Collaborating to Learn

I’ve been reflecting on the 3 student-led seminars this morning and by the nature of the topic of each seminar, at least, they have all been very different.  In today’s blog (and mostly to keep it shorter!) I’m reflecting simply on the outcome of my seminar leading experience

I really enjoyed this collaborative experience. It felt like a true mix of all the learning collaboration that I have come to understand as a result of my PGBOE:

    • In reference to the CoI model (Garrioson & Anderson 2003) I felt really connected to my co-leaders and seminar participants.   
    • In particular from the indicators, I fully experienced ‘puzzlement, information exchange, connecting and applying new ideas, risk-free expression, encouraging collaboration, setting methods and focusing discussion’ (p.30) which meant this collaboration was hard work but a joy 🙂
    • In Bonk’s ‘The World is Open’ (2009) I took cognisance of his opener #7 ‘Collaborate or Die’ (2009) to reflect a little more on what went to well with this experience for me and conclude that it expanded my ‘digital citizenship’ (p.267) and allowed me to ‘participate in a more open classroom’ (p.268).
    • It’s difficult to pin-point exactly what made this collaboration as successful but it had a great deal to do with open and active participation with everyone in the group, who made themselves available for discussion and did what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it – i.e. taking responsibility for their own actions to the benefit of the group and our seminar participants.
    • Finally, the participation of the rest of the cohort in our seminar was encouraging too and I believe there was only 1 who didn’t and they had a very valid reason. This was very encouraging and felt like it was building the learning community across the whole cohort.

I’ll provide a further two parts to this reflection of the student-led seminars – maybe in one blog post, maybe in two.  Let’s see another day, shall we?

Bonk.C. (2009) ‘The World is Open’. Jossey-Bass; San Francisco (p.267 & p.268)

Garrison.D.R. & Anderson.T. (2003) ‘E-Learning in the 21st Century’. RouteledgeFalmer; Oxon (p.30)


Student-led seminars – done!

So the final student-led seminar on New and Emerging Trends in Blended and Online Education is over and I’ve had a challenging but fun time getting involved. Looking around the seminar summary today there are more interesting insights to uncover, for example the video explanation by Karl Kapp (2014) where he begins by explaining that gamification only really emerged as a concept coined by Nick Pelling (a British-born computer programmer and inventor) in 2003 and that by 2013 it was considered to be an industry worth $421million but by 2018 it is envisaged that it will be worth $5.5billion – a growth of 67% over 5 years – not something to be ignored by education design professionals. – THE VIDEO

I have mixed feelings about gamification as my basic instinct is to shy away from something I personally consider to be the domain of a younger generation and what I originally considered to be a bit of a time-wasting hobby I used the term ‘thumb candy’ to describe. What this seminar has identified to me is the usefulness of gamification in a learning environment, not least because the generation we’re now encountering in HE has cut it’s teeth on learning effectively using this concept.

Of course I don’t claim to know all about gamification as a result of participating in the seminar but I do understand more about it. To be honest, what I’ve probably discovered most is that I need to learn a whole lot more about how to design games if I want to include them in my online learning provision. However, not to throw the baby out with the bath water, I can still link what I do know about designing towards desired learning outcomes. As Kapp (2014) suggests, “you can’t make winning ‘the game’ contingent on chance, you actually have to make it contingent on learning” and it’s the interactivity and the social element of gamification that can lead to great learning outcomes – something I’m definitely interested in learning more about and using in my BOE design.

Another subject around gamifcation that inspires quite a lot of debate is ‘badges’ and what I can now say from experience is that I did like getting my 2 badges from the seminar:

  1. My seminar participants badge Unit 4 Seminar Participants Badge
  2. The award of the Unit 4 Top Scorer’s Badge that signifies I achieved the highest score for the seminar’s gamified elements in Week 2 Unit 4 Seminar Top Scorers Badge

WOW! Look at me – winning the ‘game’!

I’ll be back with more on how this seminar links into my personal learning outcomes.

Testing Testing 123

I’m writing this blog on my home PC (my other half’s usual domain 😉 ) as I am having problems with the settings on my laptop.  I can only see a tiny version of the screen and the ‘white space’ is playing up by only allowing me to see the first 2 or 3 lines of my post – then it’s writing ‘blind’ – technology eh?

So this post is simply a test to see how far I can get with my posting and to ensure that I’ve not lost some accessing rights 🙂 – so far it’s looking good. Although the keyboard the tiniest one in the world and I keep pressing the wrong keys – argh!!

A timely reminder that if an online user doesn’t always have access to the same hardware, there may be challenges for screen layout, user and password memory, somewhere suitable to go online, sound, running videos etc…

Some others things to take into consideration when designing BOE.

So – it appears that by accessing my Blog on a different PC, I’ve recovered my ability to post – phew!

Test over but before I go, I discovered these 6 simple solutions to get rid of bogging stress 🙂 and since one of them was #4 Read Funny Blogs, I found a video on the post modern skateboard which looks fun, after you’ve mastered NOT doing the splits.  Back to SBOE blogging now….

Postmodern Skateboard

Shoutmeloud: 6 simple solutions to get rid of blogging stress (last accessed 29/3/15)

Break Article: post modern skateboard (last accessed 29/3/15)

What makes a great teacher?

A TV advert has really captured my attention recently and I’m going to share the words from it and reflect even further on what is going to make my online teaching great, and what impact I’ll have…

What do you think a good teacher make these days?
They make students curious, question and criticise.
They make that moment when it just ‘clicks’.
They make young people achieve more than they ever believe they can achieve.
They make the frightened confident, the uninterested ambitious and the gifted brilliant.
They make CEOs, scientists, nurses, engineers and much more

from Get into teaching
Department for Education

This list supports my belief that what makes a great teacher has the same foundations for what makes a great online teacher. In my role within Support Services I strive to adhere to these ‘greatness’ teaching techniques in my face to face practice but as I engage students ever more through online provision I must keep these practices even more prevalent in my work:

  • encouraging curiosity
  • making time for outcomes based collaboration
  • helping increase personal confidence and self-belief, including digital literacies
  • engaging learners to be the best they can be by providing ‘light bulb’ moments through new knowledge application
  • building employability strengths to aid the step into graduate careers

Department for Education TV advert – no link (last seen 25/3/15)

Between The Blog 5

Rita 3

Apologies that I’ve not ‘been present’ for several days on my blog.  A dear friend passed away recently and it hit me harder than I’d ever have imagined. She had a long battle with early onset dementia and I wanted to share how lovely she was – inside and out – before I recommence my blogging.

Under cover of debating rules

As part of unit 3 student-led seminar we have been given the opportunity to take part in a debate around the merits and limitations of Social Presence.

The subject of our debate was ‘have we been debating and challenging one another’s ideas or have we been held back by social ‘niceness’?  An excellent question and whatever everyone’s individual opinion is, it’s definitely been valuable for me to have been placed in group 2 who are arguing the viewpoint that Social Presence in online communities only plays a superficial part in learning and creating communities of inquiry.  The reason it’s been valuable is because this isn’t actually my current, and instinctive, opinion on this subject!

More specifically the value and learning opportunity of this exercise for me has come from the ‘safety net’ provided by the ‘cloak’ of debating rules, providing an opportunity to practice challenging other people’s opinions in a safe environment.  The ‘safety net’ includes the fact that I’m not challenging individual or group opinion, but simply the other side of an argument.  It has taken away the personal attack threat and given me a sense of freedom in the words I can use in my posts.

My short post today (we are allowed no more than 300 words and actively encouraged to have less) was:

“In brief reply to Laurence’s question ‘better to have no social presence than deceptive social interaction?’ I’d reply yes – for sure!

Also, to expand on Susana’s suggestion that it may be more difficult to lie about knowledge and understanding in technological subjects as opposed to social orientated subjects, to ensure consistency of the online learner experience across all subject areas, maybe we should simply cut any attempts at Social Presence from all online courses – especially if not all attempts are successful.”

Now this may not appear a particularly opinionated post, but it is brief, to the point and quite a strong ‘opinion’ – quite a liberating experience for me.  I was able to put forward an argument in an unemotional way, mostly because even if it encourages counter-debate, it won’t be a counter-attack on me personally.

I consider that this exercise is helping me move towards increased academic thinking and attitude, and addressing one of my personal objectives for the BOE PGcert:

  • To become more academically competent and literate.

Also one of my objectives from unit 3:

  • to engage more efficiently (and effectively) in the suggested reading, and practising reviewing the literature more clearly into my learning

I’ll let you know how the debate continues and if anything further is revealed.

The other side of the coin

So, as well as catching up on my utilisation of reading and research from unit 2 in my posts and blog, I’m now also a participant in unit 3 student-led seminar.

It’s been quite a different experience being a participant, not least because I don’t know the same amount about the topics in this unit ‘Reaching the Online Learner’ as I did through designing the topics for our seminar.  So there really is all the more need for me reading and getting involved in the ADBs.

Rather than reply to one of the seminar’s set questions, I’ve just posted a reply to another participant who really helped clarified my thinking around the Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework (Garrison & Vaughan 2008)


…by offering a new ‘find’ of an adapted CoI that also incorporates Emotional Presence.

COI plus Emotional Presence

I found myself getting quite emotional / passionate about the subject and that didn’t stem from the seminar leaders but from another participant – indicating that very often the cognitive presence grows through the social interactions between learners – set up by the tutor / leader of learning.

It’s therefore quite tricky to define how I would prioritise the 3 presences in the original CoI model but often Social and Cognitive opportunities and outcomes are indeed created by the tutor, but are very often built and sustained by the learners.  As an online tutor you would surely want this to be the case with your learner?

Am I not as captivated by everyone’s posts? Does this mean I’m not as ‘socially present’ with everyone on the BOE, or is it just that some participant’s insights are more intriguing? I will reflect some more on this and if I figure it out – you’ll be the first to know 🙂

Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T. (2003). E-learning in the 21st century. Routledge-Falmer

Anderson, T. (2014, December 16). New report on emotional presence in online education [Web log post]. Retrieved from