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!