It’s been a few days since the Authentic Global Collaboration Moodle Meet has ended and I finally have enough energy to consider writing down a few thoughts. By all accounts the event was a real success. We were able to attract interested participants from around the globe. The participants were enthusiastic about the topics being discussed and were engaged in the forums for the full 6 days of the course. We even managed to convince a few people to help us add content to the course wiki.
I plan on writing a few blog posts to try and process all the amazing discussions that went on, but for this post I want to unpack some of my thinking about the course structure, and reflect on how it did or didn’t work. Whether I knew it or not a lot of the thinking that went into the course was influenced by my participation in the 11-3 Flat Classroom Teacher Certification course, and in particular the 7 C’s of Flattening a classroom: Connect, Communicate, Collaborate, Citizenship, Choices, Creation, Celebration. So to help guide my thinking I will use this framework to structure my reflection (minus the Citizenship piece).
There were a number of times during the course where I caught myself thinking “Holy cow, how did I manage to get such great people into this Moodle to have such great conversations?”. A number of the participants had registered for the course because it was LearnNowBC course, but my anecdotal observation is that the majority of the really active participants found out about the course through some prior connection with me and my fellow facilitators. Some of these connections included: Twitter conversations, Blog comments, the Flat Classroom Ning and Google Group and the the Classroom Connections Ning. I have spent a number of years connecting via these platforms and trying to make a positive contribution to the conversations. I can only guess here, but my suspicion is that because I was connected to certain people they were more apt to take me seriously and at least check out what the course was about.
I also connected with other educators that I knew personally or virtually that I thought might be interested in lending a hand. The course would never have gotten off the ground if I hadn’t manage to put together a ‘dream team’ of exceptional educators to help make it happen. Brad Ovenell-Carter (@braddo) helped me create the course; Claire Thompson (@clthompson) came on board as our Moodle and Distance Learning expert; Pauline Roberts (@pr05bps) was our super facilitator, who always had time to respond to participants and push their thinking further; Clint Surry (@clintsurry) also came on board as a facilitator and was instrumental in making participants feel welcome.
At Claire’s suggestion I created a web page to advertise our course. I’m not sure, but I have a suspicion that this might have helped us attract more participants as it gave them a landing place to find out all they needed to know. By creating a landing page I also had a web address that I could send out over Twitter. To make sure that I attracted the attention of educators interested in Global Collaboration I added hashtags to my Tweets that they might be monitoring. Some of these included: #flatclass #ccglobal and #globaled.
I also took the time to create a short course teaser that outlined the topics we planned to cover. My theory was that the teaser would do a much better job of communicating my excitement about the course and some of the ideas we hoped to explore, By putting the teaser on You Tube I also made it easy for any one else to help me promote the course by embedding it in other websites
I was also thinking a lot about communication during the course. I have participated in a number of Moodle Meets that had great resources but no real explanation about how I was supposed to access them. In order to give participants some guidance I decided to create a daily overview video and upload it to You Tube. These videos were very basic and included a quick video of my scruffy face before transitioning over to a screencast of the day’s offerings. My theory was that having a face associated with the course would help create some consistency and help build community.
I struggled with this one a little. I created the course assuming there would be a lot of participants new to global collaborative projects. In order to make sure the course wasn’t too overwhelming I decided to include a series of Tasks for each day. These included things like: joining our Wiki and adding content to certain pages, and uploading a photo to our course Flickr account. I also seeded the discussions each day with questions that I thought would get the conversation started. In general I think that this structure was successful in engaging the participants. On reflection, however, I realise that by using the word ‘Task’ I was making it seem like a compulsory activity, when in my mind I considered everything in the course to be optional. If I was to run this course again I would use the word ‘Option’ instead of ‘Task’ and pay close attention to the unintentional impact of the terms and structure I use.
This dilemma of mine was also one of the discussion topics that came up during the course: How to we balance the need for structure with the importance of choice in collaborative projects?
Early on Brad and I agreed that we wanted this course to be about more than information dissemination. To this end we put a lot of energy into structuring each day around a guiding question and providing lots of opportunities for discussion. We also decided to create a course wiki and see if we could get some participants to help create a newcomers guide to global collaborative projects. I was quite pleased with the end result. Not surprisingly the wiki pages that got the most attention were the ones structured around a task, but a fair amount of unstructured wiki work also took place. I am unsure whether working on the wiki was beneficial for the course participants, but I am pleased that we have an artifact of the course that will remain online and possibly play a role in extending the conversations in the future.
This is a tricky one in a Moodle Meet where participants don’t meet face to face and are traditionally burned out by the end of the course. Here are a couple of ways that we tried to promote celebration:
- Every participant had chance to make a pledge to take one thing they learned from the course and actually try it. This was Brad’s idea and I think it is brilliant. On the final day we uploaded a pledge form to the Moodle that participants could download and fill out, then email to Brad. In the pledge they could indicate when they would like the pledge to be emailed back to them so they can check how far along they are in fulfilling their promise to themselves.
- On the final day I also asked the course participants to share what they had learned during the course in a Google Doc so that I could make a Wordle that reflected the learning from the week. In general I don’t see a lot of value in Wordle as an education tools, but in this case I thought it might be a nice visual celebration of the week. As it turns out it was asking too much, too late. If I was to do this again I would try to set up an easy way for participants to share their learning as the course progressed, rather than trying to do it at the end. Still, for those participants that made the effort I will post the course Wordle at the end of this post.
In hindsight there was another ‘C’ that was often front and center in my mind as I created the course: Community. I wanted to create a sense that we were a community working toward finding answers together. I think this has to be an important consideration when trying to connect people online, and as I reflect on this course I realise that building community is about the little things. In the course we made sure that every participant that joined was greeted and that their questions were answered. Every day there was a daily welcome and overview added to the course. We created a Flickr account that participants could use to easily upload and share pictures. We used a Google Map to indicate where everyone was from. And as a result I think we were relatively successful at building community.