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Learning vocariously and gregariously online – does it work? Why shouldn’t it?

From My Mind Bursts

The Open University constanly ameliorates its vital student and tutor forums – I even remember them as a bulletin board called ListServ in 2001. Several kinds of space are offered now: the closed tutor group forum, typically the tutor and his 12 or so students; a general or cafe forum for the entire cohort to mix and related to these, but providing very different affordances, this space – the OU blog that is less than an individualised blog space, but more than a bulletin board – it is an odd hybrid that is quite restricted, but all the better for that – it is easier to get your head around and because every new post is stacked one on top of the other you are guaranteed a readership.

I can offer several examples of when things work and when they do not. A recent change in layout of the VLE has sidelined all but your own tutor group so the other offerings are moribund – these worked best when we had a ‘big name’ from the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology chairing and seeding discussions – I think it was during H800 a year ago. Another time when five or six of us just like to catch-up and share ideas often – triggered by the absence of our tutor for a few weeks and one of the group showing how we could take it in turns to post the week’s activities and moderate. Serendipity. I’ve been in a group where 75% of the group took no part at all …

Can lengthy posts be an issue? You don’t have to read them whereas if that person were talking you’d have to hesr them out. Lengthy posts were moderated, though not very well – an answer for a period was to write at length and provide a link to your OU Blog but this quickly fragmented as some people abandonded their OU blog for WordPress or Blogger. A fix has been to provide a prominent collapse ‘-‘ button and ‘+’ expand.

Like all new things it takes a few stabs at it to understand the ‘community rules’ and from personal experience recognise that as a learning activity this is effective – an early opportunity to apply what you pick up and for it to be useful would be an incentive to keep coming back? Or simply feeling part of something? Being supportive and supported too?


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