My Journey in The Mysterious Road of Open Networked Learning

Although I don’t think that I am able to exactly transfer to you how my feelings and reasoning have evolved, I can tell that working with a diverse group has opened my eye on aspects that I have never been aware of and helped me understand how other educators think and solve problematic issues. As the time passes, they became family and I started to constitute my own thoughts about everyone in the group. We are a combination of characters, the wise, the funny, the organised, the quiet, the online courses-expert, the leader and the artistic. I don’t know if I am allowed to send judges, but I feel that creativity lies within heterogeneity.

I loved the idea of having a small group to collaborate with and the bigger community discussions. It’s more like working with your home family, and then, you can make visits with your relatives together and if you are unable to attend, no worries there has been someone who has recorded the good moments for you. In fact, at the same time of the commencement of the ONL course, I participated in a 3-days workshop that offered training to a good number of educators on similar concepts. I must say that I was more comfortable with expressing my emotions and discussing the raised topics in the online environment that the ONL offers, yet face to face discussion has its splendour that mesmerises me.

My conceptualisation of dealing with the issues proposed at the ONL course has moved to different levels. I am ashamed to tell you that before I joined the ONL course, my understanding of the Google Drive and how it works was unclear. Now, I can work on a range of online tools, maybe not proficiently, but I can develop my skills on the instrument I prefer and the most importantly, I learned how to search for the tools that I need for a certain task. I know that I am not lonely and that I can relay on supportive people who share the same passion of raising the level of education, even if I meet them in a 20-minutes break room during a webinar. These people with their smiley faces can make you talk, regardless of your culture, experience or maybe your language literacy.

One thing that I would love to have it in this course is how to train my students on dealing with the available resources, since this is a very important role of the faculty even for facilitating tasks required in traditional courses.

Once I get back to active work at my university, I have few objects I need to concentrate on:

– start supporting my students before the course begins and set rules together on a digital platform.

– begin exchanging feedbacks with my students and co-teacher as early as possible and write them down to see the progress of my students.

– go open through helping my colleagues as much as possible and giving away my resources.

– keep developing my digital and language skills.

Although they seem very simple steps, it can be a good start for me 😊

Let’s create a colourful environment for our students

There has been a discussion lately with colleagues about the actions or measures that keep students on track or drive them to withdraw from their courses.

I have been analysing a recent case of one of my students who dropped out of my course just five weeks after the commencement of the semester. I teach this course in the old fashion, that is by just giving lectures with small discussions with me and not between the students themselves.

What happened was that the student felt that he would fail after he carried out the first exam. When I sensed his frustration, I asked him about the problem and he replied that he piled the material up, which is a very common problem. I supported him and asked him to study piece by piece and to inform me of the progress anytime on WhatsApp. Instead, he picked the easier choice and dropped out. So, where was flaw? Was it in my delayed support? Why couldn’t I recognise his trouble earlier?

I am thinking that it’s because of the way my course was delivered. If I had added a group task before the first exam, maybe he would have opened his book and I would have been able to give the proper feedback. If I had initiated discussions between the students, perhaps that would have motivated him to study. One good way of gaining students’ attention is to use a variety of strategies to perform a single activity, especially those that interest students the most, such as chat rooms for online discussions.

It is time for the traditional-fashioned teachers to rethink of their material delivery and embrace the new approaches in their course design, even if they have fears of poor student evaluations, even if they confront with strong student resistance and even it takes so much time and energy. It is not an easy mission, but it is not mission impossible either.

I started planting Snapdragon flowers with one colour, but after two years I realised that they would be much more pleasant if they were of various colours and so will be my course. Waiting for the yellow to grow up and so for my ability to design collaborative activities.
Cards are ABC learning design method by Clive Young and Natasa Perovic, UCL.(2015).Learning types, Laurillard D. (2012).

For those who are interested to have these cards,

You may visit:

https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/abc-ld/

Role of Academia in Managing Conflicts of Collaborative Groups

It has been stated that faculty members may be unaware of the effective strategies to manage conflict and some just keep watching without any effective guidance. After navigating the internet about this issue, I have found that there are some unpretentious efforts at some colleges worldwide that offer students courses on learning conflict resolution skills preparing them to the work market, but what about their teachers? Wouldn’t it be wiser to combine students’ training with training of the educators in order to spare the students catastrophic sequelae? It has been stated that not only inexperienced but also seasoned instructors may ignore conflict just because they are not effectively prepared to handle these situations.

In addition to my perspective, I will present some notions suggested in the literature which can be beneficial to the academia when confronted with conflict in their classes.

What are the effective methods for avoiding a negative conflict?

  • Communicate clear intentions, assign intentional groups (diverse with more than one woman), develop protocols and structures for group work and hold individuals accountable for their own work.
  • Ensure learner participation in collaboration through demonstrating the value of group learning by sharing research outcomes on the benefits of collaboration and giving feedback on both the product and process of group work.
  • Help team members to overcome communication barriers and facilitate cultural understandings through encouraging them to actively communicate information about their motives and goals.
  • Guide the collaborative process by carefully observing students’ interactions and then demonstrating and modelling collaboration skills.
  • Advise students to seek technical training if they have difficulties in using technology, as proficient users of technology tend to see conflict as a positive influence in teamwork.
  • Conduct mid-semester course evaluations in which students write short reflections about the course and their learning growth.
  • If conflict resolution skills are to be taught in a separate course, then it’s better to avoid delay between learning and being able to utilise the skills, as this can only inhibit the integration of these skills into the assigned collaborative tasks.

When should instructors interfere robustly?

  • If individual group members frequently agree to decisions they do not entirely support to avoid conflict.
  • If some team members remain uncooperative.
  • If disruption or disrespect spreads within the collaborative group.

How do instructors manage conflicts in their classes?

  • Detect initial symptoms of conflict in the group to solve problems before they reach a stage of difficult resolution.
  • Determine which type of conflict you have to deal with. Instructors are expected to understand the dynamics of group operating in such circumstances (competition, avoidance, accommodation, compromise and collaboration) and the successful different strategies that the participants can adopt to handle their conflicts. While hot or positive conflict may lead to creativity and activity between the parties, cold or negative conflict hinders communication because the conflict is denied.
  • Allocate the adequate time to perform useful discussions and find solutions.
  • Context, culture and type of personality should be taken into account to resolve conflict.
  • Bear in the students’ minds that the group performance depends on the members’ ability to effectively deal with the conflict as it arises, which determines whether the collaborative process succeeds or fails.  
  • Help the students to understand that a well-managed conflict increases self-esteem, development of communication skills, improvement in decision-making processes, opportunity for making critical assessments, and social development. All of which will contribute to a successful work life.
  • There is no appropriate or inappropriate strategy to deal with conflict. Any approach can be right or wrong according to different situations, yet adopting a collaborative behaviour would appear more appropriate.

– If a group member tries to manage conflict through competition, you may provide your students with a process to deal with the difficult team member by scheduling a group crisis meeting or you may directly intervene if necessary. As a last resort, you may choose to remove the uncooperative member if disruption starts to arise within the group.

– If group members chose to use avoidance, try to address their fears of the consequence and help them discover what kind of behaviour is the most appropriate within the group because they might just be silent until they figure it out. Avoiding method may be the best way to cope with personal conflicts, which may not yield to collaborative discussions.

– If the group members opt for accommodation, you might not want to interfere, but keep encouraging them to discuss their points of view. Maybe voting on a disputed issue can help.

– If the teammates adopt the method of compromise, then you can force them to collaborate by designing group activities in a way that empowers the group to only put contributors’ names on each assignment.

In conclusion, conflict is a natural consequence of joining diverse cultures and outlooks and cannot be avoided completely. Although groups can develop their own approaches to handle conflicts, guidance of the faculty in a timely manner is invaluable to guarantee a safe, healthy management and protect students from bad experiences.

References:

Articles:

Brindley JE, Walti C and Blaschke LM, Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning; 10:3 (2009).

Correia A, Dealing with conflict in learning teams immersed in technology-rich environments: A

mixed-methods study, Educ Inf Technol (2019).

Hogarth A, Introducing a collaborative technology strategy for higher education students: Recommendations and the way forward, Educ Inf Technol; 13, p 259–273 (2008).

Meyers SA, Strategies to prevent and reduce conflict in college classrooms, College Teaching; 51:3, p 94-98 (2003).

Stover S and Holland C, Student Resistance to Collaborative Learning, IJ-SoTL; 12: 2, Art. 8 (2018).

Vandergoot S, Sarris A, Kirby N, and Ward H, Exploring undergraduate students’ attitudes towards interprofessional learning, motivation-to-learn, and perceived impact of learning conflict resolution skills, JOURNAL OF INTERPROFESSIONAL CARE; 32:2, p 211–219 (2018).

Books:

Forsyth DR, Group Dynamics, 5th Edition, © 2010, 2006 Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Conflicts within Learning Collaborative Groups

Creative educators establish quality learning environments that allow students to engage in collaborative learning activities within their assigned groups. Such environments contribute to better learning outcomes, including development of higher order thinking skills. Students can be heterogeneous in their outlooks to collaborative activities, especially when participants of diverse cultures and attitudes are connected in computer-based courses. Under certain circumstance, the once unified group splits into factions and coalitions, emotions take the place of logic and the conflict grows generating an uncomfortable atmosphere to everyone including the instructor who find themselves frustrated after all the time and effort they devoted to plan the collaborative learning activity.

What is conflict?

Conflict is any statement of disagreement that creates discomfort and disaffection, feeling disconnected from or misplaced among team members. It may hinder the effectiveness of the group, leading to the reduction of group satisfaction. Although conflict usually relates to problems between group members, it may happen between groups.

Recent studies denote that not all conflicts are detrimental and even went farther to say that a certain degree of conflict is essential, otherwise, the point of bringing people in a team with different perspectives and expertise is lost. When members of the group gain practice in dealing with conflict, their perceptions of conflict evolve, and this particular conflict then serves to enrich the collaborative tasks by encouraging team members to consider different points of view and to provide sound rationales for their arguments. However, when the level of conflict is extreme, sabotage and violence can appear within the group. Furthermore, members who do not learn how to handle conflicts may endanger people’s life as they go the work field (for example, interprofessional disagreements in the health sector).

Why do conflicts happen in groups?

  • Lack of students’ training on skills of communication and mutual work.
  • Personal conflicts that are rooted in basic differences in attitudes, perspectives, etc.
  • Underestimation of the academic knowledge of group members and perceiving that peer-to-peer interactions take away from the time that could be employed in hearing from the professor.
  • Difficulties in using technology to support collaboration.
  • Frustration from previous negative experience of teamwork.
  • Online learners may perceive teamwork as an impediment to their progress and may find it difficult to organise their time with other members, as they originally chose to join a more flexible online course that suit their individual time.

How do individuals respond to conflicts?

Five common approaches or strategies to conflict resolution have been described in the literature:

(1) Competition: is a situation in which one person or group attempts to acquire complete dominance. This strategy is appropriate when quick decisions are vital, such as in an emergency. However, it leads to winners and losers.

(2) Avoidance: is a state of denial. Although there is no active resolution of the conflict through this behaviour, avoiding a situation until more information is gained could be an adequate approach of handling conflict at short-term.

(3) Accommodation or giving in: refers to the conciliation that occurs when one person or group is willing to yield to the other. As it encourages people to express themselves, it produces an agreeable relationship between both parties.

(4) Compromise: emerges when negotiation happens and each person gets something but gives something else up in the process.

(5) Collaboration: arise when each person or group meets the problem with equal concern. This method encourages recognising areas of agreement and disagreement and helps in selecting the convenient solution to all partners. This is a win–win orientation. It will indeed require the most time to resolve the conflict, but it is the most rewarding.

References:

Articles:

Brindley JE, Walti C and Blaschke LM, Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning; 10:3 (2009).

Correia A, Dealing with conflict in learning teams immersed in technology-rich environments: A mixed-methods study, Educ Inf Technol (2019).

Hogarth A, Introducing a collaborative technology strategy for higher education students: Recommendations and the way forward, Educ Inf Technol; 13, p 259–273 (2008).

Meyers SA, Strategies to prevent and reduce conflict in college classrooms, College Teaching; 51:3, p 94-98 (2003).

Stover S and Holland C, Student Resistance to Collaborative Learning, IJ-SoTL; 12: 2, Art. 8 (2018).

Vandergoot S, Sarris A, Kirby N, and Ward H, Exploring undergraduate students’ attitudes towards interprofessional learning, motivation-to-learn, and perceived impact of learning conflict resolution skills, JOURNAL OF INTERPROFESSIONAL CARE; 32:2, p 211–219 (2018).

Books:

Forsyth DR, Group Dynamics, 5th Edition, © 2010, 2006 Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Can teachers find their way to go freely open?

Despite the availability of open educational resources (OERs), users are still faced with barriers to accessing resources.

When I started learning about open education and OERs, the most frequent vocabulary I have encountered were confusing, debate (dispute, argue, controversial) and strive (struggle, pursue). Amazing, isn’t it?

On the other hand, the first advice I got from one of the experts in leading the global trend of openness was ‘Don’t worry’.

So, the way I got it is that it’s common for the fresh concept to face disparities in understanding, defining and application. It’s normal for the openness to be defied by powers of variable levels. It seems that it’s the educators’ duty to adopt this move, but despite the growing number of open resources accessible, the use of OER in higher educa­tion is low. One interesting triangle (figure 1) created by Cox and Trotter (2017) describes the OER Adoption to underline the interdependencies of the factors that influence OER adoption in relation to adoption. The constituting layers of the pyramid run in a sequential order, as an educator can’t reach the following step unless they manage to address the previous issue. What really interest me are the bottom layers and they control educators’ labour and even their willingness to go freely open.

From the one hand, the educators should follow the policy of the institution they work for, which in turn work under the umbrella of the national policies on OERs. On the other hand, there are major bodies that indirectly control the institutions’ policies and have an impact on the educators pursuing to use and share resources openly.

For instance, citation impact metrics such as impact factor and h-index obligate many fresh academics to forget about openness for a little while until they can advance their career through publishing in closed respectful journals. Institutions occasionally encourage academics to do so, and it’s likely justified as ranking of the university will increase accordingly. This ranking issue which has been set by powerful bodies can be detrimental in some districts, not only because teachers are supposed to take a certain approach in publishing their material, but also, they are restricted in the way the interact with their communities. Teachers are only allowed to teach or spread their material on the university’s website to raise the ranking by the increased number of visitors and teaching is not allowed on web 2.0 platforms, not even for announcing instructions for the students!

I can move beyond institutions and say that politics affect the application of openness, even for those who claim to be fully open, even farther for those who teach the concept of openness. During my journey in raising my conceptual awareness of the OERs, I have decided to join a course offered under a CC attribution, which seemed for me to be a good one to follow (figure 2).

Figure 2

The surprise was I can’t, because I live in country that suffers from sanctions applied without exemptions even for education.

Figure 3

In conclusion, educators are confronted with wave after wave of technical issues, national and international policies and only if they follow the light of compassionate, collaborative colleagues they can reach the shore safely.

References:

Allen, IE and Seaman, J. 2014. Opening the Curriculum: Open Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education. Available at https://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/openingthecurriculum2014.pdf

Baas, M, et al. 2019. Teachers’ Adoption of Open Educational Resources in Higher Education. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2019(1): 9, pp. 1–11. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/jime.510

Cox, GJ and Trotter, H. 2017. An OER framework, heuristic and lens: Tools for understanding lecturers’ adoption of OER. Open Praxis, 9(2): 151–171. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.9.2.571

Schuwer, R and Janssen, B. 2018. Adoption of Sharing and Reuse of Open Resources by Educators in Higher Education Institutions in the Netherlands: A Qualitative Research of Practices, Motives, and Conditions. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(3). DOI: https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i3.3390

Developing Digital Literacies in the Corona Era

Amazing how things went in the elapsed two weeks. What we have witnessed recently is an amazing forcible engagement of the most resistant educators in the e-learning process. On the other hand, students had to complete the cycle too.

When persons in charge clearly identify the complexity of learning materials and experience of both teachers and learners, this can flow very smoothly.

However, chaos is potential when disoriented efforts are fulfilled.

Here, I suggest some tips to land safely with our students.

– Teachers really need support if they are new to the online learning. I think it would be great if instructions are sent written or voice-recorded to the tutor so that they can follow them appropriately. These issues can be tricky and not easily remembered during a training session.

– A video showing the mechanism of making the online lecture for the teacher and of the method of uploading for the student can be very helpful. Support centre can use Screencast-O-Matic or Camtasia to do this task.

– A good thing to do among teachers is to gather them in group, especially in a readily accessible one like WhatsApp. Help from peer teachers is invaluable.

– Always start with something we are all familiar with. Powerpoint is an easy tool that contains a record button from the slide show menu. Record interval is unlimited, but it’s always better to make a 15-minutes show for the feasibility of download. Also, students can rehearse more frequently their ambiguous themes. Saving the file as a powerpoint show is advisable since it has a reduced size, yet with good quality.

– It’s good to record the practical lessons and upload them for now, but they should be repeated after the situation resolves. Assuring the students of that helps eliminating their anxiety. Logically, sending a video to the students and telling them that this would be their practice today will raise their pressure, which is already at peak.

– The ability to teach the teachers how to utilise these digital literacies is related to the amount of support and patience they get. Observations should be recorded, especially in the term of the educators’ needs, and used in digital rehabilitation programmes.

– The present changes must be invested wisely upon initiating future online courses because if teacher rehabilitation programmes do not begin to evolve, they will soon be obsolete.

https://www.bayharborislands-fl.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=44
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