Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Some Practical Thoughts on PLEs and online conferences

An article on Edsurge "Could Slack be the Next Online Learning Platform" by Amy Ahearn really got me thinking this week. For a while now I've been bandying about the concept of the "professional social network" as a logical successor to the intranet (so, private and authenticated but the content organic and user-generated) but much as many write about how an LMS can co-exist with personal learning environments where the learner uses their own set of tools and ID to manage learning, I haven't seen much by way of practical application.

Amy described how her organisation co-opted a piece of public web technology (Slack) to provide an effective live environment for a course to run and the experience it offered.
"We need platforms that enable us to pivot between large-group, small-group and solo learning."
That tools like Slack can work isn't surprising - the workflow for an online meeting/ collaboration is not so different from some approaches to e-padagogy (but not all).  It is interesting how, having read about COI and Salmon's 7 stage e-mentoring model that is exactly the problem they faced and had to resolve to make the system, work - getting learners up to speed and active as quickly as possible (to make the system disappear and let learning start).

You might worry about where your content is and sustainability but if as an organisation you unbundle things so that...

  • You use an appropriate tool to store and publish your education resources (open or not) to the web 
  • You have a method of identifying people in a reliable way so you can say that user @abcd maps onto person Mr Abcd and controlling what they can and cannot do with your materials
Then you can start to use various web tools to run much more fluid and agile courses.

The best link in the article for me was Unhangouts from MIT.

I'm a huge fan of Appear.in - a free system to let you run web conferences for up to 8 endpoints - but 8 is a good limit for meetings, but a useless one for conferences.

Unhangout lets you use existing proven tools (Google Hangouts) but co-opt them into the shape of an online conference, with introductory material, a signing in space and breakout rooms for live collaboration. Because my organisation use a system that synchronises ID with Google ID, and because Unhangouts uses that, it is a perfect vehicle for us to use.

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