They really want us to use these! Really really!
I understand the theory. I can see that discussion what we are learning, how it applies to our experience and practice, and how we can move forward as a student body is valuable. Imperative maybe. I certainly welcome the chance to bounce ideas, concerns and frustrations off the very people who really are sharing the experience.
However - I am not sure that John Seely Brown is right when he asserts that the distributed learning group is just as effective as the situated one.
This could be, at least in part, a technological failing. At present we all have audio and a screen on which we can write messages (although only on the whiteboard and not in a chat format). We can see who is in the group and who is speaking. However - when speaking I can't hear what anyone else is saying so don't know if I am getting 'hmms' of approval or questioning. As with all web based technology the risk of a shaky connection means that the conversation is not seamless. And the lack of actual human people and all of their body language and cues is really sorely felt.
I think I like my tutor group a lot. I think - were we to meet in a Costa for coffee - then I'd get on well with all of them. But using the online student rooms leaves me either sitting through an awkward silence for fear of starting to speak at the same time as someone else.... or 'taking charge' and worrying that my colleagues resent my assertiveness... or simply listening and not really participating.
It is also difficult to find times to 'meet'. We all have busy schedules and trying to organize it through a forum which people may only check once a day leaves little opportunity for spontaneous chat as might happen if we were on campus together.
We have a Facebook group which is outside of the OU which I have found more immediate. I wonder if a tutor group WhatsApp group might actually be really useful. I don't even know how to propose that though!