1. Introducing the use of Digital Literacies

I apprehensively enrolled into ONL 192 course given my immigrant status. After my fourth session the apprehension levels decreased. Reasons being that the facilitators and group members created an environment that is so conducive to teaching and learning. I guess one can attribute that to the professions that we do belong to. Since social media tools are around, we have changed ways of learning. Blogs, Twitter, MOOCs and an array of other tools are either complementing and/or replacing face to face interactions.

Using the problem-solving strategy as a teaching tool as part of learning communities can be daunting at best. Vost (2015) advises the use of three C’s – to create, curate and contribute as a way to ease into the world of social media. Create meaningful content- write regularly-select tools carefully. Curate i.e. be diligent in selecting and organising the content you are sharing. Contribute new knowledge by adding your individual understanding and perspective to ideas of others. I thought this to be useful spin on not only discovery of the various online tools available but how to use them with the intention to learn.

In this course the introduction of the FISH document as a problem-solving strategy, I found very useful. I clearly liked the structure it provided in solving problems. The scenario presented also added to the mental image of the problem. Overall, I found the structure of the course very meaningful and well conceptualised.

I disagree with the using ‘age’ as a factor to gage the status of technology involvement of individuals. We discussed this extensively and I believe the argument around the level of motivation and interest influences the use of technology. Students may be ‘natives’ to use of technology in their personal capacity but hardly use it for the purpose of learning.

It was also interesting to note that social media meant different things to different people in the group. We had discussions around the vast array of tools available for use. It was agreed that one needs to choose wisely in terms of which tool fits the purpose it is to be used for. Group members used different tools for personal use and others in their professional capacity. The question that came to the fore was how do we protect our private lives from students on social media? The dangers of openness and the misuse of information is a reality.

In conclusion, by the end of Topic 1 I felt very proud and my confidence levels sky rocketed as I developed my own blog using WordPress and developed a twitter account. My anxiety levels dropped, and I was ready to conquer the rest of the ONL course. HOORAY!!!!

References

Vora, T. (2015) 3 C’s for Learning and Leading on Social Media. http://qaspire.com/2015/01/23/3-cs-for-learning-and-leading-on-social-media/

White, D. & Le Cornu, A. (2011) Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). Available here

2. Openness and learning

Open Educational Resources (OERs) are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation“. (cited from UNESCO)

There are many advantages of Open education resources in third world countries. Most students cannot afford the textbooks prescribed by facilitators and open resources provide an alternative means of acquiring texts. This benefit both student and facilitator. It avoids facilitators using dated information during presentations. Other benefits include the quality of materials, flexibility of access, enhanced opportunities of self-learning anywhere and skills development in various areas. This is so relevant in the context of South Africa in which too many students are not educated due to escalating costs of face to face education and expensive textbooks.

Within the bounds of Creative Commons licensing there are 5 key points to consider when using OERs as depicted in the image that follows:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/libapps/accounts/60821/images/5R_OER.PNG

Image by BCOER Librarians CC 4.0  Taken From BCcampus

It is very encouraging to find in the literature that there are many initiatives in the African continent in the higher education sector e.g. UNISA, South African Institute for Distance Education, Molteno’s Vula Bula Project etc. These organisations are committed to the process of transformation of education and training. They make it possible for more students to have meaningful access to knowledge, skills and learning through open and distance learning.

A significant problem in my context impacting on the access to OERs is the lack of having computers and the cost of data is much higher than most other countries, which remains a challenge. Nevertheless open education resources would definitely reduce the cost of educational materials and therefore make education more accessible to all.

References

Open Educational Resources. https://rmit.libguides.com/c.php?g=405195&p=2821114

OER Africa. https://www.oerafrica.org/oer-initiatives-africa

https://teachonline.ca/sites/default/files/tools-

Understanding the Impact of OER: Achievements and Challenges https://www.oerafrica.org/system/files/13390/understandingtheimpactofoer2019-=

3. Restructure-Reculture: Separate or Simultaneous

In keeping with international trends of introducing online collaboration and networked learning, South Africa too has joined the race. For this blog I draw extensively from my research on teacher collaboration conducted for the completion of my Doctoral studies. I believe that the literature is equally relevant to facilitators in higher education. The lesson learnt from that study is to be cautious as we put structures into place without consideration of the culture of the very people we expect to be impacted by the implementation.

The literature on educational change suggests that attempts at restructuring are unsuccessful due to features associated with the nature of the change. Change theorists profess that the most successful way to begin implementation is to consider the relevance (interaction between need, clarity, and utility) and readiness (capacity and need); otherwise it will only be partially successful or not successful at all.

There are also many perspectives of change including the technical, political and cultural. The technological perspective assumes that all people share a common interest in promoting the move from face to face to online interaction. What is required is for facilitators to believe that first working online and second working collaboratively will yield better output. The political perspective emphasises issues of power, authority, and competing interests that influence the veracity and appeal of the change process as well as the impact the change has on those they affect, such as teachers. The cultural perspective assumes that group norms, rather than political or economic interests, determine the process of change unlike the political perspective which assumes a common set of values, presupposes a fragmented society, and assumes there is basic agreement on values within organisations and groups and less agreement between groups. The cultural perspective is useful in explaining how different cultures affect the process of change.

Restructuring, as a preferred approach to creating communities of learning in the online space, does not automatically enable changing the form and content of people cultures which shape existing practices. Restructuring may be a necessary condition for changing practices, but it is not enough. Reculturing which creates opportunities for change in the content and form of people’s practices and beliefs, and for time release from regular duties to allow for collaboration and planning, allows for professional development. What this means is that professional development needs to pay particular attention to people ‘selves’ in restructuring and reculturing as they share a reciprocal relationship. Practices and beliefs tend to change interactively and together, and hence restructuring and reculturing should occur simultaneously during the transition from face to face to online learning and additionally the shift from the culture of invidualism to collaboration.

In conclusion, in 2016 the Joint Information Systems Committee in the UK echo similar sentiments as those presented in my study. They believe that cultural barriers can be as challenging as technological or legal constraints. Social networking present opportunities to embrace more interactive and collaborative approaches to learning and teaching. This can take facilitators out of their ‘comfort zones’, leaving them feeling vulnerable and reluctant to change. There may even be ‘institutional myths’ or confused perceptions around online learning in the institution, where staff wrongly believe that they are not allowed to do certain things. Your institution will need to engage staff and manage change well to overcome these kinds of obstacles.

References

Chetty, MK. (2013) Institutional-level support teams: a case study of teachers’ understanding of providing educational support through collaboration in the context of inclusive education in one district in KwaZulu-Natal. http://ukzn-dspace.ukzn.ac.za/handle/10413/13704

Jisc Guide. (2016). Scaling up on Online learning. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/full-guide/scaling-up-online-learning

This is Kantha

Kantha Chetty

I am so excited to have a blog with my name on it. Makes me feel so tech savvy. I have been in the tertiary landscape for the last 30 years, working in public and private education. Currently I am the Dean of Faculty of Humanities at Educor Holdings in South Africa, Durban. It is very exciting to meet people from all over the world and interact with them. ONL is really exciting as provides a space to learn things I do not work with daily. I enjoyed the first week as the facilitators are friendly and supportive.

5. Lessons Learnt

I have learnt in 12 weeks extensive knowledge and skills through the ONL course. The course expanded my knowledge of what one can access on websites at both surface and deeper levels of interaction. I have also learnt that there are a vast array of social networks available to satisfy most needs.

Thank you so much to my team members in Group 8 – Alan, Lara, Dirk, Eva, Ines, John, Lara and Mehwish. It was great to be a student again and explore a field that I had so little knowledge of before I started this course. At the outset I want to declare that I may not be an expert, but I am miles ahead from where I started.

This was an incredibly informative and meaningful experience for me. It has taught me about the different online tools available. In addition, I thought my collaboration skills were adequate and this course made me understand and experience different aspects which led me to re-examine my knowledge and skills.

I can confidently say that I have moved from being a visitor to a more resident status. There is still a long way before I can call myself a ‘resident’ in the full sense of the word. I was apprehensive at the abundance of technology available to me and felt like I was drowning and might not surface again. But I soon learnt that one needs to wisely choose a tool that is ‘fit for purpose’ at any given time. Each tool has its advantages and disadvantages

I was also fascinated at how private I was at the beginning of the course and have made a progressive shift towards being more open in sharing my thoughts in the online space within certain boundaries off course.

Learning in communities resonated well with me as it was area of research for my doctoral studies. I found it fascinating that no matter where you live (first or third world country) the experiences are similar in most instances. At the same time some challenges are unique to context.

My experience at collaboration with my group members was at most a very pleasant experience. There were tensions, challenges and laughs. Most members participated and contributed in ways that they had the expertise in. Some were good at the technology aspect while others contributed by way of discussions. I did feel that we could have been better prepared for sessions, but life happens, and the course was intense and a short time to complete.

Alan provided literature as it was required but I felt that he could have facilitated and supported us in a more meaningful way by providing more direction. It would have been helpful if Mehwish attended more regularly to support Alan. I think she attended maybe 2 sessions. From my experience in this course it became clear to me that the capacity and role of the facilitator is key to effective collaboration within the group. Overall, I have never learnt as much as I did in this course in such a short period of time. KUDOS to all.

4. Pathway to Online Engagement

Online technology has been used as a means of social media and in the teaching environment for much longer than it has been used in management and administration of colleagues in the work context. The tools used in online facilitation include and not exclusive to twitter, blog, Facebook, Instagram, padlet, coggle, word press etc. The focus of this blog departs from the teaching environment to applying it as a tool for designing and creating communities of inquiry (Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison, 2013) in the context of a private higher education institution. More specifically for my own development and role as facilitator, in this instance.

Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, & Garrison (2013: 17) provide a map and guide to creating and sustaining purposeful communities of inquiry: “1. Plan for the creation of open communication and trust. 2. Plan for critical reflection and discourse. 3. Establish community and cohesion. 4. Establish inquiry dynamics (purposeful inquiry). 5. Sustain respect and responsibility. 6. Sustain inquiry that moves to resolution. 7. Ensure assessment is congruent with intended processes and outcomes.” These seven provide us with guidelines to consider in the design, facilitation and direction of a community of inquiry.

The mechanism I found useful from my experience in this course is Salmon’s (2005) 5-Stage model of Teaching and Learning Online. I believe that this model will enhance the development of a successful community of inquiry among my colleagues going forward. My choice of Salmon’s (2005) model is influenced by the South African context in terms of being ready to engage with online tools. The greater population is culturally entrenched in the face to face culture and require small steps in the transition period.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 5-stage-mode.jpg

Salmon (2005) suggests that the following five points be considered carefully when designing and facilitating effective online activities. The first point that he makes is that as facilitator I need to ensure that access is granted, and adequate support is provided by designing activities to welcome and encourage colleagues (motivation). The second crucial advice is to guide colleagues to establish their online identities and encourage team building. Thirdly find ways to encourage support for each other’s goals. Fourth, the establishment of common understandings must be facilitated. Last, prepare them for reflection and evaluation (metacognition) as a means of increased performance.

I am aware of the possibilities and challenges I might encounter on my journey, however I choose to focus on the possibilities of reaching my goal of successful online interaction with my colleagues.

References

Salmon, G (2013) The Five Stage Model. [Homepage] http://www.gillysalmon.com/five-stage-model.html

EdTech Team. (2019). Online facilitation techniques. https://sleguidance.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/BL/pages/36962474/Online+facilitation+techniques

Jisc Guide. (2016). Scaling up on Online learning. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/full-guide/scaling-up-online-learning

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Edmonton: AU Press. Chapter 1 “The Community of Inquiry Conceptual framework”.

Reflection: Week 2

I was bit apprehensive as I missed the first week meeting. However, I watched the recording and I felt better. It was an awesome experience to write on my blog for the first time. the second meeting we were introduced to the topics and had to choose one that we would like to facilitate. I thought it would be a good learning experience to track what was covered in this course so I chose Topic 5. I am really looking forward to week 3 which starts today.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started