A LEARNING COMMUNITY IS….. “a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct meaning and confirm mutual understanding.” (Garrison, 2007)
SOCIAL PRESENCE IS…. the ability of participants to identify with the group, communicate in a trusting environment, and develop social relationships by way of expressing their individuality (Wilcoxon 2011).
As in f2f courses it’s important to start the course with acouple of get to know you activities. Because of thedistance and the fact that collaboration is a core part ofan online course, the initial socializing activities are crucialin setting the tone of the course.If the course gets off on the wrong foot it would bedifficult to try to re-establish a comfortable environment.Then it might be in danger of the participants losinginterest. Once the course has moved on to morecollaborative tasks participants might not feel a sense ofbelonging to the group.
Activities should be: neutral easy interesting creative interactive fun (maybe even silly) open personal (but not too personal) something for everyone friendly lighthearted
Activities should create: an interesting atmosphere a sense of belonging to the group personal connections trust
Without a clearly defined socialising phase within the environment, nogroup dynamic or sense of belonging will emerge, and all those fancytools may remain unused. And unless tasks are specifically designed toencourage participants to interact, communication may notspontaneously emerge……The whole point of creating a sense ofcommunity is to be able to draw on this collective sense of belongingduring the learning process. In other words, to encourage collaborativework in which effective learning will take place through thecollaboration (Hockly 2004).Perhaps the most important point about introducing onlinecollaborative group work is that participants cannot be thrown in cold.Careful socialising of the group, through a building of group identity andshared responsibility and trust must be built up through less complextask types before full-scale project work is attempted. Only then is itpossible that not just response but responsibility will emerge in groupwork (Hockly 2004).
ONLINE SOCIALISING TASKS AND TOOLSQuestion-of-the-day (JOY)Tools: emailProcedure:Ask each SD to think of three things that he or she would like to share. Usethe letters of the word “joy” to structure what is to be shared. i.e.J: something in your life that just happenedO: one thing you would like to do fo9r yourselfY: a part of you that makes you a special person*Note: The best questions are those relevant to the participants´ interests and cultures
Self introduction (Glogging)Tools: Video, audio, imageshttp://www.glogster.com/Use different technologies to introduce yourselfInterview CircleCollaborative discussion threaded discussionTools: Synchronous chat/ discussion/ jigsawSmall or large groups Explain that we will interview one SD who will sit in the main spotlight and answer one question from each participant. He or she hasthe right to “pass” on any questions that he or she chooses not toanswer
Our World is ChangingShare information/ brainstormOpen forumTools: Wiki/ BlogsSD 2 SDPost a discussion question on the main window, and each SD is to taketurns responding to the question.Divide your SDS into groups of 2 or 3. Have each group brainstorm andwrite lists of how the world has changed since their parents (orgrandparents) were born. Give each group a designated time tobrainstorm. Have the community meet. Have each group one or twochanges that have made an impact on their lives.
Watch video and commentGroup researchTools: Youtube*Select video according to SDS interests and needsSD 2 SDFace 2 face discussionLive conversationTools: Skype, video conferenceT 2 SDSD 2 SD
manager designer guide monitor host role THE ROLE OF modelconversationalist THE TUTOR IN ONLINE SOCIALISING moderator instructional engineer organizer elicitor adviser chairperson facilitator weaver
Like a ring master leads a circus, a tutor or e-moderator runs an online course.From the minute the first student logs in until the platform closes; the e-moderator performs a variety of roles throughout the evolution of a course.The course starts with some social orientation, where the tutor establishes afriendly, encouraging presence inviting participants to get to know eachother. At the same time the tutor sets the tone by establishing guidelines andmodeling appropriate behaviour. This moves on to organising tasks andfacilitating movement in the right direction with discussions or activities,while the whole time making sure that everyone is feeling comfortable,involved and on task. As students’ input begins to flow the tutor reacts to it oreven extends it to give further insight. The tutor may even weave thediscussion in order to ease understanding and move toward solutions;providing a concise summary as activities come to a conclusion.The tutor is ever present by encouraging participation or putting out fires ifneed be; all done with full purpose of creating a conducive learningcommunity. A circus without a ring master is just a bunch of lame animals andsad clowns under a colourful tent. Likewise, without the presence of a tutor,an online course could be just a bunch of pdf files hanging in an idle platformon the world wide web.
ReferencesHockley, Nicky; “Activities for online courses: The Beginning”,www.emoderationskills.com ; 26, Jan. 2010Hockly, Nicky;“Working together in Virtual Darkness”;the GuardianWeekly; 25, June 2004Wilcoxon, Kevin; “Building an Online Learning Community”;www.Learningsolutinosmag.com; 3, Oct. 2011Roundtree, Derek; “The tutors role in teaching via computerconferencing”; British Journal of Educational Technology; Sept. 1995