I was on leave Sunday and Monday so missed a couple of days, and rejoined this Open University MOOC today. It’s a lockstep course and the pace is unrelenting!
Today we had a “live convergence session”. The purpose was to reflect on the first week (or to be more precise the first 5 days of the MOOC). The session used Google Hangouts which I have never used before. This allows up to ten webcams to connect at once and for all cams to display at once with the current speaker’s cam displaying larger than the listeners’ cams. It seemed to work OK although I suspect the settings were automatic in deciding who was the speaker because a few times listeners made noises and the main cam window switched to them when they didn’t really want it. However, I was quite impressed with the technology though can’t see a use for it myself as we use BigBlueButton and Skype and decided after a lot of bad experiences not to invite the audience to use cams (and often not mics either) as sessions are often disrupted as participants struggle with their audio and video settings. This wasn’t the case today as we, the audience, were asked to participate only using text chat via twitter and the Mooc Open forum. I didn’t really understand why one would want to split the audience like this. I could have arranged a mashup but why go to the trouble when we could all have been in one place. I attended on twitter and twitter and Google Hangouts took enough screen space without trying to squeeze in the forum. In actual fact when I checked the forum later nobody was able to attend there anyway as the topic had been inadvertently locked. So perhaps having two fora was indeed a good idea as there was a fall back position. No that can’t justify it really. There must be some other reason for this design which has escaped me.
As usual I concentrate on the mechanics of the activity rather than the content but for me that is all part and parcel of learning design – the tools we employ and what we ask our students to do with them. It was an interesting chat today, though I’m not sure it added much to the MOOC apart from variety and a chance for some of us to assess the benefits of using Google Hangouts. But why would I design a learning activity like this – a synchronous (albeit recorded) chat session for a Mass-OOC when the mass of students would be unable to attend. I don’t think I would. But I am not sure it was a learning activity.