The idea of engaging and collaborating with people from different cultures and countries was met with much trepidation as was the ‘unknown’ of what lay ahead on the course. I really did not know whether or not I would last. I was unsure whether or not I would be able to cope with the differing time zones and the expected pace of the course. However just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz met many friends who joined her on her journey on that yellow brick road and worked together, with their varying personalities, strengths and knowledge to get to the Emerald City, so too did I in my problem based learning group, in getting to this point. These have become people that I really want to remain connected to.
The synchronous social construct, leaning on, learning from and with each member was quite a learning curve for me in so far as experiencing collaborative learning. It was not just about collaborating and building relationships in the learning process but making a commitment to the combined learning of the group.
The course was well scaffolded and brought me to the realisation that I could indeed do the things that I thought I could not do.
It certainly pushed me beyond my comfort zone in exploring online tools that I would have never thought of engaging with such as Canva, Smilebox, Pow -Toon, Coggle. Prezi is already a tool that I am familiar with. WordPress!!!! I cannot believe that I am now a blogger….and enjoying it!
The breakthrough moment of collaborative learning in this blended online course for me was most definitely on Topic 3. We moved from the somewhat awkward talks on Adobe Connect and individual contributions on the FISH template to a working model of successful ‘integrated ‘collaboration’ on the PADLET that was presented on the ONL community, and meaningful in-depth discussion on the topic. What I found phenomenal was that although we agreed on some perspectives, we were also given the space to respectfully disagree and reflect upon alternate perspectives. The willingness to learn, share and teach each other was phenomenal. This trend continued on remaining topics.
The Google + community itself was a paradigm shift for me. Just as I am sure that Dorothy was surprised, fascinated and intrigued by the Munchkins in Munchkin land, so too was I perplexed, fascinated and intrigued by the benefit of Google + in both the teaching and learning space. This particular tool has provoked me to implement a similar model as ONL for the purposes of integrated curriculum evaluation on the modules that I lecture in second semester, specifically Specific Contracts, which students find onerous. It would be an interesting experiment to assess the extent to which students are willing to collaborate and learn from each other on these platforms more specifically, the skills and knowledge that they would be able to take away from the course. For me, the success of such an implementation would reflect in the module pass rate and through put rate. I’m looking forward to taking a step back from being the sole source of students learning to being the facilitator of their own learning.
The benefits of this course have outweighed the disadvantages and stumbling blocks. It has indeed taken me through the roller coaster experience that students would experience, however it has enabled me:
- To reflect upon my own teaching practice as legal academic.
- As a curriculum designer, it has enabled me to reflect upon the development and augmentation of the LLB degree in the blended online space.
I have absolutely loved this course. I am presenting a paper at the School of Law at the University of Nottingham’s, Centre for Legal Education Conference 2017 on Technology, legal education and legal practice in June. I have been quite inspired to include a discussion of my experiences on ONL 171, more so with the amazing PBL 3 group that I have become very fond of.
Consideration should definitely be given to an advanced ONL course that builds upon this one.
Unlike Dorothy, I have no intention of clicking my sequined ruby red shoes thrice, uttering delirious mantras of ‘there’s no place like home’. Open networked learning is now a comfortable space in which I would like to stay and learn more, whilst enjoying the benefits of my life in the real world…. blended learning at its best!!!