Who is Smik?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Running an Online Commmunity

This posting relates to the second session I am presenting in Singapore on Saturday November 15 at the Hands On Literacy conference.

I've been involved in setting up and managing online communities for quite a long time now and have pretty strong opinions about what makes them work, and what doesn't.
This session won't be so much a hands-on workshop as a show and tell with some opportunity for questions and discussion.

Here is my brief:
Running an Online Community: the how and why of it
Many schools and tertiary institutions are being asked to supplement their face to face teaching with online courses or add online elements to existing courses. How is running an online community or offering an online course different to managing an "ordinary" classroom.
What makes a good online community? How do you strike the balance between instruction and interaction.

I aim to cover these ideas:
  • Blended learning
  • What makes a vibrant online community?
  • What works in establishing an online community?
  • What spaces and tools are available?
  • How do you keep it going?
  • Balancing instruction and interaction
In blended learning
  • Combination of face-to-face lessons with technology-based materials
  • Classroom teacher becomes a learning facilitator
  • This is more than just putting materials online.
    Thought needs to be given to how to create interaction between the participants, how to provide a stimulating environment that provides opportunity for collaboration.
Types of online communities
  • mailing lists – announcements & information
  • ‘groups’ with files & storage space
  • ‘groups’ with storage & variety of activities
  • wikis, wikia, wikispaces
  • blogs – are they a community?
  • new social networking places
Decide which will suit your purpose best.

I'm very taken with the methodology shown in Gilly Salmon's 5-stage model http://www.atimod.com/e-tivities/5stage.shtml and will spend some time discussing it's implications, using the cartoons provided on the site for each step.

What makes for a successful community?
  • Personal profiles
  • Clarity of purpose, focus for activities
  • Activities where members can interact and contribute
  • Ongoing stimulation, social interaction
  • Shared ownership, commitment,
  • existing clientele, common interest
  • mentoring
  • reasonable bandwidth for management activities
The Role of the Owner
- shared ownership is recommended
What does the owner do?
  • Sets the group up
  • Defines purpose, layout, attractiveness
  • Advertises, promotes
  • Assists people in joining
  • Initiates activities
  • Upload files
  • Moderates discussions
  • Arbitrates if necessary
  • Participates *****
Not an armchair ride
Running an online community whether for students or teachers requires active oversight, participation and sometimes intervention by the owner(s)

Fostering that sense of Community
  • Sometimes the hardest thing is just getting started
  • Some tools are more useful than others for breaking the ice. They may even be useful in well established Groups
  • Use ‘getting to know you” tools
    Members introduce themselves in a forum
    Group Profiles
    Photo Albums
    Chats
    Forums
    Add a colleague
    Frappr Map
Define the purpose of your community
  • Whatever the nature of your group make sure that everyone is aware of its purpose
  • Clarify expectations, conditions of use etc
  • Will you allow OT discussions?
  • Provide activities and resources that reinforce the purpose
Assessing vibrancy
  • Active discussions
  • Things that connect members
  • Relevancy
  • Sharing
  • Growth
Active groups Don't Just Happen
  • They need ongoing stimulation & nurturing
  • When you start a new group don’t show your hand all at once
  • Think about ’the journey’ your group will take, plan stimulating activities
  • Take a pro-active role: it isn’t an armchair ride – go that 1 step further
  • You don’t just knit together, you also start new rows
  • Be alert to members having problems
Tools from the web for your group, website or blog
  • ClustrMaps gives a visual idea of who comes to your Group. Gives Group Members a sense of belonging to a “living” community.
  • Frappr Map: Add the code from the Frappr website into any space where you can embed HTML code within your Group. Encourage your Group Members to put in their location, image and a message about themselves.
  • Feedjit lets you monitor traffic to your group/blog.
  • VoiceThread: Allows the adding of images, audio and text messages
  • Flickr Badge: a good way of displaying shared events and photographs with your Group Members
  • Screencast-o-matic: A free tool that allows you to generate a tour of your site with or without audio. Once you have created a screencast you can leave it on the web and use it from there or download it as a .mov file to store for offline use.
  • Odiogo Allows you to attach podiocasts to a blog. FREE to bloggers – a link comes onto your blog. People can hear a “near human” computer generated voice. Also can be saved as an mp3 file
Examples of online communities=where you might set one up
  • Web 2.0 Social networking places
    • focus on “friends” and commonality of interest
    • create your Profile – define who you are
    • set up links with others of like mind
    • links with other online tools
    • forums, chats
    • RSS feeds, file upload, ratings
    • use tags

  • Blogs are usually chronological documents often compared to a diary or journal, written daily, or at least regularly. Once you have posted to the blog you make only minor amendments.
  • Discussion Board (or a tool that allows discussion to happen) could be something like a Yahoo or Google group, or an edna Group (which uses Moodle and has a forum tool)
  • Wikis are often favoured by teachers because they can be much more collaborative. They basically build up an online booklet. It is not so much about individual entries, but documents that everybody can add to and edit. They can lend themselves to branching documents (like Wikipedia). e.g. Wikispaces, PB Wiki
  • Sites to look at

2 comments:

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Sarin Samuel said...

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