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Patrick Andrews

"Intensity" in OU Live

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The term "intensity" came up in an OU Live session yesterday where some students commented on how busy the tools.  They commented on how they were listening, speaking and also writing in the text box as well as reading the comments and looking at the whiteboard.

It is hard for the tutor and the participants to follow some of the strands that are going on.  I suppose there is a tendency to ensure that the sessions are seen as being valuable.

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David Lind

Performance pressure

Hi Patrick,

I was just following up on your suggestion and exploring your blog. I wanted to pick up this point about "intensity". If this was a feeling that people reported having, then it is worth exploring the causes. What I suggest here is just one possible cause. 

From my perspective, the intensity is brought about by performance pressure, particularly when being called up to speak before a group. Unlike speaking mode, text box messages can be corrected and edited before being 'broadcast', allow for longer pauses without awkwardness,  and remove possible biases associated with accent-identification (either favourable or non-favourable).

For what it's worth, in the module I did last year my tutor communicated via audio and the rest of us via text box. I don't recall anyone reporting a feeling of 'intensity' or stress during those tutorials. I know this is evidence bordering on the anecdotal and that there may be other explanations, but I thought it was worth sharing with you. 

Have you ever tried a text-box only tutorial? 

Patrick Andrews

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Thanks for the comment, David.  It is all interesting.  I have not specifically tried a text only tutorial but sometimes students prefer to use text and that is okay by me.  My slight dilemma here is that I would like to break down the teacher student barrier and if it is "the authority" speaks while the students write, this seems to play against that.  I think the idea is that OU Live would allow for different modes and is perhaps more informal and plays an affective role.

I am very interested in keeping up the dialogue on this with you and others.

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Interesting what you say about breaking down the teacher-student barrier, which is condition sine qua non for the collective intelligence associated with Mindset 2 (Lankshear and Knobel, 2006) to flourish. (Although I have learnt from my recent experience with Twitter that the teacher must be prepared to step in when learning is threatened by irrelevant or inappropriate content). Conall has commented on the forum that technical difficulties with his microphone were a hindrance for communication. Even for those with working microphones, differences in sound quality are also an issue - some students come in loud and clear whilst others are less audible. This may contribute to a sense of intensity or anxiety on behalf of those who are unsure if their message is being understood. Text box communication sidesteps these problems.
Patrick Andrews

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Thanks again for your comments.

I know what you mean about different sound quality and there are some occasions where students do not seem to be able to get a clear sound.  I understand your argument for doing it all by text chat but these are what I see as advantages for persisting with sound where possible:

- you all do a lot of reading on the course and it seems useful to use speaking and listening if possible for affective reasons.  I think you gain something from hearing the voices of the other participants affectively.  I think it will make you all feel part of the course.

- it can be much quicker for people to speak than type.

I think that participants are completely at liberty to use the text messages if they prefer to but I would not like to do it solely by chat.


David Lind

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It is pleasurable to actually hear the voices of your classmates, and yes, it is true that we do a lot of text based work during the course as it is. So there seem to be pros and cons. This discussion has been very constructive. Thanks!

Patrick Andrews

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Thanks for your engagement with this, David - I find your comments interesting and useful.

I am interested in exploring what is going on in OU Live.  I suppose like face to face teaching,there are a wide varieties of practices going on but perhaps tutors and students know less about this.

There was an interesting incident in the last E852 session when participants seemed surprised by the breakout rooms.  I only tend to use them when we have fairly large groups (which is fairly frequent) but I was once observed by a peer who seemed surprised I did not use them in quite a small group - perhaps only 5 students.  The surprise you showed as a group suggested that breakout rooms are not used so much as I expected.  However, it is difficult to know.

In face to face classes, students get used to the practices of the teacher but perhaps on this course, we do not have enough time to do that.  In two other courses, 6 hours are scheduled and we are likely to have about 4 on E852 (plus you and Andrea attended the multimodality session, making 4).  Is this enough time to establish norms that we all feel comfortable with?  We will just have to try our best.