Lets keep talking! Distance students need to too.

Ting of Brodgar in Orkney

Ring of Brodgar in Orkney

This post is taken from a comment I left on Sarah Stewart’s blog posting “How spontaneous and serendipitous can we be online”

I have been spending a great deal of time working at home on the new curiculum development. This is good use of my time, avoids a great deal of travel, and allows me to just get on with it. I do feel increasing isolated in this environment. I love that Sarah and I are connected through Skype and I am often able to spontaneously ask a question on text or have a voice chat online. I have also had the opportunity occasionally to ask other colleagues for help and advice in this way. I wish more of us were on Skype, or Gtalk. I too think these are important tools for students if they are going to be sitting at computers at home working on their course material. The really incongruous thing is the absolute importance in midwifery of the relationship between the woman and midwife and the importance of communication to this relationship. I value the ability to work at home but I have a much greater appreciation of the importance of communication and the need to provide students with opportunities to talk to each other. I agree with Pauline (infomidwife) that the range of IT communication resources can be overwhelming and risks students losing interest and not engaging because of this. I agree with free choice but wonder if we, who have a little knowledge of these resources, need to be somewhat directive. This would mean expecting students to use Skype or Gtalk and making sure that they all have contacts with each other through these resources.

I also really want students to blog about their learning experiences and would love to establish a blogging network. As a lecturer however I can see that this could significantly add to my work load. Keeping track of blog postings, considering how to respond and then making appropriate responses. Sarah has developed a really nice easy blogging style, I still struggle and postings seem to be taking me longer and longer to author as I struggle to get the language right. Making sure that students do not breach the confidentiality of women with whom they are working and are not making inappropriate comments about individual midwives practices is another concern and potentially time consuming as a lecturer. It is this aspect, workload, that makes me reluctant to pursue this too vigorously. I would love to know how lecturers who do have blogging networks with students find this. How does it fit into your general workload?

Image from shadowgate photos on flickr.com

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  1. davidmcquillan

     /  November 2, 2008

    Hi Carolyn,

    I think it’s important to define a set of course applications that students are expected to use (maybe not important for blogging & feed readers, although this would make suppor easier).

    Using the example of skype/msn/gtalk/etc. The only way that students can communicate with each other is if they use the same service. If you leave it up to the students it’s quite likely that you’ll get 40% using skype, 50% using MSN & the remainder using other applications (or something similar) – not ideal if you want to facilitate communication.

    Skype & MSN aren’t supported by the polytech. This means that calls from within polytech may be of dubious quality especially video calls. Ange from ITS told me the other day that this is for a number of reasons, but that OP was working on a VOIP application which would be integrated with the desktop. They will be able to support this application & provide the bandwidth needed to users of this app.

    I’m in two minds about this. It’d be good to get students using a service which they can go on to use, but at the same time I’d prefer if we didn’t use skype in the course because then I can keep my personal & course-related communication channels separated. (This is the reason that we use MSN for the course.)

  2. Thanks for this David. I agree that we should be directive in this and give the students some guidance and expectations. I hope that the decision about what OP will support is made soon. There seem to be so many decisions pending at the moment. Have we decided on which E-portfolio platform OP want to support? I know there was discussion about this. I believe your students are blogging. I would be interested to know how much time is involved in keeping track and responding to blog postings? I know that using a reader is the best way to keep track of new postings but how about the time involved in considering postings and responding in a constructive way? I am a bit worried that this may be quite a challenge, probably just as much if the students do not blog as there is also the issue of how to stimulate them to do this.


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