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.