New Beginnings!

Every end is the beginning of a new journey!  It holds true for me!

For many years,  learning in communities has been something that I wanted to do well. I wanted to explore on building, fostering and sustaining a community of practice, and to understand how this would help in creating a positive learning experience. I have had some prior experience in starting it, but did not succeed very well in maintaining the conversations. So, when I started the course on open networked learning, my first expectation was to gain a deeper understanding of learning in communities. But more importantly to  understand the role of a facilitator, the collaborative learning process, and how groups work when learning in a community, and how the technicalities work. So I should say, I learnt a great deal from participating in this course. Just last week in a workshop that I was facilitating, a few participants came by after the session, and asked about setting up a learning community. I could not have been happier! So, this will be a new beginning for me and sure will be exciting!

The second expectation for me was to establish collaboration and networking between colleagues from different universities with different backgrounds. Working with my PBL group did just that, and has been a wonderful learning experience for me. Our group members were spread across different countries working on different time zones – we came from different disciplinary backgrounds, varied professional experiences, different cultures and languages. We had different ideas, different strategies but with the common goal for making this a positive learning experience for each of us.  But the best thing about our group was that we bonded almost immediately, working collaboratively, supporting each other, valuing the discussions and forming new friendships.  I learnt a lot about group work, collaboration process, new strategies, techniques and tools that promote collaboration. As pointed out during the first webinar – the PBL group is where most of the action happens! And I completely agree with this.

Some of the ideas i have learnt (some re-emphasised) during the group work will be useful for my own future practice, in particular for the academic development workshops that i design. Here are some things that i think will be useful in fostering a deeper learning experience for my participants:

  • Establishing a centralized workspace. In our own group, we had links to all our projects, online meetings, and conversation setup from within the Google+ community.
  • Building collaborative structures and providing opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction and learning. Giving the space and time for each member to put forth their points, question others’ ideas, clarify their thoughts and ideas, and reflect and evaluate information shared.
  • Setting up ground rules for the group work at the start of our first project proved to be useful. This not only emphasised the importance of shared responsibility but also helped in looking out for team members when they needed support.
  • Provide question prompts that are open-ended and probably those that can stimulate dialogues about authentic problems. This will foster creativity and innovativeness.  I also feel that providing the option for choosing one’s own output format promotes a sense of ownership.
  • Set realistic expectations for the course or activity. When I started the course, I was under the impression that I would need to set aside 4-6 hours every week for the course. Personally, I felt that I had to work much more than that. Participating in the webinars, the group meetings, doing pre-readings, reflecting on the blog required more time. It was challenging, but nevertheless I enjoyed this journey.
  • Sharing of resources and readings which are spaced out during the course helps in providing content in smaller dosages. This also enabled our group members to share our own summaries on the readings. We had time to share personal examples and experiences, which easily fostered making these connections, discussing new ideas, and debating on alternative thoughts.
  • A space for reflection. This is something I am not sure if it will work in all groups. Even in this course, I have realised that due to time pressure not everyone had the time to reflect!

Another start to exploring ways to grow our newly formed relationships in this group. We have already started our conversations on this, and excited to see where it will take us!

Lastly, this course provided me opportunities to explore the creative commons space, and that too as an author.  This is something that I did not expect to gain from the course. I really value this, and this would be another area where a new journey begins!

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11 thoughts on “New Beginnings!

  1. I really enjoyed your post and especially as I do believe even if this is the end but at the same time the begining of something new. I recognize many of the things that you mentioned collaboration within our PBl groups and the special friendship that has grown over these weeks.
    Mt best wished´s and good luck

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  2. I also enjoyed to read your post, but mostly because you mentioned that the importance of networking. It is important not only to learn, collaborate and interact, but also build up a long time relationship. In our group we have participants with the different backgrounds, but I still hope that we continue to learn together in the future. I am also hoping that somebody offers to write an article together for the real peer-review journal submission, and it will be somebody from the group and not only me.

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    1. Dear Anna, thank you for your thoughts. Writing an article was something our group was thinking in our last two meetings as one of the ways to collaborate in the future, and we hope to pursue this further.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this post, and for all of your work and input during the course. I find that I continue to learn so much about networking and community, but no matter what I learn it always relates to relationships and how important it is to develop these early in the course. I think our PBL group was an excellent example of this support and connection, hence our success! All the very best!

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  4. It was really good reading your blogs, and I agree that ONL171 provided an opportunity to meet like-minded people, passionate about the teaching and learning space, sharing ways to enhance learning. And despite the challenge of juggling many commitments, I found the reflective component key for me…a way to make sense of what we were trying to do and what we were experiencing as learners.

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  5. Thanks for this thoughtful summary, it is felt that you have taken the time to reflect on the process. And that was almost the most difficult part for me, since I felt the course took so much more time than I expected already. Best wishes, Eva

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  6. Hi Kiru, I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts – very insightful and inspiring.

    I could feel how excited you are to form this learning community! It is inspiring to witness how these small programmes (your CDTL babies!) are transformed. All the best to this new initiative. You’ve got my back!

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  7. Yes! I really agree: what we have in common is that we want creating a positive learning experience. That was what made me become a teacher and it has always been pushed me in my work as a teacher and as a trainer for teacher development. Maybe it´s my own experience from school. When I look back at my special interests in some pedagocial areas it´s all about that: Thematic learning, portfolio methodology, ICT-tools (beginning in the 90:th), entrepreneurial learning (use the community for learning and to give something back), early reading training “write to read” on computer, computer supported collaborative learning in the classroom, formative assesment, digital portfolio methodology, Cooperative Learning – and now blended learning and constructive alignment in online learning. It’s all about creating a meaningful and positive learning expericee. And it can be done in many ways, but there is an important basic idea: The idea about constructive social-cultural learning.

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