Posts Tagged ‘online courses’

I have to write about how great my collaboration experience was with Anni and Dan. It’s the first time I have had such an intense experience and it was just great. Big hugs to both of you! What a team effort we made. (Our paper is available for viewing at http://casestudywiki.wikispaces.com )

We started out by using the KeC forum and this we kept as a base throughout the whole project. We had our first Skype chat (at that time the KeC chat tool had a problem) in early February and Anni volunteered to write summary notes which she posted in the KeC view. We scheduled weekly chats. We decided to write a paper as our final product (tho I don’t remember actually discussing that) and to break up the paper into three main sections: constructivism, collaboration, and social presence. We decided that each of us would write about one topic and that we would add to and edit other sections. The other two topics of moderation and tips for online classes we decided to merge into the rest of the paper instead of each having their own section.

The problem with our initial plan (Plan A) was that we ended up with three separate articles that all referred to the same problems that Leanne (the instructor in our case study) was having. So it was impossible to join them together without cutting out huge chunks of text. So we went back to the drawing board and Dan wrote first about constructivism, then Anni wrote about collaboration, basing her writing on what Dan had already done, and then I wrote about social presence, picking up where Dan and Anni had left off. This worked much better!

We used a variety of media to communicate, and this was interesting too. We used the main Case Study view in KeC (discussion board, so asynch discussion), we used KeC’s private message tool (like e-mail) often (probably 30 or more private messages over the past few weeks), as well as quick chats in KeC and planned much longer chats using Skype (both synchronous CMC). These were all invaluable tools. Also the online U/T library was invaluable for finding the articles we needed.

I wrote a mini-introduction which I later expanded and Anni helped by finding some references I needed. Anni was the “go find it” master! She is the one who finally found us a reference for how many Canadian students are studying online, (our opening sentence!) which Dan and I both tried to find, but failed.

We then checked with Clare to see if we were on track, and we were, but we hadn’t considered the questions that the instructor asked at the end. This changed everything! We had thought we were almost finished, and then we had to quickly make Plan B (actually Plan C) to be sure that all of Leanne’s questions were answered in our text. We first analyzed the questions to see which section they logically fit into, and then assigned one or more questions to each of us, based on our topic.

Up to this time, we had been acting rather cooperatively, in that we each had our own task to do and then we put what we did together. But then the real collaboration began. We had a weekly chat which became increasingly focused. “Have we answered all the questions? What has been left out? Which areas are weak? Let’s go check.” And we would all go and look for weak areas or things that hadn’t been done yet.

The last three online sessions were at least two hours long and the last one was almost five hours. We were in top form then, editing, looking for references when need, identifying and rewriting weak paragraphs. There are some sentences that have words from all three of us! We all shared reference work, meaning that if someone said something but couldn’t back it up, we’d all hunt thru our articles to find a good ref. It was like a race at some points.

This was all rather stressful as time was becoming a big issue, but it was also very enjoyable, for me at least. The best parts were getting silly together, making jokes, teasing each other. One of us had “a tendency for pedantic meandering” and another had a deleting addiction… “Why edit when we can just delete? Let me delete it…” I had to several times admonish Dan and Anni for dancing and drinking beer (both emoticons in Skype) before we were finished – yes, I was the task master 😦

The last chat was particularly collaborative as we went thru the paper with minute attention to detail, “looking for scabs to pick” as Dan called it. Every sentence was considered, and all weak areas were identified (we hope!). Dan is a past editor and this was a fantastic surprise that he saved for the last day to tell us. He knew all about colons and semi-colons (I have to look it up!) and he explained patiently and clearly how “ill-structured” does not mean “poorly structured”. I hope my teammates learned something from me too! 🙂

But it’s the groove part that I want to get across, the feeling of intense immersion in something and the extra four arms and two brains that I acquired in those last few hours. This is an excellent example of distributed cognition, knowledge building (Dan and I had an animated discussion of what exactly constructivism meant and what it included and didn’t include, poor Anni just waited politely for us to finish) and even distributed intelligence. We were three people with our computers and our articles, our minds all in the same space at the same time, functioning together in harmony and productivity. Yes, I was definitely in a state of flow then, and yes, it was awesome. Now I know what true collaboration means! I think it also helped that we were a small group of three students, and that we had a common goal and compatible schedules. I really think that the Skype chats were what made this project so collaborative. It would not have been the same using asynchronous discussion only. Should I post one of our chats somewhere to show how it went?

So it was odd when I woke up this morning for the first time in 4 days and didn’t go right into a chat with them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad it’s over! But I think I will always remember those Skype chats and the very intense feeling of intricate collaboration with two great students, who have become friends, when we had a shared goal of writing the best possible paper together. I hope I’ll have more experiences like that when I write future collaborative papers, but I think that this first will always be the most memorable experience for me.

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