I think I’ll have more time to reflect and comment on my artefact and the experience of making it in a few days, but for now here it is.
Exploring rich media and social networking to create more innovative learning experiences…. 2 parts knowledge and inquiry, 2 parts plan, 2 parts sub and pop culture, 3 parts fun (including what the suits call execution).
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have recently exploded on the Internet. Currently participating in the “Elearning & Digital Cultures” Coursera MOOC has been both an exciting and enriching experience so far. Many of my classmates have noted that it’s difficult to connect or even find what you need. I see that. If I haven’t had experienced both participating in and designing smaller online courses, I think I might have run screaming from this class. I decided to take this class to learn more about the MOOC experience and because I knew a course like this would attract a great many folks who can teach me more about online learning and collaboration. And I’m not just speaking about Digital Vikings or Digital Experts ;).
To some extent, online learners do have to take a bit of responsibility in learning how to use the tools, discovering the rules of etiquette and how to use the content creation options (Storify, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Prezi, Storyline, etc.). It’s like taking Dr. Who’s advice about Time Travel… it “ is like visiting Paris. You can’t just follow the guidebook. You’ve got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs… “
Part of the fun of engaging in an online course is taking a few risks. And because we don’t get the interpersonal and facial cues from being in a classroom, you have to adapt and sometimes overcompensate when communicating with others online.
I have a few suggestions from my initial experience in this MOOC, and as I continue to take this course over the next few weeks I’m sure I will have more:
1. Provide a digital tour with a facilitator narrating it that walks through the major places to contribute in the course. This can include guidelines for using the forums and subforums correctly. You’re not going to prevent everyone from posting to the top threads instead of using the search to find the appropriate ones, but you’ll cut down on a great deal of the clutter and chatter
2. Provide a way for the newbies to practice using and develop confidence using the communication tools. At the TCC Education Technology Conference they allow all participants to play in ‘sandboxes’ in Illuminate. This allows them to get comfortable with the tool and engage. In a former life I designed a chat activity for our LMS chat tool that incorporated an online scavenger hunt. Students were directed to share thoughts and links on a topic and discuss. Integrating the learning about the tool in an activity that uses it while allowing students to practice helps them both master and become accustomed to online modes of communication.
3. Leverage the skills of the Digital Natives & Proficient Digital Immigrants to help get the newbies up to speed.
4. Have a learning manifesto that defines what you feel the learning should look like. Encourage the students to contribute to it. It looks like the University of Edinburgh has one... but I didn’t see it linked in our actual #edcmooc. Having a manifesto personalized by the facilitators & students of the course can help everyone start.
5. Provide a mechanism or place in the course for people to join cadres where they stick with each other throughout the course. Provide some general guidelines for providing support in the cadres. If possible have folks who are more experienced with tech volunteer to lead each Cadre. Give them guidelines to help start conversations. Encourage fun competitions between cadres that help build team spirit. I know this can be rather challenging in a course with tens of thousands of people, but I think perhaps setting up the space and modeling the behavior for the cadres is a start. I see that in our course there are some self-generated study groups, but how do they know what to do or even study online without some amount of guidance?
6. Require that students have a blog. They can build one specifically for this course or use one that exists already. The blog is a way for folks to reflect and have larger thoughts about their experience with the course and topics.
How about you? Add your ideas on how to improve the MOOC Experience at this Wall on Wallwisher.
Go to the wall and add your own comments.
Many, many moons ago I wrote a post on Knowledge Management Systems that illustrated Marc Rosenberg’s KM model. This model depicts an organization that has a truly integrated system of sharing knowledge that includes formal training and an ongoing mentoring system for it’s employees. This model includes use of social media to connect employees. Since I wrote this post, the use of social media online for both connecting and learning has exploded. Many more company executives (though not as many as there could be) are now schooled on the finer points of using social media as promotional vehicles as well as within the organization to enhance employee learning and knowledge.
Recently, On his blog, Jay Cross presented an adapted version of Jane Hart’s 5-Stage Model of the Evolution of Workplace Learning.
Here’s the visual that illustrates this.
As Cross points out in his post, the more familiar your workers are with online networking tools and media, the more they can readily use social networking support to improve their learning and skills. You need to be able to assess where your audience of learners skill lies in the following areas: Web/Tech Expertise and Social Networking Familiarity.
Going back to the “5 Stages” illustration shown above, the newbies or novices to the workplace, culture, organization, or system would be FIRST guided to the LMS where formal learning can take place (your essentials such as terms of service, legal information, safety, organization mission, organizational structure, job skills, compliance training, etc.). If you need to track learning in a blended model (both face to face and online), you can use the LMS to keep track of who’s completed what training as they come into your workplace or program.
In the grand old days when most training was done in face to face sessions complete with massive binders and glossy handouts, training really only took place at the beginning and employees or trainees were expected to absorb what they could from the training. If they couldn’t remember everything that was okay because they had their gigantic binders as a print reference. This system works when the nature of the work can be completely documented in print and is static. In other words, nothing changes about the nature of the job and there are NO variables.
Some workplaces assign ‘buddies’ or coaches to new employees. It’s often part of the work coach’s job to model or teach these learning behaviors to their employees. At one entry-level job I had many years ago, I remember my work coach or mentor telling me something as basic and obvious, as “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” In sharing this with me she was essentially letting me know, “It’s safe to ask questions here. We’d rather you do things right or learn by asking, and we won’t punish you for what you don’t know.”
A truly rich “Informal Learning” environment can provide learners with the support they need to deal with variables NOT covered in formal training. And here’s the big “But,” you have to teach effective mentoring behaviors to all staff and reinforce these behaviors as much as possible. The informal learning model explicitly sets the expectation that learning and workplace improvement inherently part of the work culture. Employees must see it as part of their job responsibility to take the new guy under their wing. The sooner you get the newbie up and flying the sooner everyone can be productive and creative. Managers and employees can build checklists of knowledge, skills and ‘tribal knowledge’ that new employees need to know. These lists and even ad hoc information can be shared during social or work activity.
But Informal Learning isn’t just what you’d learn about your fellow employees from washroom or smoking break talk. Informal Learning can happen via chat and discussion forums. The other day a work colleague and myself noted that we both got ourselves unstuck from work-related ‘problems’ by looking up similar situations or issues in professional forums online. It’s just as easy to set up an internal online work chat or forum.
I’ve seen some older employees cringe at the words “Informal Learning.” Many of the more ‘traditional’ workplaces place a lot of value on formal learning (lectures, lessons, face to face training, etc.) because that’s the people, are used to. I think the key to building a truly learning rich environment and workplace is to highlight where social learning is really happening naturally and successfully and then introduce less familiar methods of leveraging informal learning. But again, if your company or organization doesn’t have a clear definition of what it means to learn effectively (outside of formal training) the concept of Informal Learning will be a hard sell. Maybe it’s just a matter of re-branding it or camouflaging it. As for the acceptance of learning via social media… Maybe we just have to wait until the technologies that propel Informal and Social Learning (forums, chat, wikis, etc.) become more commonplace and accepted by the majority. It will happen, eventually :)
My husband just sent me this interesting article in how “DreamWeaver is Dying.”
This isn’t a matter of bells and whistles, it’s absolutely fundamental. Ultimately a web site is all about content – posting it and making it findable – and Dreamweaver and the other static HTML editors have proven fundamentally flawed when it comes to these two core tasks (and features such as Dreamweaver’s libraries and templates are patches not solutions).
I think the lack of searchability is what really bothers me about putting pages up for our courses with DreamWeaver. As the article points out, the model of authoring static webpages and managing html files from a central point may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I want to take some time to think about the future that is being hinted to us in this article.
The only feasible course for the future is for content to be posted by the content contributor, whether that’s the site owner or site visitors, and for the best possible navigation to be constructed around that content on the fly.
I’m okay with this, because I’ve been trained to ‘look for things’ using searches and to search for wording using the built in text finder in my browser. I’d argue that I have this so ingrained in me that I feel powerless and helpless when I cannot search for anything electronically. This afternoon I about had a fit because I was finding it difficult to use the Postal Zipcode index/book at the Post Office, so I called my husband and asked him to look up the postal code on the net. I even wondered… why the heck doesn’t the post office have access to this information via their computers? I and many others know how to navigate and search on the web, but what about those countless people who honestly don’t know how. We need to train them how to do this.
Not to mention we have to break them of the thinking that only ‘experts’ can manage and create content. Also, will this ability to have multiple ‘loci’ of control for content creation/editing cause confusion or even conflict? How can you train people to work with each other effectively and follow rules of etiquette for changes?
I know that it will probably be at least a few years before the idea of dynamically created and shared content will be universally accepted or as normal as e-mail.
As Tom Arah points out, this sort of change will present many opportunities for the “web designer who can adapt.” But how? I can think of a few things: