First Week Impressions

I’ve done my tasks for week 1. I’m making my blog entries frequent-ish. I’ve read scores of discussion boards entries and posted some stuff up myself and I am talking to some of my virtual class mates. All in all, so far, so good. Though, the special Facebook group doesn’t seem to be exploding in a buzz of activity like the discussion boards are. Is this because they are too open? Therefore they feel a little too exposed? Or are people genuinely beavering away at their blog and discussion board postings to want to worry about it just yet. Hmmm, time will tell.

I am massively impressed at how the WebCT course has been carefully and painstaking laid out and structured to facilitate the range of teaching and learning aids, so much so that my jaw dropped. Masses of reading materials to pick and choose from, opportunities to discuss, debate and critique these subjects, topics and themes using the forums and e-mail.

As Ali G. would say: Respect!

We have to teach lecturers how to use the basic fundamentals of being a Blackboard instructor – what we don’t cover in that session is how to plan and construct a Blackboard course to enhance teaching and learning. My colleagues feel this is a little too “advanced” for them and that it should be covered in further staff development sessions should they feel they need it.

As a web developer, I am deeply conscious at how the usability / design of a site will impact upon the user experience of it. Developing an online element to your course that supports your face-to-face sessions should start with planning it out on paper as to how it should be structured that best suits the nuances of the course and how best to maximise the students engagement with it. Whilst many use Blackboard as a links farm; document repository; noticeboard; sending bulk e-mail or all of the above – none of these activities actually involves any real learning; it only makes some elements of the course easier to administer as well as downsizing on their carbon footprint, i.e. spiralling photocopying costs.

The art of learning, therefore, comes with the communication; collaboration and assessment tools – this is the element that is so much more alive and buzzing on this course. Yes, necessity dictates it; and yes, we have all chosen to be here – studying at a distance – in the first place. But, you can almost feel how tangible (don’t tell Dreyfus that I said that, will you?) the sense of community is within this course in the first few days of it running. I have a really good feeling about this and am looking forward to when the course starts to really kick off next week with the online discussions and debates – we’ll then see who are the lurkers; the flamers and the saboteurs.

I wonder which one am I? Can you tell yet? ;-)

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