H817: starting with a whimper

Big_bang

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick FreeDigitalPhotos.net

H817 Openness and Innovation in elearning stated this weekend. This is my fourth and (hopefully) final module towards the Master’s in Online and Distance Education. As with all the previous modules, the first week is mainly orientation and getting going with a few activities and meeting other members of the tutor group. As H817 is an online module, meeting other students and the tutor happens in asynchronous discussion forums as students post information about themselves. Two days in, a technical hitch with the date the forums are set to open means that students are unable to post to the forums, meet other members of the tutor group and start on the week’s activities. All students can access the course website, read but not post – which is akin to rattling around an empty classroom or school looking at notices and accessing notes and books but with no one there to talk to. The tutor has been in communication by email to say the problem will be rectified today and in the meantime students can work through the week’s activities and have their contributions ready for posting when the forums open.

A few students have found each other on Twitter and are tweeting using the hashtag #H817, so there is at least some sense of community. This has been quite nice as I have recognised some people from previous modules, and there certainly seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for this new module. It also underlies the fact that whether online or face to face, the need for social presence is an important motivator for participation. This type of post-graduate module stands and falls on student participation; on all the previous modules it has been the quality of fellow students’ contributions (as practitioners) as well as the tutor quality (in terms of interaction and guidance) that has contributed to a positive student experience.

Technical hitches are part and parcel of online learning, and a good experience for students of educational technology to understand the implications and effects on students (especially novices to online learning) they may support in their own practice. Let’s hope this week progresses from a whimper to a bang.

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