This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

Learning support #ocTEL week 7

Hoping to complete all of the ocTEL activities this week, as the topic – supporting learners online – is one of the most important for me. First thing – initial reflection on learning support…

ocTEL Experience

We’re asked to talk about positive and negative instances of learner support that we’ve received during ocTEL so far. At first I thought this would be tricky since I couldn’t think easily of examples of learner support that I’ve received. I haven’t had any from tutors (which is fair enough, this is a MOOC, I don’t necessarily except direct tutor support), but I have had a couple of comments from peers on this blog, and have engaged with discussion with peers on the forums. How far this is classed as ‘support’ I’m not sure. But generally speaking it has been positive, and the discussions I’ve engaged with have been helpful. Beyond that, I haven’t really felt like I’ve needed support – I think because this is a MOOC I don’t approach it in the same way as I would a normal course, whether that was online or f2f. For example, I’ve had a couple of technical issues with the ocTEL webinars, on a normal course (for which I, or someone on my behalf, was paying) I would demand support to help me resolve these issues. On a MOOC, I expect to have to resolve these issues myself, and to have to seek out advice from peers myself.

Supporting Learning

In your general experience, what approaches create an environment conducive to supporting self-directed learning, peer support and collaborative learning? What do these kinds of learning mean to you?

My role in supporting learning often comes down to removing any barriers that are preventing students from engaging, or making it harder for them to do so. These include simple things like technical issues – not being able to log on, not being able to view videos etc. – and more complicated things like lack of confidence. But whatever the barrier is, it needs removing if possible. Learning needs to be easy. By that I don’t mean that the content or assessment should be easy, in the sense of not being academically challenging, but that accessing it, engaging with it, and reflecting on it, should all be easy – learners need to be able to jump in without having to overcome lots of hurdles first. Learning is often hard (in the academic sense), and learners will not engage if they have to overcome a load of barriers first.

What resources and facilitation skills do you need to support learners in communicating and providing support for each other? Which of these will be most challenging for you?

Empathy and time, not necessarily in that order. Time is challenging, as it always is – learning support can take up as much time as you can give it.

Teaching Fellow and Online Learning Specialist at the University of Leeds

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