• Overwhelmed?

    During Wednesday’s webinar, someone asked asked about a recommended technique for identifying and forming groups of like-minded participants. The gist of my reply was that we don’t have a ‘silver bullet’ for managing this process online, any more than we do offline. Imagine turning up at the opening reception of a conference with 900 delegates. There isn’t a method for finding just the right people to talk to in the first 90 minutes. You have to go through an initial period of randomness and multiplicity of options, and then, maybe, at the end of three days, you’ve found a handful or two of people with whom you’ve made connections and learning strides. Probably you’ll also have a vague awareness that, if you had the time again, you’d have found a quite different set of people to talk to, sessions to attend, and lessons to learn. That’s life.

    Starting a collaborative Open Online Course is a bit like that, but worse. In a conference reception, the laws of physics mean you can only deal with the people and conversations immediately around you; it takes time and effort to break off and start anew with someone else. Online, all the conversations feel close to you, and they can start to drown each other out, Babel-like. Other options are only a click away.

    While the bumble bees and butterflies among us enjoy this buzz and the cross-pollination it affords, most of us find it a bit daunting. This is natural. Part of the advice is the same as if in a large conference reception: start with the people and issues in front of you, and work from there. More advice like this is in the guidance in the handbook (we may keep reminding your about this throughout the course).

    If you feel a little overwhelmed at this stage of the course, don’t worry. Most of us do. It’s definitely not you that’s at fault, and I’d argue it’s not the course design that’s at fault either. I hope you take away the lesson that Emma Coles did from the webinar, “Seems I don’t have as many issues as I thought I did”. And remember the mantra that emerged from last year’s ocTEL (quoted here by Ted O’Neill, who is one of several people we welcome back, doing the course a second time):

    Webinar Week 0: “There is no such thing as being *behind* on #ocTEL.” Informal learning and autonomous PD. #edtech cc #coetail

    — Ted O’Neill (@gotanda) May 1, 2014

    Similarly, Steven writes from experience, “ocTEL is not my first MOOC, so I kind of know what to expect in terms of overwhelming experiences, getting lost, and finding interesting people to network with.” And Glenn’s take leads me on to the thinking behind the My Big and Little TEL Questions activity

    MOOCS offer a great wealth of information, I think it’s important to think offline before diving in too deep, becoming overwhelmed or bogged down, what it is that I want to take from my participation in this course and focus on those topics. As too much information or reading too many topic threads causes me personally to overload. My phrase for this would be “break it down or break-down!”

    Making it personal

    Not quite break down, I hope. But the idea of using goals to break down and filter the course material chimes with what I was trying to say on Tuesday about using the Big or Little Questions as a guide to the rest of the course.  I’ve kept banging on about the value of refining the questions down to specifics — for example in comments to Hellie, Mark and Rose — but I’ve also come to realise that many people are using this opening week of the course as a way of browsing around and trying to decide what matters to them most. That’s fine. It’s probably best not to rush into detail. If you’re new to the area and just want to get a feel for it, Week 1 (coming up on Monday) will also help you do that. Also spend some time reviewing the resources we’ve provided (and which the super-helpful Jim Kerr has collected in a reading list).

    Do keep honing your questions though. Last year we called the activity “My Big Question” and the emphasis there is on the My rather than the Big – if you focus on the big TEL questions for the world, you could take forever; focusing on the big questions for you will help keep your grounded and focused.

    With that in mind, I liked Grant’s questions and Tim’s. In ocTEL 2013, some kind souls did an analysis of everyone’s questions. If you’re struggling for direction or inspiration, you may find it useful to have a look through these. Once again Jim has helped out with a preliminary analysis from all the questions posed in the forums. On a slightly different tack, have a look at Tim Leonard’s participation plan and consider whether something similar might work for you.

    Blogs and other channels

    We give you lots of discussion spaces in ocTEL and let you choose which to frequent. Don’t try and keep up with them all (you wouldn’t try and keep up with all the conversations at a conference). While others of volunteer tutors have been chipping in to the forums, I’ve been mostly reading what people have been writing on their blogs (here’s the full set so far). The reasons we most encourage you to post on your own blog are that

    it can give you a sense of greater ownership,
    it means the course comes to you rather than you coming to the course,
    it helps embed what you pick up from the course in the rest of your professional life and development,
    it leaves you with a portfolio of evidence that you control (the forums here will persist, possibly for years, but not forever).

    So well done especially to those, like Julie, Grant, Russell, Meg and Glenn who’ve recently started new blogs to record and reflect their experiences on the course. Well done, too, to those who’ve take the opportunity to revive old blogs that (like mine) have fallen into disuse, and to those who have started their own online social spaces to exchange ideas about the course, including the Scoop.it collection and the LinkedIn group. If you have created anything ocTEL-related that you’d like to draw to others’ attention, please post in the comments below (as well as on Twitter with #iocTEL and so on).

  • David Jennings posted a new activity comment 3 years, 4 months ago

    In reply to: David Jennings wrote a new post, Set your goals, so that they may guide your path, on the site ocTEL 2014
    #ocTEL Cormier: MOOCs not great for someone who “‘just wants to be told what to do’. The MOOC favours ind […]
    View

    Hi Maha, and thanks for the thoughtful reflection. Yes, online takes away some boundaries. It also has its own constraints, and ‘affordances’ as evolutionary psychologists would put it.

  • Hello Grant, I hear, and respect, your anxiety about “where all this is heading” and whether we’re in danger of getting swept along with it. I hope ocTEL will help you make sense of it – but it will only help you make sense of it; it won’t make sense of it for you.

    It’s natural and OK to feel a little bit bewildered in the first few days. That’s…[Read more]

  • Hello Grant, I hear, and respect, your anxiety about “where all this is heading” and whether we’re in danger of getting swept along with it. I hope ocTEL will help you make sense of it – but it will only help you make sense of it; it won’t make sense of it for you.

    It’s natural and OK to feel a little bit bewildered in the first few days. That’s…[Read more]

  • #ocTEL Cormier: MOOCs not great for someone who “‘just wants to be told what to do’. The MOOC favours independence and goal setting”

    — chcoll (@chcoll) April 29, 2014

    This tweet caught my eye and it caught the eye of one ocTEL participant (I’ve noticed how some of you — like breakbeat DJs, which perhaps you are at evenings and weekends — don’t give away your real names) who blogs about feeling a vagueness of direction on the course: “First aim this week, find a path”.

    In commenting on responses to the Big and Little Questions activity, on blogs and on the forums, the most common suggestion I’ve made is that you spend time thinking about questions that really matter to you. What I mean by this is that the purpose of the activity is not to test who’s got the best insight into the “hot topics” of the moment on technology and learning. It’s to encourage you to reflect on the issues you have — the ones that made you think it might be worth your while to do a course like this.

    The potential benefit of doing this is that it will guide the decisions that you make throughout the rest of the course. As outlined in the course text and the handbook, you are going to need to do some sifting in this course. You have to go down some paths, and ignore others.

    I like Jay Cross’s analogy to describe the differences between formal and informal learning:

    Informal learning is like riding a bicycle: the rider chooses the destination and the route. The cyclist can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or help a fellow rider.

    Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. People new to the territory often ride the bus before hopping on the bike.

    Most courses are buses taking you from a fixed point A to another fixed point B, but (in common with other ‘connectivist’ MOOCs) ocTEL is more bike than bus. There’s no fixed destination, and taking detours is fine. But if you take lots of detours without having an idea of the overall direction you’re heading, you may get lost and frustrated. You don’t need to be obsessively goal-driven, but taking time to think about what TEL issues really matter to you may save you time over the next seven weeks.

    Here’s one nice example from the blog of someone who I’ll call DJ Lwoctel [update: further detective work suggests she may also be known as Louise]:

    How can I engage academic staff with using TEL for the right reasons and in the best way? …

    The struggle we are facing to generally engage staff is huge and daunting as there are only a few of us to do this. I have found forums like this very useful – for one thing I discover that we are not alone and others face the same resistance – or apathy – or is it fear of getting it wrong?

  • @paulsmry my take on the terminology question is that e-learning, Technology Enhanced Learning and Learning Technology are not just synonyms for the same thing that go in and out of fashion

    e-learning, in my book, refers specifically to online learning, whereas
    Technology Enhanced Learning is a much broader term and could include technologies…[Read more]

  • Hi Mark,

    Welcome to the course! Those are very articulate and well-informed questions for someone without anything to do with education… Which ones mean most to you personally, and might have a bearing on your move towards education?

    cheers, David

  • Hi John (it is John, isn’t it?!),

    I think you’ve put your finger on a key issue in terms of the benefit that is implied with ‘enhancement’ – it’s got to be more than just go-faster-stripes and the current ‘fashion’ in educational establishment. In the final week of the course we spend some time trying to unpick what enhancement really means — of…[Read more]

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