ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

Experiments with connectivism from a moderator’s point of view

Posted on: Februar 10, 2014

In my presentation at the EMOOCs2014 conference I want to discuss the transition from out training courses from closed to open learning rooms and finally to a hybrid model of protected and open rooms.

History of closed learning rooms

I love the metaphor of a learning room. As facilitator for online learning processes I prepare the virtual room, gather materials, and define questions and challenges for learners. As certified e-moderator according to Gilly Salmon until now I have prepared a lot of virtual rooms for learners who were supported to get mature according to Gilly’s 5 stage model for virtual groups – access and motivation, online socialization, information exchange, knowledge construction and development. These courses were restricted to 15 persons. I structured the group learning processes by small online tasks (so called e-tivities consisting of an “objective”, the “task” and the invitation to “respond”) and supported the learners with feedback. In the last e-moderating course in January 2014 the 16 participants wrote about 2000 discussion contributions during 4 weeks.

From September 2011 to May 2012 I attended the Change11 MOOC which was a very exciting learning experience. I got many new ideas, continued to build my professional online network and learned to share my learning experiences openly in a blog. I was fascinated by the abundance of materials and reflections and the openness of the discussions. I loved the concept of connectivism and decided to test the concept of openness in my courses. I wanted to combine my experiences of virtual groups with the ideas of connectivism.

First open course

In February 2012 we offered an open training course in the framework of the project “web-literacy Lab” (WLL).  We wanted to build the WLL network around topics of web-literacy and train the participants in the features of Google+. We adapted Gilly Salmon’s model and created 4 e-tivities per week. We used a blog to aggregate content and a Google+ circle to support exchange and learning processes in groups. About 60 learners participated in the 3-weeks course.

As e-moderator I wanted to monitor the learners as I was used too in the closed environment. But there were only a few contributions to monitor because the leaners didn’t want to share their ideas and problems openly. To get insight into the learning processes we developed a questionnaire. About half of the 17 learners who returned the questionnaire were satisfied with the training and the achievement of their learning goals. Some of them commented that they were satisfied with the training but learned other aspects than they had expected. More than 70% found the learning materials useful. They appreciated the work of the moderator (82%) and the inputs of the expert (94%) and stated that they liked the tasks and 2/3 finished more than 50% of the tasks. So in any case the participants who returned the questionnaire were a lot more satisfied than I was in the role of e-moderator.

Therefore the challenge was: how to combine the success factors of our closed trainings with the benefit of open trainings?

Hybrid model

In February 2013 we carried out the next experiment. Again within the project “web-literacy Lab” we developed a training around “content strategy”. We used similar tools as last time, a blog for content, a Google+ community (which was easier to handle than the circles) and we added new features: we offered two hangouts on air per week which were recorded as youtube video and we started with an online-socialisation phase in a closed facebook group to support the participants to get familiar with each other before the open phase on Google+.

The closed facebook group (28 persons) was fun and worked well. As I didn’t trust facebook until then I was surprised that the participants wrote high quality contributions, helped and motivated each other.  After 10 days of online socialization on facebook we “forced” the leaners to switch to Google+. And the transfer from facebook to the open environment on Google+ didn’t work well. Not all participants changed the medium; three of them commented in the final survey that they didn’t want to go to the open learning environment in Google+ at all. The easy exchange in facebook didn’t continue in Google+, according to members of the facebook group the discussions on Google+ were tedious. The participants contributed to the discussions around the video chats but they were not as active as in the facebook group and additional learners who didn’t participate in the facebook group remained rather invisible.

In the survey 87% of the participants wrote that they were satisfied with the training. 82% appreciated the work of the moderator, 93% the inputs of the expert. And 71% of the learners answered that the online socialization in facebook supported them in the open learning process in Google+ . Therefore it seems that the online socialization phase helped. But in my role as moderator I was not very satisfied again. I didn‘t know how many learners there were – e.g. between 61-148 watched the videos of the hangouts (there were learners who didn’t join the Google+ community) – and I didn’t see a lot of interaction.

Summarizing I can say that he miniMOOCs worked in a way, the inclusion of e-tivities was helpful, the learners appreciated the moderators nearly as much as the facilitators and the online socialisation in the facebook group was successful (but didn’t help that much for the open phase).

So what?

In a first step we returned to our closed groups and moderated four online courses since the miniMOOC13 (one closed course about MOOCs, another about the footprints of emergence). And we attended MOOCs and reflected our learning experiences and had a lot of discussions.

And now – we are working on our next MOOC, which shouldn’t be mini this time and where we will try to combine our experiences above and the competences of moderating and monitoring with a larger group of learners who should connect with each other and make their learning process visible. If you are interested take a look at cope14.at.

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