Technologies we are using

I thought I would summarise, briefly the technologies we are using on this course. After all, we are “extending” an online course. How are we doing it?

We start with Google Applications or Google Apps for short. Particularly we are using Google Apps for Education as provided by Oxford Brookes University. This provides us with the main framework for the principal course site. Google Apps also provides Google Docs, which we used for collaborative writing in the Social Citation Exercise. Google Docs has been the environment in which the course has been drafted and in which the transcripts for the audio are written before being pasted into the site. Google Apps also provides Spreadsheets and Forms. Forms allow us to collect data such as your profile information and to conduct the survey into your social media tool kit. The final piece of Google “kit” we are using is a “Gadget” called RSSReader+. Strictly, this is not Google kit, but an approved third party extension available through the wide community of independent developers who write little bits of code that are useful and make them available through the Google Gadget “ecosystem”. Ajax Gaier wrote RSSReader+. This gadget enables us to display a stream of RSS feeds – in this case four different Twitter searches on the home page of the course site.

So, we are using Twitter for the course, too, primarily as a way of collaboratively sharing links to items which the course participants and tutors discover in their Twitter communities. To focus our attention we use the convention of “hash tagging” using the tag #eyolc for extending your online course. But, we also use Twitter for occasional social commentary on the course and how it is going, and to draw attention to the existence of the course itself through our various networks, which follow us on Twitter.

From Twitter we also pull feeds into the Extending Your Online Course “weekly paper”. And we are using the Archivist as an aggregator for the #eyolc tweets which shows the frequency of communication and other Twitter stats.

We are using WordPress for this blog, in an installation of the software called BrookesBlogs hosted on servers which we maintain for the purposes of archiving two JISC support and synthesis projects.

We use Audacity to record audio commentary and we use AudioBoo to upload, host and embed the audio streams on the site.

Finally – a big “finally” – we are using Blackboard CE8 (the WebCT legacy version) to host the discussion forums and the Virtual Classroom.

The Virtual Classroom itself is Wimba Classroom, also a Blackboard property, recently acquired with Elluminate and being rolled together into “Blackboard Collaborate“.

What else?

Two tools that are not being used, but should be by my reckoning, are Bibsonomy, or some other social bookmarking tool for sharing links in a more structured way than provided for by Twitter, and Zotero or some other social citation tool for sharing full bibliographic citations and reading lists.

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The morning after

Great to meet people on the course via the VLE, via the profiles linked from here, and the digital tool kit survey. I am still in a bit of a fluster about how exactly to “lead” us to some collective understanding of what it might mean to “extend” our online course. Are all the possible extensions just distractions? I am sure they are not, but with so much to choose from our decisions do have to be judicious.

For instance, should I be so indulgent about using this blog to reflect?

Over to the VLE


The day before

The day before the course starts. I am trying to focus on the discussions for week one and to anticipate (always a problem – I often get it wrong) what people will want out of the course.

Although the course is a short course, it runs over a period of a month and consequently looms larger than it would if we were running a two-day workshop.

I tell myself that that is what it is. And as far as expectation management (my own and others’) that is what it is.

Week 0 is the morning coffee. Week one is day one before lunch; week two is day one after lunch. Week three is day two before lunch and week four is the wrap-up. But somehow it sees that given it is being done on-line and over four weeks that it will be more extensive and intensive than a two-day workshop.

Time to plunge in and shape the initial discussions.


Going live

Going live today. Ready or not, the welcome letters need to go out and the link to this site will be publicised. There is always so much more that could be done. There are many questions unanswered. Some may be answered through the course of the month we are engaged here. Others will remain. The main question for me is the extent to which we, the tutors/course provider are – or should feel – obliged to provide an easy “take-away”, one-step guide to extending your online course. Just saying “it is hard” and “you think about it” is not enough. Such an approach betrays some of the trust that we are competent to provide such a course. I hope by “showing my workings” and taking an inductive approach that by the end we will have the take-aways that we need. But there is always the question: could I have got it right for everyone, earlier. Click – open the course – and the warm glow of enlightenment descends? Om Shanti [link or link]. Enjoy!


Course development questions

So much development time on this course has been spent on following the fascinating links I have discovered when I was supposed to be “writing the course”. Some of these I have tweeted on the way. Others have been added to my ScoopIt page, “Communiversity“. Some have been captured to my Bibsonomy bookmarking site. Others, more bibliographic in nature, have been added to my Zotero library.

The question I am asking myself is how much is it my job, as course author to turn this into a taxonomy of formal propositional knowledge about course design – even Learning Design – and how much can I leave to the participants on the course to construct their own “WebQuest” from the seeds that are scattered around this site?

I suppose it is inevitable that this site and course at its inception reflects my text-heavy approach to learning. I keep saying I want to use more multimedia, but I find multimedia hard. Cat gets my tongue when the microphone is turned on. And, then the kids wake up and the open plan office gets loud and the day flies by with meetings and then it it teatime with the family and bath and bed and finally it is quiet and I look at the microphone and think, what do I say now!


Hello world!

This is a blog site for my reflections as tutor on theĀ  OCSLD online courses that I run or am developing.

I have struggled with whether or not to set up a blog or to keep my reflections on the Google Apps for Education site that supports the course. And, if I set up a blog which engine (Blogger or WordPress or Posterous, or …) to use.

I have finally decided to use the installation of WordPress. This is the home of my main blog and the home of the nascent OCSLD blog. I wanted to enable commenting and to spread the “business” away from the Google platform.

Commenting on the Google Apps for Education site is only available for people inside the domain, so that is no good for public courses. Blogger is not my favourite platform.

WordPress and the company that develops it Automattic is one of the things that makes the Internet A Good Thing (still). So, despite a brief dither, here we go.