4th Online development meeting: Dr Christine Sinclair: silence, not-yetness, manifestos, and much more

We were delighted that Dr Christine Sinclair (University of Edinburgh) was able to join us this early today for our 4th online development meeting.

Christine has a wealth of experience in online learning and teaching.  Hearing about her journey from student on the MSc in Digital Education  to her current position where she is about to take over as the Programme Director was fascinating.

some things I've learned

Christine’s recent experiences as a student have really shaped her thinking, design and teaching of her current online programmes. Christine has also been part of the pioneering MOOC developments at Edinburgh  and is part of a team that regularly teaches cohorts of nearly 50,000 students.

Christine’s presentation highlighted some key areas around the student experience that we are already thinking about, particularly around student engagement.

We talked quite a bit around the dreadful “lurking” issue. As Christine pointed out, in online situations, silence has many meanings, and many of them are positive. Dialogue is important but can be scary for learners and academics alike. We need to think about our own preferences for synchronous and asynchronous activities, our own conventions and in partnership with students develop effective learning environments.

This relates to learner confidence. Whilst many online learning scenarios seem to naturally create supportive peer networks, we can’t assume that they always will – particularly in masters level courses where students have many other pressures on their time.

Christine shared some lovely examples of how group working and had fostered peer reassurance and support in her students.   Expectations need to be explicit.   Learners need to know the amount of time, the types of technology and activities they will be expected to use.

Similarly staff need to be realistic about their time and not succumb to the temptation of checking things just before going to bed, or if they wake up in the middle of the night 🙂 Staff time is often underestimated and we are keen to ensure that we start to get a realistic view of the actual time involved in developing and running fully online courses from our teams.

Team course design, development  and regular meetings to catch up on what is working well/not so well have become  integral to Christine’s team.  So although Christine warned about the danger of “fiddling in the middle” (of a course that is running) she also  advocated the need for experimentation and the mind set of “let’s try and see”. We were pointed to work her colleagues Jen Ross and Amy Collier have just published around what they are calling “not-yetness”. Jen and Amy use this term to describe the messiness and not fully understood “stuff” that is often experienced when developing online learning and teaching.

We were also reminded of the online teaching manifesto that Christine and her colleagues developed and are currently revising. There seemed to be some appetite to create a GCU version of this. So the Blended Learning Team will do just that and share for comment/suggestions in a future post.

All in all a really useful session and once again we’d like to thank Christine for taking the time to share her experiences with us here at GCU.

 GCU_Sinclair (slides .ppt)
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