Two-edged sword

This week I´ve decided to write about my own experiences of flexible learning. Since I´m new at work as a lecture at Malmö University most of my preferences are from the students point of view. I guess I am a typical non-traditional student (Jones & Walters, 2015). I work full-time, I´m a daughter, a wife and a mother (even a guinea-pig owner).
I´ve passed 40 and the only option for me to study is if the course is being held “flexible”. In other words it has to be web-based without required lectures on campus (at least not daytime). Full-time studies is often too hard to follow so the course pace have to be more slowly. I took my nursing degree for over 20 years ago and meanwhile my life has been going on I´ve been taking my master degree in nursing care and science. Sometimes it has been a struggle and many time it has been pure joy. Without flexibility I had not been able to finally cross the finish line. The more I learn about flexible learning (in topic 4 at ONL161) I realize that flexible is so much more than – Pace, Place and Mode – but I think that my own experiences is giving me the answer to why I would enable element of flexibility into my learning.

Nisar (2004) concludes that one alternative to reach those large groups (of students) in a flexible, cost and time saving way is through learning in a digital environment. The educational material is easily accessible for those whose participation is limited due to their location, which reduces both cost and time (Nisar, 2004). This thing with flexibility is often described as a two-edged sword. For instant it´s great to have access to course content 24/7 but it requires self-control due to the lack of fixed classes and the need of self-discipline to achieve learning (Atack, 2003). Perceived disadvantages with learning in digital environment is the absence of face-to-face interaction compared to traditional learning in classrooms (Atack, 2003; Nisar, 2004). The references are a bit old so this must have been B.S. (Before Skype).

The majority of students that I meet is 20 years old and a traditional “old school student” BUT not all of them are. I wonder if the spectra of student have been different if we offered a more flexible ways to study. At Malmö University´s site  you can read this:

“Malmö University strives to be a university open to all: a university that is structured to cope with our ever-changing job market through a multidisciplinary approach that crosses traditional faculty boundaries.”

Thinking about it – a more flexible approach could be a strategy to reach the goals and to be a university open for everyone. In my own teaching I will from now on try to be even more flexible when I design the learning activities and assessments.

References
Atack L, (2003) Becoming a web-based learner: registered nurses´ experiences. J Adv Nurs, 44(3), 289-297.

Jones, B., & Walters, S. (2015). Flexible learning and teaching: looking beyond the binary of full-time/part-time provision in South African higher education. Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning, 3(1), 61-84.

Malmö University (2016) http://www.mah.se/english/About-Malmo-University/

Nisar T, (2004) E-learning in public organizations. Publ Pers Manag, 33, 79-88.

Photo: Christ of the Apocalypse by Nick Thompson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The fledglings thoughts

If I´m doing this “Digital me-thing” I´m gonna do it to 100%. I´ve just made an investment in a 1 year domain address and I think I found me a name that describes my feeling – The thoughts of a fledgling. Ready or not hear I come…

Photo: Fledgling by USFWSmidwest (CC BY 2.0)

Collaboration

In our PBL group, we have discussed about collaboration and if there are any differences between collaboration in digital environments and collaboration face-to-face. The only actual thing that differ is the lost of body languages in some digital environments. Apart from that I can´t come up with much… or maybe also the thing with asynchronous communication. Benefits of asynchronous communication is the possibility for reflection. In digital environments collaborative interactions is made possible by discussion forums, synchronous and asynchronous chats. By comparing the two types of discussion (synchronous / asynchronous) in the digital environment Watson and Sutton (2012) argues that the asynchronous communication is to prefer thus it allows the participants to identify, examine and reflect about problem areas in peace and quiet before sharing their thoughts with others.

Another aspect of collaboration, which has nothing to do with digital environments, is the fact that you have to collaborate with others. You are support to interact with “not of your own choosing-peers” (Brindley et al., 2009). One basic idea with peer-to-peer learning is student activity. The glue of the learning activities the peers are expected to work with is the common goal the peers are sharing. However, in all group work you have to respect the autonomy and independency of the learner. I think this is delicate and a balance act to keep in mind when striving for enhanced learning outcomes. Nevertheless, collaborative learning can contribute in addition to cognitive social learning and motivation to include emotional development. Group processes such as conflict management and feedback are essential ingredients of teamwork and prepare for future cooperation (De Hei et al., 2015). As Wenger (2010) claims, learning is the product of social structure and the learner is a social participant. After all we are only humans…

References
Brindley, J., Blaschke, L. M., & Walti, C. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3).

De Hei MSA, Strijbos J-W, Sjoer E, Admiraal W, (2015) Collaborative learning in higher education: lecturers´ practices and beliefs. Research Papers in Educ, 30(2), 232-247.

Watson S, Sutton JM, (2012) An examination of the effectiveness of case method teaching online: Does the technology matter? JME, 36(6), 802-821.

Wenger, E. (2010). Communities of practice and social learning systems: the career of a concept. In Social learning systems and communities of practice(pp. 179-198). Springer London.

Photo: Teamwork by Luigi Mengato (CC BY 2.0)

Digital me

Who am I? I´m not sure if I have the answer to that question. For me it is something ambiguous over the possibilities to be whoever I want to be. And who do I want to be? Am I going for the real thing or the fake one? Am I a trickster if I chose not to be perfectly honest of who I am? The AIM of different accounts in social media determines. This account is professional and today I have learned about “the Grandma rule” in Charlotta Hillis blog post, so I think I stick and aim for the real thing.

Usually, right now I am more often then not, a visitor on the web. I would like to engage more and I wish that I was able to contribute in a greater extent. White & Le Cornu (2011) argues that establishment affects online presence and behavior. I agree! Most of my collegues don’t blog, they’re not on Twitter in a professional purpose and then I don’t. Is it a cultural context thing?  Does it depend on which expectations your surroundings have on you? At the same time, someone have to take the lead and start, right?

When reading about digital literacy I understand that this is a question of a development process. At the first stages in the process you are learning functional skills about access and digital tools. Further on you achieve higher skills and capabilities to use in the digital context. Beetham & Sharpe (2010) has presented a framework of the process where I think that I´ve nearly made it to the top… I stumbled at the finish line. I have access and awareness, I have the skills and I do practice it… but who am I? What is my identity?

I hope that this course will help me to find out a little more about the “digital me”.

References
Developing digital literacies (2014) JISC guide.
White, D. & Le Cornu, A. (2011) Visitors and residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

Photo: Fairy flower queen by June Yarham (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dead easy

So we made it! Group 7´s digital meet this evening was nearly crowded. After trying Adobe connect twice we decided to test Skype and if you ask me it was a small success. Finally we could hear Jennifer’s lovely voice (no longer Darth Waderish) and see Nour´s beautiful face.

I can´t  help comparing us adults competence with my daughter´s digital literacy. It really is remarkable what different skills we possesses. How is it possible that a twelve year old little human can navigate fearlessly and criss-cross among all available tools while we adults tremble even at the very thought of getting in to it. Without prestige my daughter and her cousin have been connected for years using their tablets and Skype. 89 kilometers separates them and they can spend hours in each other´s company using this dead easy tool.

What made us struggle a bit? Why didn´t we give in? Could it be the urge of dialogue… Coomey and Stephenson (2001) describe four major features of good practice for online learning where dialogue is one of them. They argues for structured dialogue lead by a moderator and designed after specific topics and questions.

As a student in #ONL161 I feel that this is what happens right here, right now. Alastair and Jennifer is guiding us gently into new ground with structured topics for us to interact and reflect on. It is almost you would think  that they have read the article 😉 Watch out – group 7 is on our way!

Photo by GotCredit 
Reference: Coomey, M., & Stephenson, J. (2001). Online learning: it is all about dialogue, involvement, support and control – according to the research. Teaching and learning online: Pedagogies for new technologies, 37-52.