What we’re learning from you about communications in large online courses
In this course we encourage you to communicate with each other via several channels, including your own blogs and twitter accounts, and we provide some guidance about when and why to use them. We let you, the course participants, choose which one you prefer.
One of the main purposes of this induction part of the course is to give people time to explore the possibilities of different features and benefits of the different channels. We give you time to ‘settle’ before the course gets underway in earnest.
What we’re finding is that the email discussion list (JiscMail) is both the most and the least popular channel. It’s the one that most people have gravitated towards for introducing themselves and sharing their work on initial activities. That means that there have been a lot messages circulating (good), but also that some people have rapidly felt overloaded (not good) and have opted out.
(For help on getting just one daily digest from the JiscMail list, or opting out, see the FAQ.)
By comparison, the web forum that people can use for posting introductions is relatively un-used, although other forums are starting to get lively. no one has used that channel.
About 80% of you opted into the email discussion list when registering for the course. As some decide that this is not for them, this may fall to 50% or less of active participants.
Whatever channel you choose to use, you won’t miss out on important communication from the organisers. We post all course content and messages from the organisers on the main ocTEL website and send one email at the start of each week directly to each participant. If the email discussion list is used by just a minority (rather than the majority) of participants, we believe it will still be useful.
It’s part of the process of large group dynamics evolving and finding an equilibrium. It’s why we included an induction period in the course design. At the same time, we acknowledge that managing communications in large groups is a challenge for everyone. For help on how to manage the different channels, please go to the FAQ.
There are also some interesting questions and positive points that emerge from this in terms of online learning:
- with a large, open course – with participants from around the world and in different professional roles – how do you make visible the other participants and their activity?
- can the introductory process ever be non-chaotic (in the sense of chaos theory, rather than shambles)?
- how do nudge people towards ‘pull’ or more passive communication channels like forums (which require the hassle of new login procedures as well as unfamiliarity) instead of the convenience, for senders, of email?