Thursday, September 13, 2007

Now I hate to moan

Some reflections on my experiences of Elluminate this week. I was looking forward to my first 'live' lecture through Elluminate as I have really enjoyed the recorded lectures.

On Monday I rushed home from Polytech. I live about one hours drive away and was just home in time to get my laptop turned on and connected up. My husband was here and was preparing a lovely tea. Then I could not get into Elluminate. Started having a Skype conversation with Sarah who was having the same problem. For the next 1 1/2hrs I ate mouthfuls of food while we Skyped, waited patiently, tried to get into a Skypecast (without success) and finally gave up. The lecture and meeting were changed to Thursday.

On Thursday I bought fish and chips and got home a little earlier so was able to enjoy my meal before the drama began. Same thing again, could not get onto Elluminate. Started Skyping with Sarah; discovered that it is possible to have a reasonably synchronous communication through the online forum as we found several other group members also waiting with some frustration to get live on Elluminate. A few of us gathered on Sarah's Skype chat and had a wee discussion about Wikis and our feelings that we really did not know what we were doing with them. We agreed we were too nervous to make changes to the main page and were lacking direction in our own wiki pages. Finally the Elluminate problems were fixed and we got on. Hurray! The scheduled speaker however had deserted us. Not really surprising. None the less we entered into our discussion initially facilitated by Merolee, as Bronwyn searched cyberspace for our missing speaker.

Once we got on I found that every now and again I would get disconnected and have to reconnect again. Initially I thought this was because my husband was using the other computer online but when he stopped this continued to happen. The result of this was that I missed the important parts of the discussion, just catching bits here and there. Merolee mentioned I google and I asked what this was, then I was disconnected and came back on as Sarah was saying she would catch up with Merolee about this. We started talking about Wikis and then I was disconnected, came back on to hear Sarah comment that clearly we (Sarah and I) have the wrong idea of what we are doing. However I missed the bit about what we should actually be doing except for little bits here and there.

If we are using online teaching and learning tools this is the sort of thing that will happen for our students. They will want answers to why this happens and it might be impossible to provide answers. I am reasonably computer savvy but I was very frustrated. The importance of recording sessions was brought home to me as it provides the opportunity for those who were unable to participate to still find out what was said. However this changes the nature of the discussion. If it is to be saved and be available in another forum are the speakers 'safe' in the comments they make. Are the speakers able to respond spontaneously or will the conversation be more guarded. This is particularly an issue for healthcare students who may be wanting to discuss clinical topics which may be sensitive information.

I did learn some important things from this session however.
1. I found the instant messaging on the forum to be quite useful
2. It was great getting together with one or two others on Skype. It kind of felt like students meeting together and having a chat outside the classroom. I would love to do more of this. I think it is probably an important part of reflection for students. Could this be something we could encourage students to do or are there dangers here too.
3. I started reflecting more on wikis and although I missed a lot of the discussion i think I have an improved understanding. I will blog this separately.

Overall this has not been a waste of time. It increases my understanding of the realities of the online learning environment which our students will experience.


Sarah Stewart said...

I agree that our experience with Elluminate has been a great teaching tool. As the facilitator, it would be useful to: a. make sure you keep communication lines open when technology does crash b. have an alternative plan in case of problems. It was nice to break out into smaller groups on Skype, like a small tutorial. I would like to propose that we do that more frequently. Sarah

Yvonne said...

Hi Carolyn

I think our experience this week just goes to confirm that any learning activity that involves technology needs a back-up plan.

But we managed to keep most people together until Elluminate was working and so I think Bronwyn is right(in her comments on the course blog) that we're beginning to form a group/community. And as you've identified here, when things go wrong we can try to make sure those things don't happen with our future facilitation!


zeminah said...

Hi Carolyn,

I wanted to lend a helping hand to resolve the technical issues you experienced with Elluminate! I'm glad to see you were able to connect but you had a few times where you were disconnected from the session. I'd like to work with you prior to your next session test some things out. Please feel free to contact me at anytime and we can meet online!

Zemina Hasham
Senior Director, Client Services
Elluminate Inc.
Phone: 403-204-7896 x760

bronwyn said...

yes it is extremely important to have alternative means of communicating with the class when one tech fails. ..plan B, C, D.....Have you noticed though that people in a community tend to rally around in times of crisis rather than when everything is going smoothly. Of course we do need to be able to "have our eat our cake and eat it too"! And not always be in crisis. Being a Libran I prefer balance.

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