Just like with teaching a F2F class it strikes me how important it is to build a good group dynamic and a sense of belonging to the group at the beginning of a course. The role of the teacher here is important but also the attitude that the learner brings with her is important. The teacher needs to encourage the learner to interact socially by setting up “getting to know you” type activities/tasks. The learner needs to bring with her a willingness to interact, share and contribute synchronously and asynchronously.
There are also issues about learners feeling uncomfortable about being seen on video and therefore prefer just to use voice. Those that are interacting with them then miss out on the non-verbal and body language aspects of communication (see DET). This may lead to misunderstandings. It’s important for teacher to be seen so that the students pick up on both verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication and interaction.
Later on today I read a blog post on mLearning saying something along the same lines: A Party With an Atmosphere
In an online LE (Wimba etc) the teacher needs to sensitive to the learners preferences in the way they wish to interact, be that via video, audio or messaging and not push a learner into using one form of communication over another. The form of communication that a learner chooses has implications for the teacher (and other learners in the online classroom) in terms of classroom management and having to communicate with some leaners via audio/video and other s via IM.
Technical issues can also cause the same issues as above as some learners might not have sufficient bandwidth to allow video or audio interactions. The sound and video might drop out so that learners van hear what the teacher or other learners are saying.
The size of group has implication. Smaller groups would allow more interaction between learners and the teacher but would you get the volume of meaningful comment, insights and experiences. Large groups also mean lots of posts which can be daunting if you don’t log on for a few days as the number of posts can really build up.
It strikes me how important it is to get a group dynamic going in the 1st week or. The learner really needs to get on the forum and post or should I say interact with their fellow learners. I really notice those co-learners that have put in the time to post a reply to all the postings in the getting to know you discussions. Hat’s off to them!