OU blog

Personal Blogs

Design Museum

Some online tutor sessions work, some do not. Some social platforms work, others do not. Why?

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:58

Gagne (1970 pp29-30) suggests that instruction in an organized group discussion develops the use and generalizaton of knowledge – or knowledge transfer. Oxbridge tutors contend that the 'Oxbridge Tutorial' – a weekly, structured micro-meeting of two or three people, achieves this. One student reads out a short essay that the tutor and students discuss.

'When properly led', Gagne continues, 'such discussions, where the knowledge itself has been initially mastered', not only stimulates the production of new extensions of knowledge by students but also provides a convenient means of critical evaluation and discrimination of these ideas. Gagne (ibid).

Forty years on from when Gagne wrote this there are what are meant to be or hoped to be learning contexts where this kind of knowledge transfer through group discussion can still work – or may fail to work – either because the degree of subject mastery between students is too broad or there are too many students, or the wrong mix of students.

For example, in the Open University's Masters of Open and Distance Education (MAODE) between 12 and 16 postgraduate students meet online in a series of strucutured online tutor forums – some of these work, some do not. As these meetings are largelly not compulsory and as they are asynchronous and online, it is rare to have people in them together – the discussions are threaded. What is more, in any tutor group there will typically be a mixture of students who are on their first, their second, third, fourth or even fifth module of the Master's – some of whom, given the parameters offered by flexible and distance learning, may have spread these modules over five years. Then there is the task and how it is set, whether the participants are meant to work alone or collaboratively – the simplest and most frequent model online is an expectation to read resources and share notes and thoughts. However, personal experience over five such modules suggests that the committed engagement of say six people, working collaboratively on a clear set of tasks and activities with a time limit and climactic conclusion of delivering a joint project, works best.

Too many of these online tutorials drift, or fizzle out: too few posts, posts that are two long, fragmented posts linking to pages elsewhere, the indifference of participants, the lack of, or nature of the tutor involvement, excessive and misplaced social chat, or discussing subjects that are off topic ... It depends very much on the mix, inclinations, availability and level of 'knowledge mastery' as to how such online tutorials work out. As well as the eclectic combination of students the role, availability, online and other teaching skills, even the personality of the tutor and of course THEIR knowledge experience and mastery matters.

Just reflect on how such workshops or seminars may work or fail face–to–face – the hunger for knowledge on the topic under discussion, the mix of personalities and the degree to which their experience or level of understanding is the same, at slight or considerable variance, let alone any differences of culture, background, gender or in a business setting – position and the department they have come from.

Ideally the workshop convener, or what the French call an 'animateur' should, assemble or construct such groups with great care, like a director casting actors to perform a piece of improvisation. Different contexts offer different opportunities. As a graduate trainee in an advertising agency six of us were repeatedly assembled, the various departmental specialists and directors playing roles at specific times – bit players in these scenarios. On reflection, stage management by a team in the HR department had been vital. It is therefore 'stage management' that I consider of significant importance when trying to construct such collective learning experiences online in a corporate setting.

CONCLUSION

Know your players, cast with care, give direction, record what goes on and step in to nudge, re–kindle, stop or start conversations or activities.

REFERENCE

Gagne, R (1970) The Conditions of Learning

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Robert Gagne Wikispaces

Theories of Learning

Cognitive Design Principles

The Nine Events - from Kevin the Librarian

Various Models of learning - Illustrated

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

H800: 45 Week 8 Activity 2 (Part 4) Tools for Learning Design

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 16:14

Is this a model or an expression of what took place?

At what point, by adding Tutor engagement, and then picking out individuals in relation to their tutor group forum participation do you make assumptions?

A questionnaire would elicit the facts.

At some point the complexity of the activity shown diminishes the ease at which the chart is interpreted.

33pysds_H800-WK8-Act3.jpg

 

I'd replaced the imploring 'HAVE FUN!' with the more germane 'ENGAGE!' i.e. take part, I say this because debate and discussion may not be fund with a smile.

Often I liken a session that spins out of control as a Catherine-Wheel nailed to a post that fizzles and falls ... or winds down. Some activities can be like this, 'full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'

They tend to be the most fulfilling, where everyone in the group takes part. Or at least SIX on a regular basis to give the thing some spin.

Failure to participate is the killer; with it an activity can be a wild success, drawing people in, urging them to take part. Without them you are on your own 'with your books and your thoughts.'

The reality of distance learning online is a bit of both, the trick is to be able to engage and disengage with reasonable flexibility, not feeling guilty whether you are quiet for a period or when you are ever-present.

The role of the tutor is a tricky one

Mentor and coach, or subject matter expert? Institutional insider to guide? Overseer? Absent landlord? Marker? Assessor? Animateur?

The role is changing. It will be as different as it is in the 'real' world from the one-to-one private tutor, or the 'gang master' running 60 students via pre-recorded video lecture. Customers, as students can call themselves with greater validity if they are paying significant sums, will be demanding.

'Change is all around us'.

(Sung to the tune of Wet, Wet, Wet's 'love is all around us').

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

H808 First Impressions. Week 1.

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 13:16

H808 First Impressions

Someone’s been busy over the summer recess. smile

There are several noticeable differences:

In addition to the tutor there is a technical expert (Hi Helen) ‘embedded’ in the course to take a proactive role ensuring that none of us get the hebegebes with the technology. Even the basic functioning of the OU platform and its myriad of tools, attributes, quirks and foibles, can be daunting or at least irksome for the IT proficient. I doubt I am alone when I find at times I ‘just don’t get it’ when all it needs is someone to look over my shoulder and say, ‘try pressing that,’ or you’ve missed out a letter, or ‘there’s a really easy way to do that.’ I am at that stage where I am tripped up by a single letter of HTML code ... only to find that I don't need to be reading or trying to read code, if I understood how to use the e-tools being offered. Curiously this role may do more to bring students from the different tutor groups together than the mere offering of forums for this purpose ... a cafe where there is no coffee. mixed

The tutor is around a lot. (Hi Trevor).

(I have not lurked around other tutor groups to see what is going on, so perhaps we can have a pow-wow on this or what I read in an article on e-learning, a 'tribal meeting; which I suppose is a meeting of department heads, or vice-chancellors i.e. the chiefs?).

This may just be a start of course thing, but I sense a wind change that is going beyond the basic set-up to support collaboration elucidated by Salmon regarding e-moderating. My prediction is that the call-centre like support, online and on the phone, that is offered corporate e-learners and e-trainers may become something that H.E. institutions need to provide, populated by undergraduates (2nd years as it were), as well as graduates, not just the traditional PhD student as part time tutor and lecturer ... as well as Senior Tutors.

I’d like the occasional host guest or a heavy hitter too, the participation of those who wrote the module, designed the course or whose work is most often cited.

The title 'H808 Environment Map' is an unnecessarily disingenuous term for a fantastic, indispensable guide. This isn't a map, it is 'The Lonely Planets' map, plan and guide pocket book for H808. It should be on the inside cover of what is the H808 Course Book. It should be wall-paper on the homepage i.e. you go nowhere and try nothing until you have consumed it. I'm going to print it off, laminate it and put it on my desktop, the tabletop wooden one i.e. extract it from its binary code and give it form on paper.

Something’s been refreshed in the OU Library.

My first impression would be to say from a design point of viewit has been ‘Google-ised,’ i.e, its appearance has been cleared up and simplified. Is it that designers and programmers in time can prioritise their choice of tools and offer in a more clinical way the tools they know users will need as they progress through their search rather than offering a High Street DIY store cornucopia of e-tic-tacs and e-tools that may or may not be required and probably do little more than scare and confuse in equal measure.

The resources and supplementary reading have all been accessed within the last couple of months and the links work.

In H807 it was a bugbear, not overly regular, but frequent enough, to find that links did not work so documents were not found speedily. The sifting out of redundant papers and reports (their points of view have been superseded by the technology and actual practice rather than the conjecture and hyperbole of some academics and commentators) as well as the checking and fixing of links is important. It is a considerable frustration, though understandable, that published version of books.

Not overly burdensom or keen to read two study-related books over the summer (July/August) Weller’s Virtual Learning Environments(2007) and Conole and Oliver's (eds) Contemporary perspectives in e-learning Research (2007), that very few of the links to URLS given to follow up references work (very few, may be none!) and then seeking them through the OU library doesn’t always prove successful either, no fault of the library, but links into this amorphous universe that is Cyberspace leaves some e-references wanting. And being who I am I want these references as qualifying and verifying is part of the ‘bonding process’ that this student requires to feel thoroughly engaged with the material.

Might I suggest that putting an URL for an article or blog comment into a print-published book is about as lasting as putting a sparkler in a birthday cake - by the time you want to eat the cake the sparkler has burnt out.

I like the new 'tick box' alongside the study planner to help mark off your progress.

Happy Days, Exciting Days in OU Land

P.S. Did you know you have access to the Oxford English Dictionaryonline as an OU Student. This is like being invited to Versailles during the reign of the Sun King. Brilliant. Except it can't help me with 'hebe-gebe.' A term used by my family, or a Geordie term for feeling a bit nervous, gets the goose-bumps up, a tad scary in a Ghost Train ride kind of way?

P.P.S. Just learnt a few tricks to search for a word in the OED and found 'heebie-jeebie.'  A feeling of discomfort, apprehension, or depression; the ‘jitters’; delirium tremens; also, formerly, a type of dance. (OED) Far from being my native Geordie, it is 1920s New York American.

6.00am and I've learnt something new already! approve

9/9/10 is going to be a fun day.

8/9/10 was magic.

I wonder why? thoughtful

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 5470055