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Kim Aling

ocTEL MOOC: Effective channels of communication

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Experiment with and/or reflect on different ways of communicating with fellow ocTEL participants. These include Twitter, your blog if you have one, the ocTEL JISCMail list [octel-public@jiscmail.ac.uk], the ocTEL forums, the chat window in the webinar. Try and use at least one channel of online communication that you haven’t used before (or don’t use regularly), and try and find out why other people like it.

·         What forms of reflection, challenge and learning do each of these do best?

·         How do they support relationship forming and community building? Is that important for learning?

·         Which do you prefer and why?

Communicating with others is an important part of any distance learning course as it has to replace the face-to-face contact you would usually have with co-learners and provide a channel for learners to create their own meanings through discussion.  Any form of communication have to be easy to work and easy to manage to reduce frustration and de-motivating emotion.  It need to be easy to navigate to keep up with discussions and to allow a timely response. 

The email option was an early form used in the course and it was clear from responses that this caused a lot of problems for participants in terms of managing the sheer numbers of emails in the in boxes.  This is not an efficient means of discussion with large group sizes and it’s difficult to keep a track of the flow of discussion.

The forum is a better form as discussion threads can be kept together and the flow of discussion is more clear.  The danger with forums is that contributors write too much.  Forum posts should be relatively short and restricted to one or two points which provide a good focus for replies and means that people can quickly catch up with unread posts and don’t have to read essays.  However the forum style use by this course is fairly basic and it is not conducive to easy navigation:

·         Unread posts need to be more clearly highlighted in a thread, eg in another background colour

·         There need to be more that 3 levels – parent and two replies. So that an single argument can be kept together

·         Small groups need to have separate forums so that they can have several threads of discussion.  As the course matures the small group thread are going to be unmanageable

Twitter is a poor medium for meaningful discussion but useful for sharing material.  Using an ocTEL hashtag we can quickly share ideas and resources.

Blogging is my preferred method of dealing with these activities as it gives me time to reflect on what I’m saying.  People also have the option of reading my blog or not and to comment or not.  Longer and more considered answers can be put here.

The chat box in the webinar is an excellent source of back channel discussion and many of the most interesting discussions I have had have been here.   They are always stimulated by a current question and encourage a lot of comment and debate.  The ability to embed hyperlinks also makes it a rich resource. 

It’s difficult to find a channel of communication I haven’t used before or use fairly regularly.  But the main features of a good one are ease of use, being able to keep up with discussions quickly and able to generate meaningful discussion.

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