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How can we learn collaboratively on-line?

November 3rd, 2006 by Graham Attwell

At last – things are beginning to calm down a bit and I might even have some time to do some writing.

On Wednesday I presented a live Webinar on Digital Literacy, New Pedagogies and Podcasting. It was an interesting and tiring experience.

The webinar used the Elluminate software. I have used this system before but it seemed very buggy. This time it was less so but whether this is because of increased bandwidth or improved software I am not sure. I had prepared a very short abstract of what I would talk about and the people behind the webinar series, TrainersPod, did the organisation.

About forty participants turned up for the seminar. They seemed to be from all over the world which was very nice.

Elluminate has a presentation area which can take an amended powerpoint presentation and includes whiteboard tools. Particpants can be seen in a window on the left and if one of them wishes to speak they have to ‘raise their hands’. Moderators can choose who to allow to speak. Only one person can have the micophone at nay one time. The system also includes an instant messaging board.

The format the organisers proposed was of three twenty minute inputs with discussion between. I don’t think this works with this media. The problem with Elluminate – or at least with the way people are using it – is that they are trying to replicate a classroom or seminar (I hate the hand-raising). It could be a powerful platform for shared knowledge development of it was done properly. If I did another one – and I have said I will do a session on e-Portfolios in January – I would send out the presentation, a short paper and questions for discussion in advance. The live session would work much better as a ‘radio chat show’ with very short inputs to stimulate discussion. Or perhaps I could just play a tape of me talking and then participate fully in the text chat. Could be kind of fun to argue with myself.

Anyway the participants seemed to enjoy themselves. I found it very hard talking for 20 minutes with little feedback. I wished I could have at least heard some background noise form the others. The most lively discussion took place through the back-channel – the instant messaging. Sometimes it was relevant to what I was saying – sometimes I think they had just got bored with me. But this was far more a forum for shared knowledge ethan the main event – me.

There is supposed to be an archive of the event – however this seems to be behind a log in and has bad links at moment. Will post url if it starts working. I would be very interested to hear of anyone else’s experience of using this sort of tool.

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