Monday, February 07, 2005

5-stage Model of Online Learning

This is my entry to the discussion board under the above heading.

Sometime ago I attended a seminar (cum-workshop) about groupwork. The event consisted of buffet lunch, an introductory talk with ensuing Q&A session, and a role playing exercise where a group of participants had to come together to organise an imaginary fund raising event while being observed by the rest of the participants. The latter group had to share their observations with the role-players and discuss their behaviour and the way they interacted.

I found the role playing activity to be a real eye-opener. The workshop organiser had mischeviously used 'plants' among the fund raising group, who had been instructed to be obnoxious or indifferent to the other members of the group. The result was a rather realistic experience of the pitfalls of working in groups.

Comparing the event in terms of its stages to Salmon's ideal model I can say:

Access and motivation: my own motivation stemmed from the fact that I was(am) involved in teaching students how to work in groups and I suppose in an online learning scenario motivation is paramount to getting participants to participate -same as with the seminar. In terms of access, the seminar was scheduled at a given date/time and as the main speaker was an invited external academic, would not have been repeated. Therefore access was limited to those who could make it at that time -in an online situation it is reasonable to assume that the event could have taken place more than once to enable more people to take part.

Socialisation: a food buffet is always a great mean to socialise and find out who the person next to you is and what their motivation is -this is difficult to replicate online and it seems to me that despite man's alleged gregariousness, the online socialisation aspect could be more of a nut (to crack) than one is led to believe (I could be wrong) - then again maybe socialising over lunch may not be as rich an experience as socialising during a chat session -there is only so many people one can talk to over lunch whereas in a chat session (or discussion board) people can see everybody else's entries and build a mental picture of who the others are... you can tell I am still doingthe thinking on this one!

Information exchange: during the seminar information flowed one way for for the 1st part of it. The speaker distributed material to support their talk and was I guess more involved than an online facilitator would have been; not much incentive there for participants to slack behind and look at the material in their own time. For the purpose of the workshop things had to happen there and then.

Knowledge construction: I think there was not much of a stage 4 in the seminar. The ideas developed were in the main those of the speaker by opposition to an online situation where the facilitator's role is more to lead to participants to explore and formulate their own within the construct of learning environment. Then again, thinking about it, maybe the role playing exercise and the ensuing observation reporting session was the opportunity for the participants to formulate their ideas through their reactions to the the given situation -ideas anyone?

Development: I can safely say that the seminar offered no opportunity for development at least within the scheduled session -participants were I guess aware of the ticking clock and the fact that a 12:00 to 14:00 event that ment just that. Opportunities for developement (as part of a group as advocated by Salomon) were I guess remote since we all crawled back under our individual rock for another 'fix' of QAA which I am sure we could live without :-)



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