Communication and Collaboration – contested elements within e-learning

Sock mascots workshop by Misako Mimoko – Alicia Rosello Gene – 2010 -Flickr
Sock mascots workshop by Misako Mimoko – Alicia Rosello Gene – 2010 -Flickr

This week in my learning design study, I am covering collaboration and communication. Students can and should learn from each other; it is an academic value to discuss and debate with other scholars the ideas, concepts, and practices you are learning. Including collaboration and communication in online learning is not considered important in some of what is referred to as ‘e-learning’ – I think here of online learning packages which step through the material and then give a quiz, and that is all. Sometimes that is enough. But for subjects of study that are less didactic, more dependent on different stance and contexts, or otherwise more complicated, collaboration and communication with other learners is appropriate and necessary.

I find myself going back to Salmon’s 5 Stage Model of E-tivities as a robust framework to construct e-tivities or online learning activities (Salmon, 2000). Most of the e-tivities I have studied in, taught in, and designed have been based on discussion boards and wikis. But for the short online course I am designing now, Copyright Helps for Busy Instructors, I put together a more complicated e-tivity, lasting a little over 3 weeks. I see this e-tivity as being within Stage 5 – Development – of the 5 Stage Model.

E-tivity Title: Co-creating articles for an online course in Year 1 Medicine

(I could use the image at the top of this blog post as the ‘spark’ for my e-tivity.)

Purpose: To create a short online article on a topic within the Year 1 Medical curriculum, complete with well-chosen, correctly-referenced multimedia elements for illustration, and combine together with articles created by others in a group, forming online learning material for Year 1 Medical undergraduates.

Task with responses built into the task:

  • Select a topic and scope for your own article, in collaboration with team members (so there will be no redundancy, and can review each others’ work) – 1st 3 days
  • Write the text or find repurposeable material online – between 500 and 1000 words – 2nd 3 days
  • Select an appropriate video, image, or audio clip to illustrate – embed with the article and reference correctly. – 3rd 3 days
  • Put together with the articles of your colleagues, onto the online platform of your choice. – 1 week
  • Review colleague’s article, give feedback, and respond to feedback given on your article. – 1 week

Total time span: 3 weeks 2 days

Actual time required: 6 hours

I suggest using Google docs as the place where everyone writes articles and posts related files – multimedia etc. Organising peer review of articles by group members will be left to the group but all articles must be reviewed. The final set of Google documents will later be put together into a short online course for Year 1 medical students — perhaps by simply bringing the documents and materials into the VLE or by putting them all together into an e-book.

I think this is a useful e-tivity for students on my course, and it reflects the pedagogical approaches I chose for my course 2 weeks ago, namely authentic, enquiry-based, and constructivist.

Here is an example of an online collection of medical case studies; in this case, it is a blog (all cases seem to be written by the same person) and discussion and comments are invited from the public.

What do you think – any comments or criticisms of my e-tivity?

Terese Bird

Educational Designer, Leicester Medical School

Salmon, G. (2000) The five-step model of e-moderating, Open University Business School, [online] Available from: http://www.atimod.com/e-moderating/5stage.shtml.

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