Draft Introduction to Learning Plan for Web 2.0

I am developing an online course in conjunction with the PLE@CQUni project.  Following is an initial draft introduction for my learning design blueprint as part of my study of Instructional Design in Adult Education course.

My main concern with my plan is cognitive load, especially when learners have limited time.  I am thinking an approach to helping with this is to space out the course so there is less time pressure.  Hopefully this can be done in such a way that the learners do not lose their way.

Any feedback is most welcome.

Web 2.0 for Life Long Learners

Brief description and overall objective

The objective of this course is to expose teaching academics to social networking technologies, and to explore ways in which social networking tools can improve their learning and teaching practices through the lense of the seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education (7PGPUE).

This course introduces teaching academics of undergraduate and postgraduate courses to social networking concepts, technologies, and practice delivered online and supported by face-to-face classes.  Initially, the learner is guided through a series of activities that promote collaboration and reflection on the very technology they are learning and using.  Learners will then begin to reflect on the 7PGPUE and evaluate their own learning and teaching practices with an eye for how these social networking technologies may enhance their course designs.  It is expected that learners will develop their own simple personal learning environment (PLE) as a product of the course, and will be able to introduce the same type of intervention to a small aspect of their own course.

Description of learners, their context and that of the instructors and institution

Learners of the course will be primarily teaching academics, mostly those responsible for course management and development in a university context.  They will be of diverse ethnic backgrounds, attitudes to technology and teaching disciplines.  Most learners will be located on a single campus, while a small few learners may be sparsely located over 9 alternate campuses scattered across the country.  Learners are likely to have significant demands of their time in their day-to-day work commitments, and may need to dedicate some personal time to see the course through to completion.  The course will be voluntary, so it is expected that learners will be largely engaged and motivated to learn.  Technical skills will vary greatly among the cohort from laymen to experts.  It is expected that all learners will have access to high-speed Internet access, at the very least from the workplace, though dial-up Internet will be sufficient for most aspects of the course.  The course will be facilitated through web 2 technologies only, so despite the institution having an LMS, it will not be required for this unit.  The instructors will have a similar context to the learners, also with varying technical and instructional design skills.

Do you eat your own dogfood?

We are constantly promoting the use of social networking services to our teaching staff at CQUni as potential learning and teaching tools.  The educational technology landscape is abuzz with talk about reflective blogs, collaborative wikis and so on.  Of the roughly 139 papers presented at ASCILITE 2008 in Melbourne, 22 (~ 16%) were specifically related to Web 2.0 or social networking services.  More if you count papers relating to 3D immersive environment such as second life which too can be considered social networking services.  I’d consider that a buzz.

So my boss is constantly banging on about eating our own dogfood.  A phrase I’m not particularly excited about.  I don’t even like dogs, let alone dogfood. If we are going to promote the use of social networking services, we  need to use them ourselves.  Blogging was a good place to start.  Based on my initial experiences, I could certainly liken it to dogfood. Let’s get off the dogfood for now (hope nobody is eating while reading this).

Having a technological background, at first I thought this would be a cinch. In fact, using the technology for me has been a cinch. However, being able to put words on the screen, and then click that publish button, making my own thoughts publicly available for all to see has been incredibly challenging. In fact, writing this blog post is going to be one of the most difficult ones I have done so far. If you are reading this, then I may have started to overcome my problems.

My problems can be summarised as follows:

  • I’m somewhat of a perfectionist (or anal-retentive in the words of my boss:) ) which means for me:
    • if you are going to do something, do it right (or do it well), otherwise don’t do it at all.
    • I must get it right – the first time.
    • I hate making mistakes.
    • to post to my blog, it can take hours, even days to complete, if I publish it at all.  At times, I can have half a dozen unpublished articles on my blog.  This posting has been in my drafts for more than 4 months.  I have even older ones remaining.
  • I’m innately a private person.
    • Anne Bartlett-Bragg sums it up nicely in her talks around the “Issues and challenges for moving to social e-learning” (http://socialelearning.flexiblelearning.net.au/social_elearning/index.htm) by stating that some students while are happy to share their thoughts in the confines of a classroom, find it very difficult to put their thoughts out there for the whole world to see.

I was speaking with a colleague just last week who expressed almost the same difficulties with blogging as I have experienced.  Their edit page too is full of unpublished posts. They were asking themselves the same questions:  do I really want to make that comment public?  What are the ramifications of that?

These are the points I wish to highlight in this blog post.  Some (staff/students) are going to find this dogfood more difficult to swallow than others (sorry I won’t refer to dogfood again – promise).  This has major implications for those trying to integrate social networking services into their learning designs.

One of the projects we are working on is the implementation of Personal Learning Environments.  The title of the project is PLEs@CQUni.  As part of this project, I will (hopefully) be developing a learning program for staff and perhaps later for students around the use of social networking services.  This is a project that I started earlier in the year, but was put on hold due to other priorities.  The basis of this learning program was The 23 Things of the Learning 2.0 Program by Helene Blowers.

However our program here at CQUni will need to address more than the technical usability aspects of social networking services to be truly effective in preparing our teachers for using them with learning designs. It is important that we don’t just throw the technology at the staff and say away we go.

I hope to summarise some of the strategies I have been employing to assist me with blogging, and using other social networking services.  This is then something we can hopefully include in the learning designs for CQUni’s 23 Things.  The strategies I have employed are summarised below.  I’d like to invite people to contribute their own experiences in this regard and highlight strategies they have used to overcome these problems, or in fact other problems they have experienced as barriers that I have not covered.

Strategies for perfectionism

There are a few different strategies I use to help address my perfectionism when I write.

  • Time limits.  I decide how much time I am going to spend on each post that I write.  I rarely adhere to these limits, but I am trying and getting better.  It is just getting used to the fact that the piece isn’t as complete as I would like it, but I need to move on – post it.  I can always revisit it later.
  • Loosen up.  I’m not writing a research paper or a report, so a narrative style is okay.  I tend to write very factually with little fan-fare and to some, this can be dry and boring.  So I am trying to bring a little human into the mix.  How am I doing? 😉  Furthermore, if I dont quite get the spelling, puntuation or grammer; quite right:  is it really gunna matter!
  • If I get it wrong, just fix it.  It’s not a hard copy publication so it doesn’t need to be set in stone forever.  If I screwed something up, I make my apologies and correct it.
  • Set a limit on the time a post can remain unpublished.  Not to be confused with the limit on the time you spend writing it.  Sometimes you are waiting on information or you need to give something further thought or you are just plain busy.  If your time limit has expired, publish without the missing information or thought.  You can always write a follow-up at a later stage.

Strategies for privacy

How you assess privacy in relation to your blog posts is a personal matter.  Everyone values privacy differently.  Here is my assessment:

  • Nothing too personally identifiable.  I limit any identifiable information to my work associations only.
  • Family is completely off limits.
  • I only name colleagues where they demonstrate considerable openness in their own blogs and other online presences and only in relation to work matters.
  • Will this post breach any confidentiality laws relating to my employer such as student details?  Have to be mindful of this point here.
  • Don’t post when you are in an emotional state such as angry, grieving, or intoxicated. 😉

For those with a far less strict regime for privacy, a few words of thought on where to draw the line.

  • Am I breaking the law?  Is what I am writing/uploading copyrighted, or defamatory?
  • Will posting this comment/photo/video affect an employer’s decision to hire me?
  • Will these words/photos/videos bring any of my associations into disrepute such as my school/university or my employer?
  • How would my mum feel if she saw/read this?

The mum test in particular is a good way to assess the appropriateness of what you are going to say or show.  Your post is potentially open to the world, this includes your mum, even if she is not computer illiterate.  She will have friends that are computer literate and word gets around.  These are social tools afterall.

So if I may open the floor, I’d love to hear from others who have struggled with some of these problems in terms of blogging, and how you may have overcome them. If you too wish to start blogging and are finding these things difficult, I’d love to hear what you are doing to get past it – even if you comment anonymously. 🙂

Thanks for reading.