=ICCMSN 2008 Paper=
Using computer-mediated social networking to deliver open access education
Otago Polytechnic provides a range of programs from Certificate in Hairdressing to Masters of Arts in Midwifery. Over the last few years Otago Polytechnic has had to consider how it can deliver its education courses in a sustainable, flexible way that maintains its financial viability. The buoyancy of the national job market in New Zealand has had the effect of reducing student numbers. This in turn has provided the challenge to educators of engaging with students in a way that the students can manage alongside their jobs and other commitments. A significant rural population also affects service delivery. Material has to be presented in a way that does not disadvantage student who cannot physically attend campus, yet needs to take into consideration the technological challenges that rural students face such as reduced Internet access.
Delivering education courses into the open online environment using computer-mediated social networking is one initiative Otago Polytechnic has just started to explore and evaluate.
Why has OP decided to do that - theory is needed here.
why use social networking? evidence - advantages barriers to social networking as means of education - the lost 90%
examples of social networking courses that have been successful
why go into open access - mustn't get too distracted into the ins and outs of open access but it does link in because how can we truly effectively network if we're kept in a closed environment.
One such course is "Facilitating eLearning communities" (http://online-learning-communities.blogspot.com) that was delivered by Otago Polytechnic in partnership with the Manukau Institute of Technology, New Zealand. The course was administered by the Manukau Institute of Technology and developed and taught by lecturing staff employed by Otago Polytechnic.
Facilitating eLearning communities
'Facilitating eLearning communities' was an online course run over four months. The aim of the course was to...
The course integrated a number social software tools: course blog, course wiki (http://www.wikieducator.org/Facilitating_Online), Elluminate web conference, email discussion group and participants' blogs. Initially, open access was provided to the course blog which kept a record of the program and links to facilities such as the email discussion group. Course information including readings and assignments was presented in BlackBoard and was only accessible by enrolled students. As the course evolved, so did the course wiki and all course information was moved from BlackBoard into the wiki. There were four assessments which included maintaining a personal blog which captured reflections of the students' learning; a wiki page that focused on the student's own profession; planning and facilitating an online discussion; reflecting on the experience of the facilitation.
One of the key learning activities that was offered during this course was a series of '10 minute' seminars that were presenting via web conference using Elluminate software. The seminars consisted of 10 minute lectures followed by group discussion. The speakers were mostly people who are considered to be 'experts' in social networking who donated their time free of charge. There were also several instances of spontaneous seminars that came about as a result of discussion in thre course. For example, a daughter of one of the students presented her view of Facebook as a young person and how it could be used in education or not, as the case was. The seminars were recorded and posted on the course blog so that they could be re-visited at any time by the students, who were required to reflect upon the seminars in their personal blogs.
The students were formally enrolled and undertaking the course to gain an academic qualification. They were teachers in secondary and tertiary settings located all over New Zealand. There were also two informal students who were following the course for their own learning and professional development. Once they realized that they had fulfilled all the requirements for the assessments, they formally enrolled and completed the course. There were also a number of 'casual' participants who followed the course and contributed by responding to blog posts, emails and joining the web seminars.
Evaluation of the Course
Of the X students who enrolled, X completed. As already mentioned, the two informal students also enrolled and completed the course. As for the assessments, all the students maintained blogs although the frequency and depth of the posts varied from blog to blog.
Examples of blogs
The wiki-building assessment was not so wildly embraced. Students did not fully understand the instructions and struggled with the technology, despite being pointed to resources that informed them how to engage with the wiki.
extracts from wiki
The final two assessments encouraged a range of community-building activities from email discussions, web seminars to meetings in Second Life.
The long-term outcomes have been very positive. Several students are moving their programs from closed Learning Management Systems to open access. One student is leading a small but interested community of midwifery educators in Second Life. Other students are incorporating blogs into their programs. Collaborative web seminars are being planned between midwifery student groups in Dunedin and Nashville, USA and London.
Feedback from students The feedback from students was that the course was enjoyable but very challenging. For some, learning about all the social networking tools distracted from their learning about facilitating online communities. The course was perceived as being unstructured at times and more scaffolding was required, especially with learning how to use the online tools. However, for several students the course was a complete eye-opener not only because it introduced them to social networking tools, but also because it modeled how an open access course can be an effective learning experience.
It has been an amazing journey for me. I used to surf the net looking for information on various topic and checked my email through Microsoft Outlook and through my work email. I used explorer as my web browser and used bookmarks which I had to replicate on any computers I used. I now use Firefox, igoogle. There has been a small degree in interactions between Google RSS feeder,Delicious, Youtube, Flickr, Facebook (although not much). I have an active blog. These things have changed my life, how I use the internet, how I access information and how I think about teaching and learning
The 10 minute lectures were ... interesting because of the modeling of Elluminate. but were they really valued - only now that I know more about social networking do I appreciate how brilliant it was that these key people gave of their time as they did. And it is only now that I understand more of what they were saying. great that nancy kept in touch on blogs was motivating for me.
Students haven't really kept in touch with each other though their course blogs since. However, for at least two of the students the course has strengthened real-life connections with each other, which has led to further collaboration. The connections that some of the students have made outside of the student community have also continued.
The role of the casual participants
The casual participants joined the course because of advertising by lecturers through existing networks. (did anyone join the course because they found it on the internet?). These participants were educators and researchers and they provided 'expert' support, information and mentoring to the students, especially with developing skills to use the networking tools. Motivation for the giving of their time was their desire to mentor people and share their knowledge. This was a two-way process because they found learned from the students.
I gain as just as much as the people in your program gain - I learn from their thoughts, their reflections - it challenges my ideas so it is a win:win situation.