Sunday, December 6, 2009

Summary of the Whole Course

End of the Semester !!!
The course overall was great learning experience for me and I have touched a lot of new online communities and discovered a lot about the virtual world out there that can be utilised in elearning. Below is a summary and highlights of the semester’s blogging.

Definition by Wiki - Online community is a group of people that primarily interact via communication media such as newsletters, telephone, email, internet social network service or instant messages rather than face to face, for social, professional, educational or other purposes. An online community is simply a meeting place on the Internet for people who share common interests and needs.

Looking into facilitating, moderating and teaching, I have always thought I could manage all those roles, thinking that it is very similar to teaching, but while doing this course I have discovered the roles each of them play in Elearning and how important the individual roles are. The practical experience I went through during my mini conference has made me realize the importance of each role.

Discussions forums is a really a good way of allowing online learners to interact with each other either synchronously or asynchronously. Discussion forums would definitely benefit from having facilitators and moderators ending up with an efficient discussion forum. My Presenter for the mini conference, Cherie Wright had given a very good presentation regarding online forums, click here to view the recording.

Blog Networks come in a range of shapes and sizes and have been designed with different purposes in mind – but in a sense if you strip them all back they are simply clusters of blogs that are in some way linked together under a common name or banner. Meena had created a very good event on her blog for Blogging and it looks at blogging from different perspectives and the pros and cons of blogging. I like blogs as part of a reflection tool in learning.

I have used the course wiki to some extend, but I found the environment not that user friendly with the wiki mark-up, but managed to do what I wanted. It was good to get wiki involved as part of the course encouraging us to use it. It was amazing to look into second life and the virtual world it has generated.

There are different types of Social Networking Platforms and it was interesting to explore these networks. Ning was a new platform that I discovered during the course and it was pretty busy environment for me with too many options available. While exploring these networks, it is very important to also be aware of social networking safety tips.

The main event for the course was the mini conference and a lot of planning was involved in organising this event. The overall experience and reflection of the mini event made me realise the role of an online facilitator and mainly discovering what is available out there for us to use in elearning. The Evaluation of the mini events has got the highlights of what went well and what can be done better next time.

During this course I have certainly learnt a lot of new things, best of all is how to facilitate an online community and what tools to use to do so. It was indeed a very challenging course with full on activities and assignments to complete. I tried my best to keep up with the course schedule, but my time management was also quite a hectic one, I think I should be spent a bit more time exploring things a bit more in depth rather than just discovering them. The course Facilitator Sarah did an excellent job facilitating and motivating us through the semester. I will certainly use a lot of skills I have learnt during this course and will definitely be looking into dimdim for future conference. I would recommend my colleagues to do this course, as they were also impressed to see what I was up to during the semester.

Overall I think it was a very busy course with heaps happening and I really enjoyed learning more in depth about online facilitation.

Thank you to all the participants and the facilitator Sarah.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Assignment 3 – Evaluation of my mini conference event

Assignment 3 – Evaluation of my mini conference event

The Event was organized through the course
wiki and a discussion regarding it was established in the wiki. After reviewing and discussions regarding the mini event the final information was posted on the course mini conference to advertise it to all and set a date and time for participants to be aware of it. I had posted a voting poll before finalizing on the date and time in my Blog. After looking at the voting poll, I finalized the date and time for my event. Also I emailed the FOC Google group email with the conference details and links to the wiki and my blog – to encourage participants to post questions and discussion about the topic prior to the event.

I had chosen to use Elluminate for my mini event – and my guest speaker Cherie Wright was new to Elluminate, so I had created a screen shot for Elluminate and put up some notes for my quest speaker and did a trial version with her prior to the meeting. It all went really well and Cherie was really pleased to experiment Elluminate as well. The FOC participants had used Elluminate before so that was a bonus because I really did not need to explain it to them. My back up was Skype. I sent another reminder email a day before to all FOC members including guest speakers and other interested people.

The Event Itself
The event did not go as planned, 5 minutes before the meeting Elluminate site was down. I kept trying and trying, but no luck. After contacting Sarah and she confirmed me that Elluminate is down, that’s when I started panicking and looking at my back up plan. Sent an email to the FOC group and my Guest speaker to meet up in Skype, while I was trying to set up Dimdim, I had not used dimdim before, but since Elluminate was down and Skype was not that appropriate for such an event. I decided to create a meeting room in dimdim and sent the meeting room name and link to the FOC email group and requested the participants to come to dimdim. It was a bit of delay in dimdim to get familiar with the tools available. I was able to share my PowerPoint while my guest speaker got started with the presentation to keep up with the time lost due to technical problems.

The voice was clear and the PowerPoint presentation was easily loaded and the mini conference started going smoothly. I had planned so well to do the introduction part with a nice photo of my guest speaker and some details about her – as planned in Elluminate, but since we ended up using dimdim, and we were short for time, I had to skip through and concentrate on the tools of dimdim for the rest of the event. Had to keep checking my emails to see if anyone still was trying to find where the meeting was, but most of them ended up in Dimdim very efficiently, which was great.

Half way through I discovered that Elluminate was up and running, and I thought there is no way I will ask the participants to go to Elluminate, since everything was going smoothly in dimdim, I left it to be concluded via dimdim.

After the presentation, the participant asked questions via the chat room and the guest speaker answered their questions. Mic restriction only allowed 3 people to handle the mic. I at the ended just concluded by thanking everyone and appreciating everyone’s patience due to the technical hiccups I had during my mini event.

As per the participants including Sarah – said that I was patient and well done, so at least that’s good that on the other end people did not get to see what actually I was going through, I certainly remained calmed and patient while chatting to the group, but at the same time all sorts of questions were arising in my mind as to what I could have done better, what went did I do wrong… etc. Straight after the event – I decided to summarize my whole event and I posted my reflection on the Meeting Experience on my blog together with the links of the recording. It was interesting to see the comments from the participants including comments from Kevin – Community Manager from Dimdim had visited my blog as well.

I posted a The recording of the meeting in the course wiki as well as emailed to the FOC group email and provided links to my blog for them to comment on my event.

For me this was a great learning experience where I learnt not only how to facilitate an online event, but as well as differentiating the different roles as a teacher, Facilitator and moderator. I was initially planning to be both the facilitator as well as the speaker for my event, when Sarah advised me not to do so and arrange for someone else to be the speaker and for me to concentrate on being a facilitator for the event – I really enjoyed my job as a facilitator that night, and definitely I learnt to have a better Back up plan, rather than just putting Skype as backup plan and thought all should go well, when in reality anything can happen. I was extremely pleased with the service dimdim provided for free.

Overall the Mini conference was just the icing in the cake for this whole course for me, since it seemed to summarise all the learning into one events preparation and experience we went through for the online event. I have learnt a lot regarding facilitating an online community – in terms of what options are available, and how to be prepared for such an event in future. I would like to give applause and praise to all the wonderful
participant for FOC 09 group. You guys were awesome and very supportive during the whole semester, we all had our ups and downs, but the participants were always supportive and encouraging. Thanks Guys.

Kind Regards
Krishan Mani