This is my interpetation of the 10 minute lecture delivered by Derek.
The words used here and interpretation are my own. Derek began by saying that online learning is
It needs the world wide web
He provided a map of how students progress through his course. They begin by story telling together and, as they gain confidence and knowledge of the topic they venture out into online sources and shared resources. At the end of the course they return and once again share stories. Derek says that story telling is very important part of the learning journey that the students make during the course.
Stories help to build the community which is based around the people on the course.
Students participate in 3 levels of reflection;
Blogs ( they either come with an existing blog or are assisted to start one)
Open journal (which is open only to the course participants)
Closed journal (which is only between the lecturer and the student).
The discussion which followed this lecture centered very much on this area, of closed and open access to blogs and journals, with very different points of view being expressed. My understanding of some of the points that arose during this discussion were as follows.
Open access, i.e. available to all on the WWW:
Provides the opportunity for stimulating interest and involvement from a much wider group of people than would be possible in any other way. This may provide wider information to the participants and raise issues that would not otherwise have been considered. It provides the opportunity to maximise the learning potential of the course. Participants will be able to develop skills in what is and what is not appropriate to share in this type of environment and will develop greater skill in maintaining confidentiality and not sharing that which should not be shared.
Open to the course participants only:
Provides the opportunity for shared learning within the group without going out into the WWW. this may be a false sense of security as information shared within the group could still be shared wider by member/s being indiscreet. If the sharing occurs through a group activity through a medium such as elluminate, and is not recorded, it may be not be much different to the type of tutorial groups which currently occur in the midwifery program. However written open journal group are used then there could still be issues of breach of confidentiality. Indeed the fact that there will be a written record of the communications could pose particular problems in the heath field. If the health and disabilities commissioner is investigating an issue he/she has the power to subpoena any written record, which may also include these journal entries. Issues of professional safety for client, health professionals, lecturers and the Polytechnic need to be considered. In addition there is the opportunity for the unscrupulous to use this written record for nefarious purposes.
Closed journals, only shared between the student and lecturer:
Have limited opportunity for learning but may allow the student to be more open in their own reflection. Might also offer the lecturer the opportunity to encourage a greater depth of personal reflection form the student. Once again as this is written record it could be open to misuse and abuse as above.
I have to say that I found this discussion to be very useful and clarified my thinking on this issue which I have been mentally struggling with to some degree since I started participating in this course.My conclusion is that there are advantages and disadvantages to all of these methods of communication. I feel there should be a mix of these options available and required within an online midwifery course. Students do need to have the opportunity to share with a group of peers and tutors in a secure non recorded environment for a small proportion of the course.