Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Collaboration in a Virtual World Pt. 1

Workshop D - Collaboration in a Virtual World

Rena M. Palloff, Ph.D., LCSW, Managing Partner, Crossroads Consulting Group
Keith Pratt, Associate Dean of Distance Learning and Instructional Technology, Northwest Arkansas Community College

Preliminaries - it’s a full house! Wasn’t expecting that for pre-conference workshops. Curious to see how this one plays out.


Audience comments
- Information on group dynamic
- Multi-lingual community - how to deal with.
- Helping seasoned trainers facilitate online communities
- Assistive tech - how easy? Challenges? What accomplish, not accomplish?
- Evaluating learning and how to work with “shy” students.
The docs have a book on topic coming out in the fall

How do you “sell” collaboration? Esp to “adult learners” (the docs)
How do you deal with the “overenthusiastic learner”?
How do you deal with the attrition when not mandatory? Working adults
Kirkpatrick (Level 3) to make sure online learning way to go and getting bang for buck (Level 4)

Why collaborate online?
Assist w/ deeper levels of knowledge generation
Promote initiative, creativity and critical thinking
Allows students to create a shared goal for learning
Reduces isolation
Forms the foundation of a learning community

Audience - training in Second Life.
Docs haven’t used 2nd life. Have seen some work - Appalachian State built own program.
Docs have some concerns about how to use it in eLearning.
Big problem - people constructing replicas of on the ground classrooms. Doing same thing in 2nd life can do in real life (one guy talking - lectures).
Want to see very different approach. Seeing way too many lectures.
Even building lecture halls (just like the one session I attended a year ago - has there been no change?)
Have seen some simulation activities

People really don’t learn well in lecture mode
Research done on learning pyramid

Just adding group discussion adds retention. Have them teaching each other increases retention to 90%!!!!!!!

Also retain more if create the goals together. (More context for the group?)

Collaboration reduces learner isolation online.

Small groups, have them discuss, create collaborative activities. Make them feel more connected, therefore reduce attrition.

Cycle of community and collaboration. By having students collaborate with one another, build sense of community which then supports collaboration.

And remember, collaboration increases retention.

DON’T use Community as word. Folks want to just do the easiest thing possible. Gotta sneak it in.

Other pieces that are generated as cycle continues
Interaction/Communication
Presence
Social Constructivist Context
Reflection / Transformative Learning,
Technology

Practice does not equal “Use the discussion board”. What are you going to DO on that discussion board.
- Just interacting and communicating does not equal community
- Most important element - ability to create sense of social presence. Who you are and how you present yourself in online environment (as a real person online).
- If students can’t get a sense of you as a real human being, can’t really establish context. Pictures, bio etc. a start.
- Also get them to know each other.

The underlying assumption has to be that the students are capable of learning from each other.
The instructor does not have to be the focal point. Actually SHOULDN’T be the focal point
Focus on facilitative role.

Promote reflection and transformative learning experiences.

The activities need to lead to this.

This is a process. Need to do an orientation so what they should expect (they do letter).

- Result - attrition only one or two students. Tell them right up front.
- Ground rules up front.
- Classes they teach - asynchronous. BUT make it a point to put self out there early.
- Important to establish relationship with the students.
- Gotta make sure they don’t feel alone.

Will use synchronous technology (virtual classroom tech) if needed - chats, virtual office, the phone...._Don't forget the phone!!!!!

Some instructors playing with Skype - experimenting VoIP
(warning - some universities, like mine, do not permit Skype because of some security issues)

Audience: Do you take it into Web 2.0 world?
Docs encourage students to blog. Students feel like a tremendous outlet to express fears / frustrations / joys of learning.

Some play with Wikis as a collaborative activity. Wikis are great but you have to really work on setting the guidelines before students get started. Conflict issues happen very quickly otherwise. Who edits what, when, etiquette... Find Wikis taking place of “find resources and tell colleagues”. Instead, can display what found then discuss the best resources.

Starting to see video. Will be incorporating podcasting.

Teaching techniques that promote collaboration

- Small group assignments
- Research assignments - seek out and present additional resources
- Group work on case studies
- Simulations
- Blogs
- Wikis still difficult because of issues with screen readers.
- Remember to modify activities so that folks with assistive technologies can participate.
- Keep an eye on certain Course Management technologies to make sure compliant with assistive technologies.

Collaboration with non-native English speakers - to work on problems and challenges, need to come up with a way to collaborate across linguistic/cultural/ethnic lines. Beyond hand and arm signals!!!!
- Some cultures more open to collaboration than others.
- There is another level of teaching that has to happen to teach HOW to work in teams, not just the content.
- Universal translators currently do not plug into course management systems.
- CMSs in other languages exist, but may not talk to each other.

(Thought about the Great ILS Challenge that Mark Oehlert led back at the eLearning Guild conference. Session #800. Esp the solution that uses both card games and online game)

Other techniques
- Ask participants to become "knowledgeable" on a topic within the scope of the seminar
- WebQuests
- Asynchronous discussion within scope of study.
- Papers posted with mutual feedback
- Rotated facilitation and leadership.

Best practices for using discussion board
- Steven Brookfield's work. Question techniques and circumstances use them.
- Instructor should post initial question that is open, thought provoking and encourages students to stew a bit.
- Managing discussion board - do NOT respond to every single student post.
+ Exception - when students introduce themselves at the beginning of course. Gotta welcome all of the students individually.
- Tell them up front that you will not respond to EVERYTHING
- Can also give wrong answers to encourage debate.
- Pick one or two students and have them summarize what happened on the discussion board that week.
- If working in really large classes, set up smaller discussion groups within larger discussion group. Have them rotate leadership. Responsibility of discussion leader to post summary to main discussion board. Instructor engages with the summary - not the actual discussion unless going way far astray.
- Students seem to also want to hear what the others have to say - piquing curiosity + peer pressure.

Peer review - a website constructed that allows you to do calibrated peer review
- Calibrated Peer Review site
- Students giving feedback less stinging than teacher giving feedback.

Meaningful, sustainable discussion is highly participatory - Brookfield and Preskill

Brookfield talks about this stuff face-to-face but a lot of the theories also apply online.
Never tell students that "you will learn as much from them as from you." Students will feel like you don't know what you are doing.

Enhancing participation and discussion
- Develop social presence. Take time to learn about the folks in the room.
- Instructor must model good participation. Contribute to discussion and draw in silent members.
- Make sure feedback substantive, continue asking questions.
- Intervene when participation wanes or veers off into unproductive territory.
- For individual students - ask what is going on off line - tech problems, understanding, etc.
- Can also call on them. Or have them expand on minimal idea.
- For the ones doing to much, tell them to knock it off or shorten posts (good thing I'm not in an online class). Again off-line.
- Create another forum if a whole bunch of students are like that on a particular topic.
- Maybe even General Discussion forum for "whatever turns them on" about the content. Not mandatory. Area to play.

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