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My reflections on ONL162

I have to be honest I was wishing this course away up until Topic 3,  it was taking up time I did not have and I was learning in an area which I felt was not necessary right now.  How wrong was I?  I am so glad I persevered as it allowed me to test my boundaries in an area which was foreign.  The more I felt I could not do this, the more I realised that I actually could!

In the beginning, it was all about ticking boxes, making sure the activity tracker was complete, finding time to read an article and realising that watching a video was actually quicker 🙂 It was only when I actually started understanding some of the articles I was reading and began drawing a parallel to how I could use this in my own space did I really start enjoying the course and understanding the meaning of me being here.  My activity tracker has not been filled for weeks because realised being here was about learning and engaging and not about ticking boxes.  Such is life…we tend to tick boxes and we forget to live.  We take pictures and forget to enjoy the moment. We constantly talking about how big our kids are getting we forget to enjoy them while they are young.

My team was great – Mats Lintrup, Pernilla Siljehag, Maija Lampinen and Kerstin Akergard.  We leaned on each other for different topics and at different times and each team member playing their role in the topic that appealed to them most which I suppose is the goal of team work.  Together we achieved even though completion of this means something different to each of us.  It taught me to test my strength in an unfamiliar area and not to doubt my thinking.  It was actually oaky to say the wrong thing (if there is such a thing) as each person respected the platform and each others thinking.  Even if an opinion shared was incorrect, it prompted thinking along the right lines and eventually provided a common thought process.  This was a wonderful opportunity to meet new people across the globe, share ideas and thoughts with someone you’ve never met and still feel like you belong.

I learnt about:

  • Google Docs, Canva, Coggle & Prezzi.
  • Blended learning, a term I should be familiar with but now understand more.  The challenges our lecturers are faced with given the profile of an online student
  • The challenges our students face in a blended environment
  • Gained exposure to Pixabay, Creative Commons, Open Educational Resources (OER), Problem Based Learning (PBL)
  • Writing a blog…something I never ever dreamed of doing.  Yes, my 11 year old son assisted me but I probably would not have allowed him to teach me if it wasn’t a requirement.
  • And exercise critical thinking in an area which is not my strength

What an experience it has been, a journey of 10 weeks which has broadened my mind in a way I would have resisted had it not been for ONL162.

Thank you for the opportunity.

 

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Online Learning is where it happened

The picture I’ve used explains how I feel at Topic 4 – finally climbing over this hurdle called ONL162 🙂  By the end of topic 3 my mind is still questioning what am I doing here and why would I put myself through something that it not interesting me in the least.  An emphatic “No, you cannot drop out at this point, you are nearly at the end” is what I needed and I am so grateful as Topic 4 is where it all came together.  I realised why I was here.

Although not directly involved myself, I could relate the discussions we’ve had with online learning to what we do at in my own work space.  As we have discovered all the way through and perhaps as we have seen through our journey with ONL162 online learning is not as simple as it seems for the learner and the facilitator and house rules almost need to be established upfront, understanding and expectations of individuals need to be negotiated for this to be successful.  Investigating who you audience is of utmost importance as you can then structure your design according to the desired appeal. Understanding shortcomings of your audience and the desired outcomes you want to achieve from activities is important.  According to Conole (2015), this is also helpful in ‘understanding their perceptions, competencies and aspirations which will support the design process.”  Using a blended approach by an initial face to face session goes a long way in setting the scene, tone and objectives of an activity.  Vaughn, Cleveland & Garrison shared their benefits of blended learning.

What then is the strategy – strategy and activities must promote critical thinking, encourage collaboration, feedback and engagement.  As we have seen in earlier units, some members are very happy to sit back and allow others to take the lead.  Clear structure and design of activities which engage all involved will eliminate these challenges in an uncontrolled digital space. Activities can take the form of open discussion, structured debate, brainstorming many of which we used for discussion of this topic.

Allowing group collaboration is essential and allowing this collaboration on a platform that appeals to the student is much more rewarding for students as it creates a learning community.

Lastly you evaluate – group and individual reflection is important for learning to take place.  Our group did this in this topic and reflected on others where we did  not collaborate as well as we could.  This step adds value to the process and pave the the way for future collaboration on an online platform if one understand what could have been done better.

Online collaboration needs to take into different learners.  Some learner thrive in this space and others may shy away, it is the responsibility of the facilitator to draw in all students by designing activities which will accommodate for all learner types.  Tracking of online activity is important.  An on line tracker helps ground a student and reminds them of what is required.  Structured prescribed material must exist to support online activities so there is a balance between academic theory and practical.  Sharing of ideas is critical to allow for change in ones thinking and approach. Just placing content onto and online forum will not bring success.  Making material available to a student or even discussing it, doesn’t necessarily mean learning has taken place.

This learning technology is yet to be explored.  A wealth of information and many ways of accomplishing the desired outcome.  An area where students and facilitators are still exploring and learning themselves.  A mindful waiting to unleash where maximum opportunity exists.

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “Conceptual framework”

Conole, G. (2015). The 7Cs of Learning Design. Manuscript.

 

Collaborative Learning – Making the World a Smaller Place

 

Collaborative learning is the opportunity for individuals to learn by sharing ideas and viewpoints.  According to McConnell, 2005 “while a new generation of learning is evolving steadily, teachers are still novices in this arena and are requiring considerable support and professional development opportunities in order to understand the potential of e-learning.” If I had to be completely honest, my delayed engagement on Topic 3 must leave my group feeling frustrated with me as this delays the finalisation of a project if one team member is “dragging their feet”.  This certainly being a barrier to collaborative learning as you depend on all participants to co-operate on time to ensure project completion.

Not all individuals are able to do this successfully as they perceive collaborative as an obstacle to their own learning.  The time that is taken with back and forth discussions may be seen as wasting time and if one feels confident in themselves and their thinking, it may actually just be easier to complete a task yourself.  Lecturers may face this resistance with students who see collaborative learning as a barrier to their own learning. Lecturers requiring group engagement maybe faced with students who are not tolerant of their peers who are not as committed in this space.

Collaborative learning involves providing a platform for discussion and engagement.  Openness and sharing should go hand in hand with collaboration as success in collaboration comes from how open you are to sharing your ideas and how open you are to listening to opinions of others.  Once ideas and opinions have been shared various discussion platforms should allow for engagement on the differences in opinions.  Discussion on why people may have varied opinions is essential as this either reinforces your own beliefs or it could broaden your mind to looking at other ideas which may provide a different perspective to your thinking.  As indicted by McConnell, 2005 it allows for critical thinking amongst learners.  If this does not happen, then all we have done is shared ideas but not necessarily allowed for learning to take place.  Time plays a huge role and if teams are not meeting consistently, this then delays the process of collaboration and in turn learning.   Those who are more committed or more accessible may not have the patience to wait for others. Commitment and mutual dependency is key for collaborative learning to be sustainable (Berg & Smith, 1990).

According to the research conducted on a 2 year, part time professional development Masters Course (McConnell, 2003) various group patterns were identified by the three groups being “anxiety, non-response of certain members, strong individuals non prepared to negotiate other points of view, decisions made by certain members only, ground rules of the project which kept changing”.

Actual engagement is important and collaborative leaning should not only rely in the written work.  Collaboration requires groups setting time aside for meaningful discussion and brainstorming. Technology itself cannot support the learning (Mantovani, 1994).  This takes commitment from all involved as commitment imbalance leads to frustration by other team members (Capdeferro and Romero, 2012)

The mere fact that we are able to complete this ONL162 course through online learning shows the advantage of collaborative learning.  Our presentations then depict an example of collaborative learning and without the sharing and collaboration of all our ideas, this would not be possible.   If I use this as an additional opportunity to reflect on collaborative learning for topic 1 and 2, my feedback would be that as a group we lacked the ability to go back and discuss the difference in opinions as we did not all agree on our final reflections however I think we identified this as a problem.  We ended up presenting a final document with varied thoughts and perspectives and not a common thought process.  Did we collaborate?  Maybe we did.  Could we have done it better? Most certainly yes!

References

Berg, D. N. & Smith, K. K. (1990).  Paradox of groups, in:  J, A, M. Gillette Groups in context: a new perspective on group dynamics (Reading, MA, Addison Wesley)

Mantovani, G. (1994).  Is computer mediated communication intrinsically apt to enhance democracy in organisations? Human Relations, 47 (1); 45 – 62

Romero, M., & Capdeffero, N. (2012). Are Online Learners Frustrated with Collaborative Learning Experiences? Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Spain

 

 

 

Openness and Sharing – A Sense of Accomplishment

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs knowledge is of no use if it remains in oneself.  This has to be shared to be useful to oneself and others.  A sense of satisfaction when you know you have helped someone, reminds me of a graduation ceremony when your student walks across the stage and you sit there gleaming full of pride.  A moment when you have every right to say “I had a part in your success”.  I would imagine a moment for a lecturer which brings all the satisfaction they need in the world.

According to Open Education and Future (2010) defined education as “the sharing of information between two people and often the best or most successful educators are those who share the most completely to the most students”.  It can be further stated that, openness is the only means of education and this could take the form of sharing of texts or sharing via Open Education Resources (OER).  Sharing through OER is more accessible for all to use, always available and available to more than one user at a time unlike textbooks if borrowed, need to be returned before someone accesses it, (Open Education and Future, 2010).  This enhances teaching in the classroom as the student reach through an online resource is far greater than “old fashioned” hard copy.

In preparation, lecturers should be willing to share information with their students for the purpose of imparting knowledge.  Some are reluctant and depending on the institutional policies around protecting intellectual property, lecturers maybe even more reluctant to share.  Certain institutions require that anything used within the institution becomes property of the institution – this could create a barrier for sharing as one wants to protect their thoughts and hours of preparation in enhancing a student’s experience through learning.

According to Butcher (2015), lecturers may be reluctant to share due to the fear of exposing themselves to peer review or peer scrutiny.  This can be an advantage as peer review or peer scrutiny will often lead to improved quality of work being presented to students.

Lecturers are also aware of the acknowledgements that need to accompany online resources shared and sometimes this becomes easier not to use something that one has to take the time to reference.  The video provided on Creative Commons was insightful and makes sharing easier for lecturers.

As much as digital learning is becoming common practice, this remains a challenge for lecturers to include all students is this type of learning.  Lecturers need to be aware of their audience to maintain equity of delivery in cases where not all students are able to access digital resources easily.  This could be for various reasons.  Especially in South Africa where a large part of our student population comes from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, there is a great divide between those to have uninterrupted access to a digital platform and those who do not.  Academic literacy also plays a huge role with online learning and are our students ready for this?  The remains a challenge for lecturers as this often hampers learning and how much lectures share with students online as much time is being spent on computer literacy rather than actual learning.  One could argue that we are teaching a generation of students who are “techno savvy” – they are an online generation but are they ready to learn on an online platform or are they comfortable only on a social online platform?  They are also a generation who lack discipline and give into social norms easily.  Do the two match up and are lecturers able to achieve desired outcomes of learning?  This poses a challenge for lecturers as learning and teaching online requires the discipline to access and perform daily, students want to be taught and become reliant on lecturer engagement rather than being led by an online facilitator who has limited interaction. In addition, online engagement does not force a student to engage making this difficult for student/lecturer relationships to be built.

Generally in life, people are often selfish with their knowledge and their thoughts.  People sometime hold back on their thoughts which create barriers in communication.  Lecturers being more generous with feedback will create a knowledge base for students without any teaching taking place, a student merely learning from feedback provided.

Acknowledging a person’s work adds credibility to an individual.  It almost becomes a moral/ethical issue to do so however this is often acknowledged when one uses information that is written but people tend to use each ideas often and this gets used without acknowledgement.  How often do you engage with individuals who repeat your exact idea which you have just shared with them to someone else and they take it as being their own? Surely the question of sharing and openness should acknowledge the spoken word too.

Openness and sharing should apply in all aspects of life and not only education.  McShane (2013) stated

Not only

“I, me, and mine…”

But also

“We, us and ours…”

If we all used this approach, the world would be a better place.

 

Bibliography

 

Butcher, N., 2015. A basic guide to Open Educational Resources (OER). [e.book] Available through: unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002158/215804e.pdf. [Accessed 24 October 2016]

McShane, K. 2013. Campus theme.  [Personal Interview]. 2013.

Open education and the future. 2010. [Video online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rb0syrgsH6M. [Accessed 24 October 2016]

 

 

 

Freedom of Speech

My inbox overflows, my thoughts are flowing, my mind is racing…The last two weeks went by in a flash with regional workshops done and dusted – 3 regions in two weeks.  Sharing with you the most beautiful Cape Town sunset which speaks a thousand words.  2017 planning is well underway, the team is feeling strong and certainly have our work cut out for us with the end of the year fast approaching.  I feel like I have neglected my online friends but have achieved so much on the work front.

Topic 1 is over and I reflect on how this introductory topic has created perspective on all we do in a public domain.  Someone said to me recently, there is no safe space, nothing you say is safe, think… and she was not referring to an online platform.  So what is the difference then?  Does it come down to accountability and where ever one chooses to voice their opinions one needs to understand the accountability that comes with this.  Something we were told growing up, simple things like don’t say things you don’t mean and of course we go through life pretending this doesn’t apply to us or we know everything until it smacks you on the bottom and you realise that “things can and will be used against you”.

Seeing messages on Facebook all week with friends posting messages declaring their privacy status which will supposedly prevent Facebook from using their information.  So does posting something like this really keep your Facebook private… who are we kidding?  Only ourselves, I think.

The world is a funny place – full of open source, freedom of speech, encouraging our children to express themselves, promoting oneself to be outspoken but then again the need to take precautions on an online platform.

Oh what a week

What a week… First PBL group meeting yesterday.  Met most of my group members which was wonderful.  Off to a great start, commenting and thinking, I’ve got this!

Today was the first community meeting, 47 members I think and I feel completely overwhelmed.  Printed course work and had a giggle that I am printing course work for an online course.  Indicated to me that I rely on a paper based source which is probably why I am finding it difficult to navigate my way through the various online spaces.  Shared my thoughts on the community chat today and feel comforted that there are 2 others Victoria and Agnieszka who also do not have much experience with teaching.  Busy work and really battling to find he time to balance my work priorities, family and coursework.  Busy, busy 3 weeks ahead – lots going on.

I think I have done what I need to do.

Twitter, Google account, Blog, introductions done on the main ONL community + PBL group 2 joined and introduced, printed week 1 activities, updated activity tracker

Oh well, I will give this my best shot.

November marks 14 years with Varsity College and although my role is in operations, I feel like I teach and mentor people every day.  The heartbeat of the operations and academic teams is felt through my veins and I want to expand my knowledge in the online learning space so I am able to support my colleagues and in turn support our students and lecturers.  Varsity College and education in general is my passion and my belief has always remained that “anything that stays in one’s head space is useless if it is not shared”.  This type of sharing/teaching/learning can take any form whether it is in a classroom or not.  My sharing/teaching/learning takes place from my desk all day, every day.

Academic achievements and work achievements exist however my greatest achievement still remains my two beautiful children.  Outside of Varsity College I am a wife and a proud mum of two boys aged 9 & 11.  They are my pride and joy and other than completion of my Honours in Management a few years back, the most studying I have done in recent years is Grade 2 and 5 and that too can be challenging after many years.  Hence my interest in ONL162 so my mind starts to tick on level that can challenge my thinking again.

My first post

Hi everyone, My name is Avadhi Ghela.  I am the Deputy Operations Manager at Varsity College an educational brand of the Independent Institute of Education.  If I have to be completely honest, getting started was a challenge.  Between trying to follow Liesl’s presentation on how to set up a blog and my 11 year old son who insisted that I do not get started without him, I hope I have done this right and what you’re seeing is appealing to the eye…

Being in operations, this is new for me however I am excited about the next 10 weeks and look forward to engaging with each of you.  I look forward to learning as much as I look forward to sharing.  Bring on 26 September 2016 – ONL162!

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