Facilitating eLearning Environments Portfolio

I went into this course hoping to be convinced that a classroom doesn't need to be a room with four walls with a facilitator at the front. I had heard rumours of various eLearning tools out there that could be used to 'unite' a group of learners from various places but was skeptical if they worked. Having used moodle previously for classroom delivery I thought I was in a good position to 'cruise' through the course. It was evident from week one I hadn't 'really' used moodle before. What I had been using was a site with text, pictures and a few links. A somewhat glorified usb stick if you like.

The course started with some introductory forums and pleasantries. I generally do not have photo's of myself on work e-profiles but thought I would challenge my norm and upload one. My reasoning being is that I don't think I take a good picture! Also what is an appropriate picture for a lecturer/facilitator to put up? How personal can it be or should it be? This may sound a bit trivial but I found the pictures/photos helped me identify with my fellow learners and my facilitators, and without them the course would be impersonal and cold. Those learners that didn't have a profile picture displayed (which is their right) I felt harder to connect with. My concerns with eLearning has always been about the absence of body language. This is because for my whole career (before working at Tafe I worked in hospitality) has depended on reading body language and without being able to see it makes me uncomfortable. I found that the profile pictures at least gave me some form of body language.

The forums proved to be great for 'ice breaker' discussions. However we soon learnt if you have multiple forum discussions going at one time through moodle it will play havoc with your email inbox! This is something as a facilitator you would need to be careful of. It was also interesting to see how quickly people seemed to lose interest in them. There was a hive of activity in the first couple of days and then it stopped with the only occasional post over the next couple of weeks. I saw great potential in the use of forums particularly if you have a group of learners who don't like to engage verbally or may have English as a second language. Forums give you a sense of protection as you can sit back and watch what others have posted before you comment. It also gives you the opportunity to type an idea and spell/grammar check it. I don't know how many times I re-wrote my idea before I hit 'post'.

I have since used forums in a classroom environment. I found they give me maximum impact and efficiency with a large group of learners. The following is a forum where I asked my Business Plan groups to post their budgeted yearly revenue for a 100 seat restaurant in Glenelg. In a previous forum they had to post their Mission statement and style of restaurant. Please review the forums HERE.

As you can see the other groups tend to take on a lecturer's role and comment/critique on the post. It was fantastic to see how they professionally/respectfully questioned each other. It was also good that the group from The Seasons justified their decision making process. The task went from one outcome to three!! I have never had so much fun/interaction with numbers before and I believe the quality/accuracy of their number for their assignment will be high as they will remember the comments of their peers. Furthermore they can revisit the the forum to make sure they don't make the same mistakes again.

Moving onto the next week and it was our opportunity to participate in a chat session and focus on models of eLearning. Before I discuss the chat session I will reflect on some key points/quotes from the week. The following quote 'set and forget mentality of much online learning' which was from Rob Becket. This is a 'golden rule' of what not to do for me. As a facilitator you need to manage the learning of your learners and adapt different methodologies/strategies if something is proving ineffective. As lecturers we do this all the time in a classroom. Obviously this is more difficult in the online environment but in my opinion can be overcome with some 'synchronous' activities. During an eLearning forum Graeme Rohrlach posted 'I've often found it quite confusing that when people refer to e-learning it can mean a number of things. For many it often simply means, putting some stuff up on Moodle and getting the students to read whats in Moodle - not helpful. But to see e-learning as being comprised of a number of different approaches was for me helpful.' I think for most eLearning can be very daunting due to the confusion of what eLearning actually is and it has been pigeon holed to a moodle/janison site.

Being involved in a chat session was interesting. I will be honest and say that I'm not totally convinced with chat sessions due to the large number of variables. Connection speed, typing speed etc.. The chat screen moves so fast and if you are late to join or are a slow typer you are for ever scrolling back and forth. Also the opportunity for learners to start their own 'mini chats' proved distracting. I will say for a brainstorming tool they would be excellent when you want mass participation/ideas in a limited space of time. The link below is a transcript fro one our 'chats' which emphasises my points raised above.


Week 3 saw the group discuss/research blended learning and Michael invited everyone to join a facebook group. He said himself that he wasn't actually sure "why?" he was introducing facebook but he thought it might be interesting. This comment in itself I thought was important. Facebook is everywhere and it seems that the younger generation live their lives through this social media. You only need to try and run a computer lesson and see how hard it is to keep people off facebook. The corporate world has realised this and most business now have a facebook page. The big question that I believe is hanging over the academic world is 'how can we use facebook as an educational tool?' The even bigger question 'is it appropriate?' To communicate on facebook or form a group we need to invite/accept 'friends'. The term 'friends' automatically questions the facilitator/ learner relationship. It gives people the ability to see the personal lives of others. That is what facebook is- a social media site. But does this therefore 'cross the line'. In my personal opinion it does. My rule to date is that I will only accept friend invites from a student on facebook after the student has graduated. The main reason I accept a graduated students friend request is to monitor their career progression. I suppose you could call it a very loose method of course evaluation- have our learners gone on with their careers in hospitality? Nigel Blake posted a comment on the group wall about how he uses facebook with his groups of learners. It was interesting and seemed to be working very effectively. In this case he started a 'work' facebook profile with no personal information or photos in order to keep the lecturer/student relationship professional. However I don't believe all of his students have done so and this is where the problem lies. If a learner is unhappy with an assessment grading could they turn around and blame it on something the facilitator may have seen on facebook? Does it open up the doors to cyber bullying if everyone can view each others profile in a group (VET in schools in particular)? Is it secure? For me the risks outweigh the pro's of using facebook but I'm interested to see how the use of facebook for education evolves in the future.

Is eLearning the future. In my opinion it is. There is no doubt about it. Can it replace humans? No it can't and like all methodologies it has some limitations. Particularly when it comes to learning 'practical' skills. However it can be a great supplementary resoures in these circumstances. Children are being introduced to technology earlier and earlier. If I reflect on my own life- I bought my first computer and had internet connection when I was 19. I have two children (2.5 years old and 9 months old) and at our house currently we have two laptops, one desk top computer, 2 iphones and PS3. Times and technology are evolving at a rapid rate and Tafe needs to move with it. Ignoring the cost benefit analysis of going paperless or our carbon footprint, simple business dictates you need to change/evolve with the needs of your customers. The big issue here is if Tafe is ready to move with the market? Doing so challenges alot of the norms that already exist. I watched an interesting documentary about a month ago (wish I could recall the name) that looked at concentration levels and brain activity of Generation Y throughout a 24 hour day. What was interesting was their concentration levels and brain activity was extremely different to previous generations and I dare say it wasn't between the hours of a standard Tafe day. How would staff react if the working week was no longer Mon-Fri 9-5? (I say this a bit tongue in cheek as I do not know a lecturer who works 35hrs a week!) Does Tafe have the infrastructure/resources to deliver a majority of units via eLearning? Without sounding negative here, or opening up a can of worms, if we look at the implemetation of SIS I would say not. Based on this semester if I was a student the last thing I would trust would be the stability of 'moodle'. True they are two very different things but the challenges of SIS has hurt our projected image of moving with the times let alone people's confidence with moving forward and embracing technology. I see courses like this one as a proactive step in opening people's eyes to elearning and the various tools available but I hope the training doesn't stop here. The Diploma of TAA is very eLearning orientated and is keeping me very busy with loads of reading but I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing Faciliatate eLearning 2!!!