners and their learning through the online medium, as we ourselves are discovering, this is most importantly managing our communication as well. It may be a teacher performing the role, but the role they perform is that of a facilitator. More guiding is needed online to bring out the best in us (so to speak). Our communication is managed, but also we get direction, support and motivation by the facilitator.

I feel like the definitions are merging further when I now think about the term 'moderator' . A teacher who facilitates, can also moderate (or mediate).

To moderate=to arbitrate.

A moderator is a term widely used as well, and means different things in different contexts. Rosceli's diagram at the end of the blog is like a light at the end of the tunnel.

Moderator- an elected presiding official, a presenter, a person who is given special powers to enforce rules (wikipedia). My first thoughts in trying to define a moderator don't come from an education slant, more from someone who makes the checks and keeps the time, prepares the meetings and in a way acts in an administrative manner. Not instinctively related to an e-learning environment, until I read about "e-moderation" in Gilly Salmon's model and while I have seen this model before, I never appreaciated that her term appears to be synonomous to that of teacher-facilitator in an online environment, but also in an almost administrative role as well, especially initially (Stages 1 and 2).

I read in the Flexible Learning Quick Guide that there is another model (Collison, Elbaum, Haavind and Tinker's Facilitation Model), which is based on techniques used by the moderator to guide and facilitate the learning. The terms are merging again
Oh dear.

Skills Mini summary-

Teacher:- Traditionally a subject expert and qualified or trained appropriately in the manner of teaching.
Facilitator: Nutures rather than teaches, guides and encourages participation, not neccessarily a subject expert, but most importantly, able to foster and encourage communication.
Moderator: Maybe more of an organisational role, setting boundaries, acts as mediator, unbiased.

In terms of when the roles might 'undermine each other', my inital thoughts are along the lines of what is the context, and what is the means of communication (delivery). I could imagine that the roles cross over more so in the e-learning environment, as already discussed (and as this is a big topic, I am only touching on the surface, more thinking to do). Student-centered versus teacher-centred will influence the use of the roles, as will level of expertise and experience of the people fulfilling the roles.

An an environment such as one in which this course exists (as an example), a 'teacher' might undermine the 'facilitator' if experience or opinions start to over-rule. The teacher may not 'approve' of the direction of the communication that the facilitator is leading, for example.

A moderator could "squash" a facilitated forum envionment by being too restrictive. Where a facilitator could provoke, and prompt, a moderator with too much 'power' may have a negative effect.

And, the role of facilitator could undermine the roles of teacher or moderator by the reverse: an experienced facilitator could possibly be more 'tuned into' the students, via their various conversations and communications, than the teacher- perhaps the teacher prefers to remain as the "sage on the stage", and doesn't see things the same way that the facilitator does.

Of course, as Leigh suggests in his blog, the expectations of the students also play an important part. Teaching infers structure and knowledge being imparted by the sage; facilitating infers guiding and drawing out the inherent knowledge of the learners (by the guide); and moderation infers the controlled atmosphere this occurs in. If a student has different expectations that any of the role players have, then undermining could also occur.
I don't think I have finished with this topic at all, but I need to connect with some of the blogs.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Online Communities Part 2

I have done the readings, but left my 'notes' at home, so will just have to put a bit of summary in off the top of my head.

I too found Micheal Wesch's video a mission to complete, and it was a week ago now that I listened to it. I had never considered Youtube to be a 'community' environment, more of a media for sharing your videos etc.But it looks like that is changing. It seems that with these Web 2.0 things, there is often a different way of looking at the uses. The idea of staring at an electronic eye though, to 'communicate and connect' with people was interesting. I personally would prefer the text-based and the verbal communication 'on line' than the web-cam idea- and I am not sure (yet) how Youtube can represent a sense of community in the same way that other, more traditional methods do. Sure, the anonymity suits some people, but there was also talk about the 'mob' versus 'community / group/ aspect'. People maybe get a bit more carried away in a Youtube-like environment, and it's easier to follow the 'mob'. Less restrictions and less formality than a co-ordinated effort such as a forum or discussion group. I guess the differences can also be said to be dependent on the context as well.
Stephen Downes is a bit more organic in his explantions- and even though he was bit biased away from the 'group' way of doing things, I agree that 'networks' are more appropriate for on-line learning (in terms of the discourse). Like Herve- I noted that Stephens 'discussion' was 3 years ago now, and open group-like learning is much more common now. There will always be arguements about Open Learning MS vs. Closed LMS I guess, but dedicated educators at least can keep doing the research and keep people informed (through networks ??). The concept of Dunbar's number though is fascinating, and I am actually surpised that the number is as many as 150. I don't have a FaceBook site, nor do I want one at the moment anyway, but I have heard many comments about the social acceptability of 'how many friends' you have etc etc, the more the merrier it seems, but at what consequence (for younger people especially). Will we be a society that measures our worth on the number of connections that we have made on the Internet? How meaningful are these connections? Will quantity over-ride quality? Does everything have to be 'instant"- I like the idea of forming relationships over time- building trust and using common backgrounds.

"This, That and the Other" presentation ( Mark Marlaro) was a lot more absorbing for me. The idea of a social contextualiser- wow- that we need to be reminded of who we "know"- ""because "this" is making us crazy""...hyperconnectivity-hmm, could end up being a bit of a hype ( remember the days when we wrote letters to our aunties overseas?-this type of communication was planned more,and we waited for weeks-the response was carefully thought out, and we treasured the letter. Today- we do tweets, we post comments on Facebooks, we text and we chat/email- often short, quick and without long, meaningful responses. Because of the abilities of our new hyperconnectivity, and the 'power of the mob', our communications are so different, we move from 'idea to idea' quickly now. What would have been written 6 weeks prior to the Aunties reply would likely be considered no longer relevent by todays teenager. "That"= the sharpness and ease of the connectivity; the method of informing ourselves, the power of the mob. But can we think for ourselves- can we evaluate the usefulness? can we react and collaborate?
This is the "OTHER"- it's now so easy to moan and groan online and not do anything- we are sitting at home complaining to each other about whatever,through Youtube. ""We behave like crowds when we really ought to be organizing like a community"-we need to "Turn the chaos into a co-ordinated approach"".
Of course, these 2 presentations are quite evangelical and possibly need quite a bit consideration in terms of social importance.

In summary, the features that are useful in an 'online community' are:
Context:- a shared understanding of this- with guidelines and common ground/aims/goals, perhaps 'facilitated';
Shared experiences of the technology:-with more than one choice of channel, so everyone can connect;
Active enquiry- participation at levels that everyone feels comfortable with,
A progressive journey with trust and familarity building up over time.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Catch up

Sorry guys, I missed out on Monday's meeting. I had booked a day's annual leave, and was at home working outside. My preference is for the evening sessions for elluminate meetings, but I will try very hard to get to the day times- have to find a quiet space at work, as I share an office with 15 others, so having an Elluminate meeting just won't work- too noisy.

I haven't yet completed all the readings (or "listenings") for this section, and I now feel like I have already strayed from the group, simply because I didn't attend the session on Monday- but I have listened to half the recording so far, and am really sorry I missed out "live", but having the recording is almost as valuable. Hence, I feel the need to post something on my Blog sooner rather than later, so I get "heard"... Maybe this is what Leigh wants to happen, to get our connections working asynchronously via the blogs initially- so we can dip in and out of the 'conversations' through the RSS feeds (BTW- I set up most of the feeds through Google Reader, and I thought that once I have added all the particpants to the feed, this should work for me). The Pageflakes is a bit like Netvibes??? hadn;t heard of that before but I did set up a Netvibes page a couple of years ago for a PD task at work.
This feeling I have at the moment of 'straying' helps me to define what I think an online community might be, and how it is different to a f-2-f community. I think it's important to have more than one CHANNEL- to capture all of us, since its going to be impossible for everyone to be in one place at any time. And even if we aren't contributing to the topic of the 'moment', (online in realtime), we can still be thinking about things in the background, asynchronously, and can 'catch up on the blogs'- the connections will still be made, through the feeds, knowing that someone will read it eventually :-). yes, lurking is OK- as long as participation occurs, and that particpation can be in different forms for some of us. It's the contribution that is important I guess.

I was already forming an impression that at this stage of the course, we are probably more of a network or group, rather than a community (yet). To me, a community will take a bit more time to evolve, as we get to know each other and I left the Elluminate Recording just when this topic was about to be aired. There is so much to think about, and the YouTube presentation blew me away as well, I will certainly have another go at working through that one, and post my thoughts soon. I always thought of Youtube as more of a soapbox than a 'community voice'- however, it seems to be that with all Web 2.0 technologies, they seem to morph depending on who is using them (or how they are being used).

Effective communication depends on choosing the most appropriate channel and of course, the context that the message is 'delivered'- it's the difference between 'intended' message and 'interpreted' message that I get worried about during online communication, as without the non-verbal communication, the message can get 'mixed' sometimes? So where does that sit with our 'online community' concept??? Keeping the channels varied so that participation is enabled as much as possible, and allowing time for relationships to build...
Till next time
PS- I am keen to follow some of your comments, Rachel, so I best start getting connected and replying on the blogs ay?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Facilitating Online Communities 2009

Hi All

As a quick introduction, this is my fourth paper for the eMIT eLearning Course, and having just finished the Evaluation Best Practice paper, its great to see some familiar names on this course as well. I work at UCOL here in Palmerston North in the School of Business and Computing and have been involved in delivery of Online Business programmes for a several years now. I am looking forward to learning some new skills on this course, especially communication online, and I suspect we will be learning at a rapid pace!!!
See you all soon,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Final Report

Hi All

Please find a copy of my final report, hopefully viewable as a web page, here on google docs.

The formatting is better in real life!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Final report and Reflections

I have finally submitted my Evaluation report for marking. I will post a link to it when it is marked. It ended up to be longer than I planned, and, like Herve, found it difficult to reduce. Certainly a relief to get it done. But Bronwyn's comments to me were to remember to keep asking ourselves whether we have made the connections between the findings, the evaluation questions, the decisions and the purpose of the evaluation. These comments really helped in the end.
And to focus on explaining fully whether the evaluation questions have been answered or not, and why. Sometimes I got so caught up in the results, that it was good to take a step back and remind my self what it was we originally set out to acheive. I think part of the reason for that was that often the responses to some questions would answer other sub questions. Which is not a bad thing, actually, just means that we have been thorough in our methods I guess.
After completing the evaluation, I was able to instigate some changes to the programme immediately, since in 'real time', the programme development was in a pilot stage. Those changes have now mostly been made, and it is basically ready for students to enrol into. This is possiby why it took me so long to complete the report. However, I thought that once I got some "real students" participating, I would also ask them to complete the User Reveiw questionaire, and I think it will be interesting to see if the responses differ at all(with supposedly a more refined version of the programme available now).
One of the most interesting aspects I found, was that the responses from 'general comments' often made the most impression. I enhanced this area of the evaluation after feedback from either Joy or Adrienne, which was great. I was also fortunate to be able to talk to each of the users, either as they worked through the questionaires, or soon afterwards. Some of them had made extra comments as well, outside of the evaluation scope. This was a great opportunity. I initally thought that my limited sample size with the User Review was going to be a disadvantage (n=5), but when combined with the chance to talk and take away the comments, I believe the small number of users was not really too much of a limitation. Of course, this made it impossible to analyse data statiscally, meaning that perhaps the results should have been demonstrated as 'trends'. However, as this was noted in the discussion, any other interpretations will be noted, and as it was a formative evaluation- also acceptable. It also meant that I did not use many graphs in the final report. I did create some data plots of 'means', but in the end did not include them (since n=5). I hope that was the right choice!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Draft Summary of results

Hi All

Please find my initial draft results here, summarized, for comments.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Initial thoughts on Results

Some initial thoughts now that the evaluations are completed...

I choose to do a small user review questionaire, as well as peer group discussions and an 'expert reveiw'. 100% completion happened, however as a bonus, one of the peers became an 'expert reviewer' as well (he's our eLearning Advisor)-this was extremely valuable to me in terms of overall useability and looking at the actual instructional design issues.

The instrumentation that made the biggest impression on me was the questionaire on Moodle-Moodle was chosen as the programme resources are to be delivered to students on Moodle. I only had 5 students participating but I could see exactly when the questionaire was completed online, and I could download the results (including any comments) straight into an Excel spreadsheet for analysis. Moodle also emails you a summary of each completed evaluation.Now I wish that I had asked more users! Like Herve though, I was very surprised as to the amount of effort that it took to get the small number of users to complete- I seemed to have timed the evaluation perfectly for the real-time prgramme development but badly in terms of asking for people's commitment in time...people went on leave or about to go on leave- and general mayhem due to end of term coming up I think.

I think I will present the quantitative results pretty much like Bronwyn suggested- %Freq and means, for each question. I think there are clear trends in the question groups. These trends and the comments I received can also be related to the sub questions via a table.

A bar graph for final results could show the trends/numbers well (given the small number of users participating- and likert scale responses).

The emphasis for me was not on the quantitative data, but the qualatative data (comments-feedback) recieved from discussions with peers/expert (and the 'students'). Basically I had several discussions with the peers, as they progressed through the programme. Due to the amount of time the evaluation took, they all needed more that one sitting to complete. And they all completed their questions on paper before discussing with me finally (so I have those as well as my own notes). I underestimated the amount of time needed.

Presentation of the qualatative data will be as summarized comments, grouped under the various headings used - perhaps in a table form as well.

The nature of the stage of development with the Online programme meant that "access was via guest log ons", for both Moodle and the GET SET programme, this process was not as seamless as I had hoped- while I had pre-arranged guest log ons and access- they did not arrive at quite the right time, and I handed out my questionaires/information sheets prior to having the log ons- and had to back track quite a bit with lots of talking through the process of logging on...(interesting how instructions can be 'lost' and not quite read properly as well). Even one of my peers misread the instructions to use an enrolment key when logging on.
I had been so used to working on the programme these last few months that I did not realise either, how hard it would be for others to actually 'find' in the list of all programmes on Moodle-a minor hiccup!!! It was unintentionally hidden in a layer below what people normally see :-(.

What stood out basically was that the pedogogy of the programme was great-the content and learning support was all there, it was the instructional design and general 'getting started' instructions that needed fine tuning. No real surprises resulted, but some valuable and timely feedback occured, which is currently being implemented.

I believe that my overall sub-questions were answered, with sufficent feedback to make some key changes in time for the programme to be released generally.

On to the summary of the results...


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Progress at Last

I have completed my plan , its been marked, I've incorporated feedback and it is currently being implemented. Bronwyn suggested I share.

Please find my final plan here on Google Docs as a web page.

In terms of 'progress', in real time: my plan included gathering responses from peers, an 'expert reviewer', and student-user reviewers. To date, I have discussed with 2 out of the 3 peers, (one has become elusive :-( ), received feedback from the expert reveiwer (still to 'interveiw' him); and the users have yet to complete the questionaire for me. So nearly there. Some interesting and valuable feedback is already happening, so I am very keen to get involved in the analysis this week. I actually think, after agonising over the writing of them, that I have asked the right questions in my questionaires!!


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Draft Formative Evaluation Plan

Hi All

I am posting my Draft Plan(2a) in Google Docs for your Feedback/Comments. This is my second draft, on which I have already received feedback from Bronwyn, and I plan to incorporate that feedback along with any welcome feedback from fellow classmates. I will now spend some time looking at the fine examples aready presented. Please post feedback as comments on this blog.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Week 7-8 Draft ideas for Sampling Methods/Tools:

As outlined in the last post- it looks like I should be concentrating on a 'formative evaluation', given the timing and the scale of the project (both for this assessment and for the pending release of the programme to students). Therefore these comments are based on Bronwyns' feedback, thanks, Bronwyn. A slight rewording of my original intention of evaluating this summative point: "Are the activities effective and matching the L.O ?" to this formative point: "Are the activities relevent for the L.O"....

E-Learning Guidelines to evaluate against:

Given we need to evaluate against two e-learning guidelines (and I have been previously discussing three): my draft plan now will include the following:

ST9: - reworded - for a user review - to investigate useability ( access, navigation, ease of use)and effectiveness (content, activities, L.O and assessment)-
"Do the technologies employed successfully help the students participate and learn"?

e.g Does the use of interactive tools and forums help the student complete (engage with) the course (successfully)?

SD3: - reworded - for a peer review - to investigate if the activites are relevent for the L.O.
"Are students provided with relevent information and current thinking in their field".
e.g Can the students 'successfully' engage with the activities provided with no f2F contact?

I see that the next step is to work on further sub-questions however I will make contact with Brownwyn first.

Defineatly Multiple-methods model/Ecletic-mixed methods-pragmatic paradigm for a Formative Evaluation- of the Interactive web-based programm as outlined in the previous Blog postings.

Sampling Methods: I have not completely thought through the specifics of the triangulation and bracketing yet.

But- I would like to discuss further and negotiate the following:

Peer review-discussion forum- qualititative-small groups
Questionaires- for the students while using the course-limitations on numbers-qualitative
Check lists-ditto, for the students
some paper-based, some email/ online questionaire/evaluation in Moodle.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Weeks 5 and 6: Evaluation Methods

Progress on the new programme ( my evaluation project) is a bit slower than I thought it would be, but given that I am not working on the project full time- we are not too far behind. After having had the last week off work, it seems achievable now while I am still at home, but I might feel differently when I go back to work next week. The study/activity guide has been written- just formatting it onto Moodle, and my colleague and I have thought of some areas that we could introduce discussion forums-hopefully,as Bronwyn suggested, encouraging them to engage with each other (and therefore improve interaction). The study guide will be in the form of an 'activity guide'-"what to do and when to do it"- as they work through the programme. Topics for the Forums include theory topics such as thinking about their own working and learning styles-adding that to a thread-sharing the importance of these styles for job seeking purposes, with other students; communication issues to deal with when under stress- and difficulties this may cause in the workplace;-sharing their own experiences-these are a couple of examples of discussion topics. We are also in the process of developing some quizzes, so that we can monitor (or attempt to), understanding of specific topics.

In terms of the evaluation model/paradigms and methods that I am persuing:
It's become clear that the type of model best suited is the mixed-multiple-methods model, simply because of the types of data collection available. The programme will be up and running very soon, albeit in a pilot form (as it will still be possible to make running additions to the learning activities as needed, since they will be hosted on a UCOL Moodle site). I may not have made it clear in the previous posting, but one of the final assessments tasks on the programme is to complete a face-to-face interview with the student, based on the CV they will have completed, as well as using the details of a research project (job seek process) that they have to complete. So there is an opportunity to evaluate with 'interview' methods, as well as questionaire methods- as we will be in e-mail contact with the students, as well as contact through the Moodle LMS.

We have discussed paradigms at length now and it's been an ongoing learning journey for me to see and read so much about 'them'. Referring to Phillips' discussions of popular research paradigms, there are so many different 'worldwide views of inquiry', that in order to find a traditional paradigm that fits with e-learning, it was easier to explain away with another multiple approach-the fourth paradigm (aka Reeves et al), critical -realist-pragmatic, which fits in well with the multiple methods of data collection. Hence the term 'eclectic' (borrowed) as used by Reeves, et al. Pragmatic meaning a practical problem-solving method. I believe this fourth model/paradigm suits my project. It may be quite difficult to measure all the factors that contribute to improvements of 'learning' with the other more scientific methods, since I am looking at interaction as a quality issue, as well as the relevence of added course content. Feedback should be able to be incorporated quite easily since UCOL has deleveloped the extra learning material and the associated Moodle site (with activities etc).

Why this model?
I see my project as a Formative type of evaluation and some of my ideas from the eLearning guidelines also fit under Effectiveness (summative) evaluation. While the programme is essentially already developed, the 'online delivery' is being 'fine tuned', and the new content added by UCOL is, at present, untested. So in terms of the elearning guidelines already identified, I would be asking something along the lines of 'are the activities effective and matching the L.O ?' Key to this is evaluating 'useability' (tested by users) and 'effectiveness' (is it working?). So it is a bit like a 'user review'. While not a formal pilot launch of the programme, the initial release will be to existing students whom we already have a relationship with (well, we are planning for this approach at least).

Reading Chapter 8 of Reeves and Hedburg helped confirm why I have chosen an Effectiveness Evaluation, rather than Impact. The ultimate measure of 'success' would be to say "did the the student get a job after completing the programme and creating a CV?" But this is looking too far into the future to evaluate the programme- too many variables out of our control; perhaps a more appropriate short term effectiveness aspect would be " Did the Virtual Building Tour enable a more descriptive (and therefore effective) CV to be completed"? This sort of data would be easy to gather at the Interveiw I imagine.

Articles that I have been reading:
Mehelenbacher,B.,Bennett, L.,Bird, T., Ivey,M.,Lucas, J.,Morton, J.and Whitman,L. (2005). Useable E-Learning: A Conceptual Model for Evaluation and Design. Interaction, Vol 4-Theories, Models and Processes in HCI. Retreived 29 March, 2009 from

This article arose from a search relating to "evaluation and useability". Was of interest to me because of the authors oversimplfied statement that 'useability is the study of intersection between tools, tasks, users and expectations in the context of use'. Since my evaluation project is on effectiveness based on the quality of interaction- in an e-learning environment, I perservered with reading it.
It's a conference paper (International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction). The aim was to outline the challenges faced by researchers merging the (numerous) theories of useability and evaluation with e-learning developments. The approach considered neccesary with evaluation of e-learning environments is that it is more task-orientated than other types of useability research, therefore a different model is suggested. I have interpreted the model to be more inline with the fourth paradigm described above- because of the task-orientated perspective on e-learning instruction. The group suggests that 'useability evaluation' is founded on theories stemming from early Human-Computer Interaction theories- the social science research side versus the design of the tools for human interaction. "Understanding audience is where useability begins". The paper describes 10 heuristsics from Jacob Neilsen (1994) ( for useable design
(the ones that stand out for me: match between system and real world; and recognition rather than recall). The secret it seems, is to match the design heuristics with the development of the evaluation-testing theories of e-learning useability. So with the groups emphasis on users and tasks- the model they propose is outlined by a set of useability heuristic tools-for designers evaluating e-learning environments- the questions to ask are defined under the following headings:
Learner Background and Knowledge (e.g accessibility, suport and feedback)
Social Dynamics (e.g communication protocols)
Instructional Content (e.g examples and case studies)
Interaction Display (e.g appeal, consistencey and layout)
Instructor Activities (e.g authority and authenticity)Environment and Tools (e.g organisation and information relevence).

These headings (tools) have been drawn from the five dimensions of all Instructional Situations, modified for e-learning. The paper details these dimensions in great detail, so I won't repeat them. I guess they are saying that further development is needed, and their ideas step away from those of Reeves etc (who directly apply these heuristics to e-learning evaluation); towards a more 'synergistic collaboration between useability and e-learning research'. Thus the task-interaction orientated emphasis on the questioning.

Another paper I was reading:
I have not fully summarized it yet, sorry.
Developing a Usability Evaluation Method for E-learning Applications:From Functional Usability to Motivation to Learn (

The paper describes the development of a questionnaire-based usability evaluation method (formative) for e-learning applications. As with the previous paper, the focus for the study is the 'poor usability of e-learning applications'. The development of the method was based upon a very well known methodology in HCI research and practice.
More to follow.

Phillips, R. (2004). We can't evaluate e-learning if we don't know what we mean by evaluating e-learning. Retrieved 29 March 2009 from

Reeves - Chapter 8 (already referenced).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Week 4 musings: "We can't evaluate e-learning if we don't know what we mean by evaluating e-learning".

Since we were not really required to post some thing for our Week 4 readings (and yes, I am a week behind- but have started with the week 5 tasks, honestly), I'd thought I'd share a paper with you all that I found this morning. Early Sunday morning, and there I was reading about Educational Paridigms (groan) and I suddenly thought- I can't cope so early on in the day with these combinations of words such as Analytic-empirical-positivist-quantitative and Constructivist-hermeneutic-interpretivist-qualitative I did some searching on GOOGLE and came up with the following article- from a Rob Phillips (Murdoch University, 2005)- a publication from the University of Bristol Called Interact- sorry, not sure which one but the link to the document is here. The title said it all for me, and may help those of you who are struggling with getting started on the paradigms and models. As an overveiw, I didn't think it was too bad, and made the mornings readings a bit easier.
"We can't evaluate e-learning if we don't know what we mean by evaluating e-learning". He makes reference to an earlier paper by Reeves and Hedberg (2002), and talks about the first three paradigms that Reeves discusses in what seemed to me this morning, slightly more simpler terms than the review paper (first attempt anyway).


5.4.09 I have just noted that this paper is referenced in the WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook. I still thought it was worth a read! :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week 3 Bits

Week 3: Discussion on Quality and eLearning Guidelines:

The project that I hope to use for the Evaluation is related to quality aspects of a new eLearning course that I am presently assisting in getting up and running here at UCOL. Briefly, the project is an eLearning Solution to a new Short Course in Preparing for and Enhancing your Career (Level 2).

With this course, the students use a 'virtual visit' to a large Company, as a platform for discovering the neccesary skills and experiences that are important as a job seeker. While they 'visit and observe' all the departments in the Company and 'talk' to relevent people, they are also completing an online electronic CV (which will eventually be hosted by the following company, ( The elearning component is called GETSET (the 'Virtual Tour'), and UCOL have created additional materials to make it into a 15 credit Level 2 programme, with material such as Stress Management, how this affects you in the workplace, along with the neccessary Interview Skills. Currently, the GETSET component is used in a f2f situation, with students being stepped through the programme in a traditional classroom environment. However, with the new UCOL programme, the students will be distance students, studying off campus and will be stepping themselves through the GETSET programme. Therefore all the
neccessary guidance and interaction/feedback will need to be included in the form of extra instructions, with tutor support and learning/feedback e-tivities built into the Elearning part of the course.

The end result of this programme, is that students will have a better understanding of what employers are looking for, understand more of their own traits and skills, how they can contribute to a workplace, resulting in the production of a relevent and
current CV, and to eventually have that CV verfied by UCOL (whilst completing the course). Embedded into the course are 3 Unit Standards, relating to Interview Skills, Problem solving and Stress Management.

One of my concerns is that the students may simply scroll too quickly through the virtual Company Tour, just so that they can get their CV up and running, and therefore possibly not engaging in the real learning aspect of the programme.
We also want to them add as many details as they can to their CV, and if they skim through the programme too quickly, some of the subtle learning that we would want occurring may be missed.

So, these are two of the issues that relate to quality in elearning:

1. Is their enough interaction with the students- how will the tutuors know when the students are struggling? How can we get
them to engage fully?

2. Is the extra course material relevent / will the students use it to add to their current experience?

Following on from the e-Guideline that I looked at last week (which I misquoted actually- it was SD 5 I referred to, not SD 4(

Listed under (Students/Learning Design/Good practice) are some guidelines that can be related to the (quality) issues, the two I hope to explore further for this course are as follows:

SD 3:Do students gain knowledge relevant to employment and/or current thinking in their field?

SD 5: "Do students aquire the learning skills for successfully completing the course?"

In the example of my course, if we were evaluating aspects of the course in terms of quality, I'd still ask "Did the use of interactive tools and forums help the student complete the course"?

By asking such questions, we can evaluate the technology-assess the interaction and check that the knowledge gained is relevent by the CV verifcation process (verify the content). If the CV is verifiable- we could say that the intended outcome is acheived...

There is another quideline as well, that is relevent-
ST 9: Do the technologies employed help students successfully meet the learning outcomes?

I would ask- can the students successfully engage and complete the course in an eLearning format with no f2f contact (apart from the "Interveiw" at the end of the course (to verify the CV)?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Week 2 Discussions

1.Why is evaluation important to you and how do you define it?

For me, evaluation is important as it is a reminder that what we are doing is of benefit and allows us the opportunity to consider different options.

My first thoughts lead to the mainly summative evaluation processes that are in place, then I realised, that even though I was already familiar with the ADDIE model, I considered that ongoing formative evaluation can also occur amongst peers in an informal way- perhaps by attending conferences, belonging to online Discussion forums, talking to staff from other Insitutions. I am refering to evaluation of the teaching process/system as well as the course content.

For example, within an online course, an e-activity may be presented in a new way to students as a result of some learning opportunity gained though a shared experience with another lecturer. Evaluation (formal and informal) is also important personally- it can be used to 'pat yourself' on the back, as well as 'allowing room for improvement'.I also was thinking of the efects 'tick box' situation whereby you present the end of course evaluations to the online students, gather the results for the Annual Programme Reporting process, list any outcomes and then add them to the 'Action List' and find, that a year later, no further action was taken because it got
lost in the 'redtape'.

So, during this course, I hope to learn more about evaluation in a 'user friendly' environment.

While listening to the presentation I jotted down the following in response the question "What is evaluation?" ...a review of a process, how well did it suit the 'intended outcome' (purpose), are there areas which can be improved?, did the process result in
'buy in'? will it be reproducable? can it be transferred to another format?

2.What sort of evaluations mentioned on the presentation are familiar to you already and why?

Evaluation processes that were mentioned in the presentation that are familair to me are as follows:

  • paper based questionaires- either handed out in class or posted to students- (this is for ongoing Community Computing classes that are facilitated rather than 'taught';

  • end of course evalutions available to students participating in papers or units online;

  • Annual Student Satification Surveys, -sent out to students who may or may not still be studying online-at the end of the year. Usually sent via email with a web link to follow;

  • focus groups- participation as a staff member on elearning initiatives;

  • discussion forums (as a student on this eLearning Course-in another paper)-evaluating fellow students work e.g webpages;

  • checklists to follow before a Unit is relased to students on an online course.

3.Why is quality important in eLearning?

Quality: For me this is much the same as in a retail environment - would you buy a suit from a Designer who you had heard via word of mouth from friends (who
had previously brought a similar suit) -that he used inferior materials? If you were looking for a product that will last, you probably wouldn't buy it. But if you were
looking for a product that is cheaper and doesn't have to last the distance, then possibly yes, you would consider it.

The analogy for the student wanting a quality course is something like this. They will want a 'quality course' if they plan to do further study, especially at other insitutions. WORD OF MOUTH is very important - a student who has a bad experience will probably do more damage that we realise- students talk and may remember the poor quality aspects longer than we want them to!!!
Quality is perception of value, perhaps something like "am I getting the same treament/value for money in a $300 elearning course as I would in a $1500 f2f class".

In the early days of blended and 'online courses', it could be said that many courses were delivered 'online' as result of the perception that they are more cost
effective. I don't have a specific reference for this, but I think that today- students expect a lot more than just reading their resources on line- they want all the bells and whistles that Web 2.0 technology offers- and that means that the developers and tutors alike have to come to grips with quality tools and good instructional design. I recall looking at some readings from Frank Rennie in the Educational Design for eLearning paper, but can't track them at present.

Quality is also about 'how good is the course'?-'how well does it meet the intended outcome(s)'? (taking into account the context of the measure of quality).What one student calls "good quality"- another may disagree or shun. e.g with elearning, we assume plenty of opportunity for feedback through (for example) forums, etc. A less vocal, or less interactive student, may not perceive the inclusion of this feedback method as a sign of good quality.

I had a look at the eLearning Guidelines (

Listed under guideline SD4 (Students/Learning Design/Good practice) is the following question which I think can be related to quality:

"Do students aquire the learning skills for successfully completing the course?"

In the example above, if we were evaluating this aspect of the course in terms of quality, we'd ask "Did the use of interactive tools and forums help the student complete the course"? So, the first student would say it was 'good'! the second might not think so.

Lots to think about obviously....



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hi All

Apologies for the delay. I have been having trouble getting this account (and google mail) working at home. This blog is one I set up Sept 2007 for some PD here at UCOL ( all things related to Web 2.0 technologies), so please ignore any 'posts' prior to this course.....
I work at UCOL along with Heather and Kay, in the School of Business and Computing. I have been at UCOL for ten years now, about 5 years involved on Online Programmes, both as tutor and some development. I am in the middle of a transfer of 3 courses over to Moodle- and on a fast learning curve for Moodle, the behind the scenes things are quite interesting!!! This is my third paper of this course, and it's especially timely for me, with this transfer of courses, I am hoping get a chance to reflect on "best practice' a bit more, because in reality it seems that sometimes the "best practice" gets in the way of " we must have the course up and running by such and such a date". I wonder what the students think of changing learning platforms? I am thinking that my project might be based around this new course platform and the acceptance of the students, especially the things that we can do differently in Moodle.
What do I know about evaluation already ? I'll work on that- however I do know that just because we ask the students to complete an online evaluation at the end of each paper- doesn;t mean they do it. And when it comes to the end of the course evaluations- we have to follow them up. Another point- getting the mix of questions "just right" so that we get meaningful information (which allows for change if appropriate).

Looking forward to getting more 'active' on the course- feels like a slow start so far :-(