Friday, 29 August 2008

FOC Wks 4-5

I heard the recording from the meeting on Monday, and kept thinking ever after on what teacher, facilitator and moderator mean to me..
So far it is the moderator which is easier to separate. My association goes that it is the person who looks after a forum, i.e. checks relevance and quality. Facilitator in turn, would be the one who makes the discussion go on towards some desired end. And a teacher (I am aware of what Leigh wrote, but would still run the risk :)), this is a combination of both roles. Why? I'd attempt to answer that question using the prompts that were given on the course's main page.
When does the act of teaching compromise the role of a facilitator of an online community?
Each time a teacher starts a new online course, (s)he assumes more the role of a facilitator than that of a teacher. It is the first weeks, not to say the first hours that are very often decisive about the course's success. Thus, it seems that right there at the beginning a teacher should try to incorporate facilitator's strategies to comfort each participant in a new learning environment within a new group of people.
When does the act of moderating online discussion compromise the role of a facilitator of an online community?
Generally, moderating a discussion one takes care of its content, relevance and even quality. I believe that a moderator is someone who by his/her 'care' unites the participants, and it is that unifying character of moderator's tasks that makes it possible to compare him/her with a facilitator.
When does the act of facilitation compromise the role of a teacher or moderator in an online community?
The answer to that question would surely summarize my answers above. A facilitator has to make sure that online community members share interests, common grounds and have enough opportunities for interaction - similar to a teacher in an online course (and not only). Simultaneously, a facilitator is 'uniting' participants in a shared cause, problem, issue, topic, etc. This is the characteristic, which I could compare to a moderator.
When are these three roles appropriate in an online community?
The fastest way to answer - whenever an online community emerges. What all these roles share is authority. Whether it is a teacher of an online course, a moderator of an online discussion or a facilitator of an online community, they all have exercise authority over the rest of the participants. They bring in a sense of leadership and care.
I'd try to investigate the skills later on in a comment to this post.

FOC Wks 2-5 (probably a bit off the record)

I came across an interesting question, while reading forum posts on the discussion group. Bronwyn Stuckey raised the issue of facilitation coming through public and private channels.
In the courses I have taught so far both channels are used. Public goes through forums, whereas private is either via Moodle's messenger or e-mail. Of course, blended courses offer the opportunity for a f2f support, which, however, is rarely taking place in online courses.
I would indulge into discussing the channels themselves. As already mentioned, the public channel is based on forums. I use two types of work facilitation forums - News Forum and I Need Help.
The former is set to give news and announcements. The participants can reply, but cannot have a discussion between themselves. The latter is the place where cries for help are posted, concerning technical difficulties or unclear tasks. I believe that this way of dealing with problems is quite efficient - it is very often the case that the post's author might get a reply from another participant on how to solve their problem. In such situations, I always leave a 'thank you' note. I think that this way my online presence is enhanced.
The private channel - Moodle's messenger or e-mail. Mostly private communication goes through the messenger. In the language courses, I use it to correct mistakes in forum posts: that usually takes some time. However, later on I have a clear record on mistakes and could easily see whether the person is working towards improvement. The next function is to praise and rarely to criticise. This one-to-one approach helps especially those who are shy, or simply not used to studying online.
Sometimes participants contact me via the messanger with a problem. If it is a single person issue - I reply, but advise them to use the 'I Need Help' forum, as the chances to get a faster response are higher. If several participants contact me with the same problem (which means that I have overlooked something in the course), I usually post my reply in the 'News Forum'.
I believe that being able to contact the teacher privately is of high importance, especially when the student finds him/herself in a completely new learning environment.

Monday, 11 August 2008

FOC Weeks 2 and 3 Online Community

Tones of work over the past two weeks completely prevented me from participating on a par with the rest - a mere excuse, but still.
Well, reading your posts on the forum, I realized that the train of thoughts I have been following for a while is taking me to a dead end. Still, as there is barely enough time to re-organize everything I will not attempt answering the question what an online community is.
Instead I would just mention my conclusions from my learning experience:
  • the bibliography I have used in my research is already outdated;
  • there are many perspectives to take into account;
  • in my work I am going to answer the question that Leigh posted "What is community really, and what aspects transfer online?"
An argument, or may be several arguments that I am surely going to keep are summarized in the following paragraph:

"On-line interaction can be in no way separated from the participant's off-line activities. Each participant lives within a certain social and political context. These contexts either enable or disable the participants to access on-line communities, become users/members or decide not to become such. While being on-line the participants bring with them their off-line experiences or even their whole background; thus changing, negotiating or interpreting on-line interaction. That is why when exploring virtual communities one has to bear in mind variables such as class, gender, and age, as these are believed to affect greatly computer use. It should also be investigated where from on-line community members access the Internet, i.e. whether it is at home, at school or at work. To access the net from work means that the participants have some free time, e.g. a larger break between classes. If, however, the participants access the Internet at home, this would mean making some compromises concerning family, leisure time and other responsibilities" (this is part of my end-of-year paper, that's why I quote it. I write about classes as my initial intention was to research EFL teachers.)

I would be grateful to hear your feedback on my hypothesis stating that online community participation means "sacrificing" personal off-line time.

Friday, 1 August 2008

FOC08 week 1

Well, this is the first time I have ever written a blog in my life, and it feels sort of strange..:)
Just a week ago I heard about this course, and decided to give it try. It is not my first online course, however, it is the first international course I participate in.
Why have I decided to take it? E-learning appeared in my life about 4 years ago, and has been present ever after. In the meantime, I also started my adventure with sociology - finished MA in Society and Culture with Lancaster, and about two years later decided to do a PhD in Sociology on online communities. My project is at a very initial stage, and I hope that the course would help me to get it further on. Apart from that, my hobby-horse is EFL methodology, especially managing and delivering online courses, motivation, learning styles, and so on. I see a reflection of that in Weeks 4 and 5. Also the course is going to look at Second Life, which is still a place too virtual for me. Although, I attended a conference there a few months ago :) All in all, every week brings up an issue, which is strictly related to both my professional and personal interests. And, from the discussions taking place so far, I can see lots of experienced and professional people taking part in the course, which motivates me even more.
In terms of questions an concerns...Hmmm,I missed the first meeting, as I checked what is going on too late, and was then looking forward to hearing the recording. I spent the next two days feeling completely lost - more than 20 messages arriving on my e-mail over night really put me off for some time. However, yesterday I just decided to spend some time on reading, and it turned out that the information overflow is manageable. Still a question remains: if I send an unsubscribe-from-this-group e-mail, would that mean that I have opted out of the course? On my gmail account I receive daily summary of what happened on the forums, which is pretty neat and enough. However, on the e-mail I posted on the forum I receive each single post. How to cancel that without unenrolling myself from the course?