Collaborate and Get Work Done with Office 365 Groups

Do you have a team project or group assignment? Need to coordinate information and documents with other people? Not always in the same place at the same time?

Office 365 Groups was designed for collaboration. It’s available within Office 365 right alongside your Lesley email, your calendar and OneDrive. Create an Office 365 group and provide your team with a shared email inbox, calendar, space to share documents and a OneNote notebook. It’s a great place to work out project plans, collaborate on documents and make sure everyone is in the loop.

Get started using Office 365 groups by logging into Office 365 at http://lesley.edu/email and watch these Atomic Learning video tutorials for quick how to information.

 

12 Days of Learning: Online Discussion & Collaboration

Atomic Learning has created the 12 Days of Learning, a series of articles designed to kick off resolutions to keep learning in the new year. We thought this was a great idea and have decided borrow (shamelessly steal) it and do our own. It’s Day 12 and we’re wrapping up our 12 Days of Learning series with online discussion and collaboration. Check in with us tomorrow for a bonus learning day.

Moving your classroom discussion online can pose several unexpected challenges. It can also provide several unexpected benefits. Below is a presentation from two of eLIS’s instructional designers, John McCormick and Sarah Krongard, on how online is different and what to consider when designing one for your course.

View the presentation in another window or click through the slides below.

Groupwork and collaboration online can also present challenges not present in the traditional classroom, but effective collaboration skills are considered critical to being successful in today’s world. This video from the University of New South Wales in Australia offers useful strategies for creating group assignments online and then facilitating and assessing them.

Lync Web for Online Meetings

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Lync Web App is an instant messaging and audio/video chat tool. It’s a great option for online meetings, ad hoc conversations, advising and tutoring. Lync Web includes text-based instant messages, audio and video chat, the ability to share Powerpoint presentations or even your desktop to demo applications or processes. There’s also a whiteboard for quick collaboration and a polling tool for rapid feedback in larger groups.

It’s easy to get started with Lync Web. It runs entirely in your web browser and you only need to install a quick plugin to start your first session. Lync can be accessed using the same login and password as your Lesley email.

Having trouble finding time to meet with your colleagues? Why not schedule your meetings virtually? You can do this directly in Outlook or the Outlook Web App, just as you would any other type of meeting. Select the “Online Meeting” options and a link to the Lync meeting will be included in your invitation. Need to meet with someone who isn’t part of the Lesley community or want to invite a guest to your class discussion? No problem. Include their email address in the meeting invite and they will receive guest access to the online meeting. Note: Guests have slightly fewer privileges for presenting, but will be able to fully participate in the discussion and access the whiteboard.

Lync allows you to participate in online meetings in a variety of ways. There is a desktop client for both Windows and Mac and mobile clients for Windows, Android and iOS so you can even stay connected when you aren’t at your desk.

You can find more information on how to get started with Lync at support.lesley.edu.

Not sure if Lync is right for you and want to consider other options? Check out the Comparison of Online Meeting Tools for a quick overview.

The Journey to Expert Performance: Authentic eLearning Assignments

How can we best support learners in their ability to apply knowledge and skills to complex situations? Moving away from abstract, decontextualized learning that leads to inert knowledge is difficult to transfer to problem-solving situations. A key element that can move learners to a higher level of expertise is a cognitively authentic task. Collaboratively working on complex, authentic tasks can be a key to students’ successful transfer of knowledge and skills to real world contexts.

Cognitive Apprenticeship

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Collins, Brown and Newman (1989) suggested an extension of the traditional apprenticeship model of learning through what they termed the “Cognitive Apprenticeship”. They claimed that traditional apprenticeships have three elements cognitively important for a model of learning:

  1. Leaners have access to models of expertise-in-use against which to refine their understanding of complex skills.
  2. Apprentices often have several masters and have access to a variety of models of expertise leading to an understanding that there may be different ways to carry out a task, and that no one individual embodies all knowledge and expertise.
  3. Learners have the opportunity to observe other learners with varying degrees of skill (p.456)

Authentic e-Learning

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More recently, Herrington, Reeves, and Oliver (2010) have developed a framework based on the idea of cognitive apprenticeship. The elements of the framework can be used as a set of criteria for designing learning experiences:

  1. Provide authentic contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be used in real life
  2. Provide authentic tasks
  3. Provide access to expert performances and the modeling of processes
  4. Provide multiple roles and perspectives
  5. Support collaborative construction of knowledge
  6. Promote reflection to enable abstractions to be formed
  7. Promote articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be made explicit
  8. Provide coaching and scaffolding by the teacher at critical times
  9. Provide for authentic assessment of learning within the tasks

Authentic learning is very well suited to online learning, but while students may be familiar with technologies of participatory culture, they need guidance in working on collaborative online teams and coaching at critical times during problem-solving.

If you are interested in creating an authentic online or blended task for your online, hybrid or face-to-face teaching, please feel free to contact elis@lesley.edu. Our design staff has expertise in the creation of collaborative online learning and have presented at national conferences on the topic.

The Online Learning Community as Digital Village Green: Interview with Joan Thormann Part IV.

This post is the fourth in an interview series with author and Lesley University Professor Joan Thormann regarding the design and facilitation of online learning environments.   Joan Thomann will be presenting at an upcoming eLIS Brown Bag event, The Online Learning Community as Digital Village Green.  This event will take place on Friday, November 15th from 12pm to 2pm at Lesley’s University Hall at 1815 Mass Ave in Cambridge on the third floor, within the Creativity Commons.

By Nancy Jones (Own work by uploader - application screenshot) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Are you able to develop a relationship with students?  Do you think this is important to their commitment to learning?

Joan Thormann: Building relationships with students is one of the more time consuming things that I do.  I schedule one-to-one Skype meetings with each student.  These meetings were originally supposed to be about 15 – 20 minutes.  As it turns out, the meetings usually last anywhere between 30 to 90 minutes.  I tell my students up-front that the purpose of these meetings is for us to get to know each other.

The Skype meetings allow students to get to know, trust, and feel comfortable with me. My hope is that video conferencing helps to build community because I attempt to communicate that the online environment will be a safe place to discuss content openly. I want students to know that I won’t allow anything bad to happen as they interact with classmates.  There are other subtexts.  It helps them to know that I am interested in their learning, how they learn, and what they are interested in learning.  I am conducting research on this type of video conferencing as part of my research about the effectiveness of incorporating UDL in online courses.

To continue the relationship building, we also have small group Skype meetings so students can get to know each other.   I try not to have more than four in a group.  The week that students participate in a group Skype meeting, they do not have to post on the weekly discussion forum.

I encourage students to email and Skype me whenever they have questions or want to discuss something.  I also email each student individually at least once a week in addition to group emails and being “present” on the weekly Discussion Board forum.

My relationship with most of my online students is generally stronger than in face-to-face courses because I am able to respond to each student individually.  There are no students who sit slouched in the back of the classroom.  My online course structure does not allow this.  Also Lesley’s commitment to small class size allows me the time to build relationships with students.

You highlight in your book the importance of listening in online courses.  Could you expand on this?

Thormann: It is a combination of listening in these one-to-one and group Skype meetings, and listening to who they are through the language they use online.  Some students write a tremendous amount and others are very succinct.  I listen to what is said in these discussions and read what each student posts very carefully.  Basically, through reading or viewing their posts, and conversations, I can quickly, as any good teacher can, get a sense of how they learn, who they are, and what their interests are.  Many times they keep coming back to the same topic which helps me understand what their concerns are.

This semester I am teaching a course about teaching online (ECOMP 6201 Online Teaching: Introduction to Design and Practice), and one of my interview questions for the one-to-one Skype meeting was “Why are you taking this course?”  Almost all of the students said, “to get my certification.”  One student shared with me that she was scared about teaching online, and now at the end of the course she wrote me that she feels she can teach online.   I have seen many teachers move from being resistant to online learning to a point where they are much more comfortable.  In my communications with students, they become aware that I am “listening” and open up and talk about the issues in greater depth.   Moreover, they learn to listen to each other in this online environment.

Online learning can provide the opportunity for all learners to become engaged.  In fact one of my students wrote about herself as being shy and not speaking out much in face-to-face classes.  She is the most verbose student in this online course!   While other students respond to each other in three to five sentences, she will write a half page.  Online learning gives everyone a chance to be heard because participation is no longer tied to a scheduled class time (and place).

By Brian Solis [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What do you think is the future of learning technologies?

Thormann:  I am particularly interested in the use of mobile devices for learning.  I don’t really know where this is going, but my sense is that mobile devices are now being increasingly used for online learning.  Mobile phones are being used more widely in developing countries and, of course, most people in the U.S. have a mobile phone.  More and more people here have smart phones and tablets.  Logistics still have to be worked out in terms of screen size and input capabilities. But one of the things I love in online learning is figuring out how the pedagogy works best for a particular environment.

We don’t know what technological features will develop but for the future of online learning, the same questions will remain.  How can students engage with the material in a non-face-to-face environment so they can grasp the material, play with it, and reflect on it?  These are the questions I love to explore.