This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

#oCTEL Networking with thousands of new people – yikes!

One of the potential benefits of taking a MOOC is that it brings an opportunity to network and learn from hundreds, potentially thousands of people. I think the terminology is ‘social learning’ and follows in part the rhizome effect that the course forms some nodes, but then the roots might go in any direction.

This raises a number of challenges, not least those for the technologists and course designers. As a participant in the OcTEL course, I am still struggling to find my way around the communication methods. This blog is new for me – it’s certainly easy to set up and update, but has been quite one-way so far – maybe I’m not been controversial or interesting enough. I find with the blog I have in blackboard on a course I run that it is often one-way communication too, though students say they like reading my posts.

I haven’t tried twitter yet at all – something next on my list.

I took my name off from receiving direct emails from the Jiscmail list as I hate having an overfull inbox and have a tendency to then miss emails which I really need to be responding to. I know that automatic procedures can be set up to sift specific emails into a separate folder, but they still need reading at some point, even if briefly.

I like the idea of the OcTEL daily news update and I think this is a good way of seeing what people are posting on the course. The page on which the summaries initially appear isn’t very inspiring, with the grey boxes, and it would help if a bit more of the message was shown in the box, before one decided if they wanted to see the full posting.

I’ve seen some postings which also appear to be on a blog based on OcTEL internet page but I can’t find the main place where these are accessed, other than the individual notices I receive by email.

Activity on the Forums has been very limited I think overall – I set up a Forum small group for Tutors in Higher Education, but there haven’t been any discussions over and above brief introductions from a few people. Perhaps things will get going more once the main course starts after this two week induction period. Or maybe the drop out rate has already taken a big hit. I read somewhere that only about 10% of people remain after signing but I’ll let OcTEL worry about that.

In a MOOC I took in the past, the pilot user group decided on using Facebook as the main social platform for communicating with other participants. So far I haven’t found anything better than that experience. The facebook page included a separate space where we could set up documents and files, and lots of different groups, and a wide range of activities and discussions took place. I certainly got a lot from the networking and information sharing that was very easy to do and keep up to date with.

It will be interesting to see how other people are getting on. Part of me still feels that maybe I am not ‘doing this course right’ and that I’m not going to where all the postings and networking is taking place. I know one person has linked to my blog so that is at least one new connection!

Beyond the technology, one of the main barriers I think to more open communication on these types of courses is that we don’t know who to be communicating with, in terms of shared interests, or in terms of people who are going to be willing to get involved in talking back. So I don’t know who I need to be linking up with to get any support, but then I also don’t know in advance what support/networking might be of help to me – so on the basis of trying to stay with an organic pedagogy, I’ll just stick with it, and see what happens.

Any ideas for better linking up appreciated.



who remains to be a slightly less technophobic lecturer in public health.

Hi, I'm a senior lecturer in public health, at the University of Manchester. For seven years I have been course unit leader on a fully online distance learning programme in public health/primary care. I've been designing & running course units for this, using Blackboard now. I work with other lecturers alongside a e-learning team. Having students all over the world helps give an interesting perspective to the teaching of public health and to using online learning. I am keen to learn more about pedagogical principles and development for technology enhanced learning, and how to maximise the student learning experience. More recently I have become involved in developing proposals and hopefully design and running of a MOOC. I am also interested in exploring greater use of OERs for public health and would like to pursue my research interest/hypothesis I am calling "Just In Time Learning". But with a PhD already alongside other things, my friends are trying to keep me away from more studying. I am a convert for free-education across the world, which is frustrating at times working in a university which clearly needs to bring in income too. But massive shifts have taken place with Web 2 and democratic education movements. I would like to find out if there is a local network / northern network for TEHL in higher education, and if not, perhaps we could start one.

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