Communication is key to the success of all learners. Communication between the course instructor and students and between the students themselves leads to the development of an online community.
It is my personal experience that online courses are often designed for asynchronous learning; where students are able to read, to reflect, and to write when it is convenient for them as individuals. However, I believe that to develop a greater understanding of the concepts and the topics being taught that there is a great importance in developing a community-centred learning such as Anderson (2008) describes.
For this reason I have developed an online course that not only provides the opportunity for asynchronous discussions, but for synchronous discussions as well. There are weekly discussions that are supposed to occur in a timely manner. Altering the affordance of flexibility, often found in a self-paced online course, to a perceived affordance. I have found from personal experience in taking online courses when I do not post earlier in the week that there is less of the social presence, as described by Anderson (2008). By posting later in the week there is a lack of discussion, a lack of disagreements and a lack of support that provide me feedback on my learning and my thought process. For this reason students within my Science 10 Moodle course have been provided suggested days of the week for posting and responding to the weekly discussions with the forum. To develop stronger sense of community-centred learning a weekly online chat on Wednesdays at 3:30pm has been included in the course development. This synchronous online video dialogues will offer synchronous communication.
I have a goal for my Moodle course to have the greatest support for students come from their peers; that these peers come to be known each other as classmates and as friends through group work. Upon examining the tools and the plugins available within Moodle I have discovered that are multiple opportunities to create a community-centred learning environment with both synchronous and asynchronous conversations.
Although I had intended on hosting the live chats through the use of Google Hangouts, I have since discovered a MyLiveChat plugin for Moodle. This will be a great chance for the students to build relationships. Unfortunately, I have yet to find it through the Moodle platform supported by UBC. Furthermore, I feel that it will be another barrier that I will encounter, having to learn coding to be able to embed it into my course. There are also a number of opportunities for asynchronous discussion forums and chat forums.
Another tool I found interesting is the Wiki plugin. By using the Wiki plugin I could have the students create an individual Wiki page, or a group Wiki page, to complete an assignment. By having the students create their own content within groups and by having the students teach one and other, they are deepening their understanding of the subject area. The group work provides the opportunity for synchronous learning and for ample social presence.
By working with others there is more of a sense of community. I believe that it’s the relationships that provide the greatest sense of community and foster the most learning through ongoing social presence.
To combat my lack of knowledge in Moodle and to improve the quality of course I am able to provide my students, I have registered to attend the Computer-Using Educators of BC (CUEBC) conference this week during the Provincial Specialist Association (PSA) Conferences. In hopes of discovering other tools within Moodle that I could incorporate. Here’s to expanding my PLN community, to fostering new relationships, and to community-centred learning.
Anderson, T. (2008). Teaching in an online learning context. In Anderson, T. & Elloumi, F. Theory and practice of online learning. Athabasca University. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120146/ebook/14_Anderson_2008-Theory_and_Practice_of_Online_Learning.pdf