Expert participants in the fslt13 syllabus

When I explored the history of the department of Psychology (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) I noticed that the first professors had some voluntary assistants around them. They helped in many ways and were postgraduate students at the same time. Now we have this situation in MOOCs. In this post I take this expert participant question very practically: what was asked and what I did. I cannot describe the process from others’ point of view, only mine.

Marion’s blog says that in fslt13 the facilitators have taken an approach to maximise the role of the expert participant. They sent emails to people like me.  I felt myself flattered (to be an expert at Oxford u know 🙂 ) and so I answered yes. Expert participants were invited to help

  1. facilitate and moderate discussion forums,
  2. support other participants in learning activities and assessments and facilitate peer marking.

I had to leave the second task because I could not participate in British markings. Actually I commented some assignments which were published in blogs. By commenting outside the Moodle I could be myself 🙂 . I had problems with the first task as well. I have told in the former posts how I felt to be in a wrong place and did not want to offer direct support all the time. I would like to wait more and let the students find their ways. I could say for instance about the profile photo that they use Gravatar, and I could send a message to tutor’s forum and ask them to notice a comment in my blog. I did not facilitate the discussion on the forums or I did it only very little.

But I did something else. I have this blog and I gathered the students’ blogs in my blogroll. So it was easier to check if there was any new posts. The same could be done in the fslt13 sites > community but to use my blog was comfortable. I liked others’ posts and wrote comments. I followed Twitter #fslt13 and greeted there some students, favorited and retweeted. I joined to Diigo group which Cris Crissman built for us. I noticed how Cris tried to flip her session and I retweeted about it.

I began to model open online participation and wrote many posts about it: power law or free will or what is this diminishing of participants. I published these questions on Expert participant forum and got feedback. I scanned the numbers of Moodle participation and shared that information. I wondered why last two weeks student assignments were presented in closed small groups. Those sessions were said to be open but it was double-bind-speak. I noticed this, if I took the freedom to go in.

I suppose that this part of my blogging, modelling open participation, will be the most meaningful afterwards. Those posts will get readers from outside the course, because the questions are general.

Marion’s blog ended in these words: “There are many unanswered questions about MOOCs especially in relation to the experience of participation. We hope our expert participants will gain a better insight into running a MOOC, build new networks an opportunity to reflect on their experiences. We will be giving them support in their roles with some online orientation sessions in Blackboard Collaborate.”

I have gained a better insight into running a MOOC. I am sure about this. Thanks to Marion about following me all the time and Jenny about your interest and help, and all others who participated in this journey.

The concept expert participant is very problematic and assisting teacher is not better. How about voluntary assistant? It could begin with voluntary because it tells about the nature of our work, we were not paid for participation. Assistant has a hierarchy which I don’t like but what concept could be a proper one? Tutor and mentor have certain definitions already. Resources? How does voluntary resource sound in British ears? Ridiculous or funny or?

4 thoughts on “Expert participants in the fslt13 syllabus

  1. Hi Heli,
    Like the idea of being called ‘voluntary assistant’ or as Marion pointed out Auditor as an alternate name to Lurker has the source ‘Listener’ which reminds me of the role of ‘Navigator’ in Polynesian open ocean sailing between island settlements. (see Wade Davis “The Wayfinders: why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world”). Titles could also emerge from Ecology and the environmental “services” certain creatures to catalytic reactions perform.

    For me, I kept quite busy in the discussions and feel I might have overdone it by a long shot. Blogging is not something I do much of but do tend to invade and occupy discussion areas rather rudely and wonder how others view this? Am I the one who “talks too much and scares people off?” The ogre in the sitting room?

    My participation was entirely voluntary though I consider it of great benefit to have taken part so some form of exchange was involved as should happen in all learning experiences. One problem to struggle with for me is I mostly hated school and see it still as a place of concocted realities full of traps and shaming devices. School for me was a sealed aquarium where if I couldn’t breathe at least I could provide amusement for the viewers outside the glass. This distorts my performance as an adviser to young teachers? It might but I try to keep it in check though my love of learning and knowing that much of schooling is directed from a level well beyond concern for human values, only economics and careerism of those at the top.

    I have a great deal to think about regarding the role we provide as (whatever we will call it). There books on mentoring, mindfulness, community sustaining, networks, active listening and many other that need to be read. Including a lot of reflection. The promise of online in any form is in developing a new literacy emerging from older knowings of how we are human and need each other. If education is to be open to everyone then we can’t make assumptions around their understandings of “how things work” or “how things are done” from our limited Western perspectives.

    In the end, though it is hard to make up rules for engaging a new environment I would welcome orientation and direction from Oxford Brooks for the role we filled.

    Thanks for starting this conversation and will leave my reply at my blog too.

  2. Hi Scott
    You was active on the forums, it is clear. In some discussion you named yourself as a helper and I agreed it. For example today, Sunday after the end of the course, you sent an answer to Ann. The answer was inside George’s message in the News. Helping is fine, of course and useful.
    You have asked feedback about other sides of your activism. You could make a survey about how people commented to you. Perhaps some have told that it is not easy to follow your thoughts. For example you begin your comment above from the concepts, but you jump from one to another in a way that I it is impossible for me to follow your arguments. It is embarrassing to me but I cannot say what others think.
    See you

  3. Hi Heli

    Thank you very much for this comprehensive reflection on ‘the expert participant role’. Yes I have followed your blog and enjoyed every sweet word.
    I did hope that the role would emerge and in this case it clearly did. We take evaluation very seriously at Oxford Brookes University and in fact our evaluation of #FSLT12 is to be featured in a special MOOC edition of The Journal of Online Teaching very soon, you will then see where the notion of the expert participant came from.

    Waite, M., Mackness, J., Roberts, G. & Lovegrove, E. (2013) Liminal Participants and Skilled Orienteers: a case study of learner participation in a MOOC for new lecturers. JOLT

    We will be undertaking evaluation of #FSLT13 very carefully also, I think somebody in the forums has requested a de-briefing session for ‘expert participants’. We will definitely be doing this and looking in detail at how the role worked for everybody. It may will be that the role is re-named amongst a whole host of other things. I can also see that Scott would understandably like some feedback. We have all learned so much and continue to do so and Brookes will be running many more MOOCs or OOCS in the next academic year. #FSLT14, “Teaching Online Courses’ in addition to a MOOC for each of our four faculties, very exciting times ahead!
    Heli (& Scott) your contributions have been amazing and as George said in his summing up post, Brookes would not be investing resources in future courses if #FSLT12 & #FSLT13 had not been so successful. The success is down to the generosity of our participants. Thank you again. Marion

    • Thanks Heli and Marion,
      I look forward to the debriefing and am glad to be of help. It might be surprising to discover how many people are out there willing to help and share skills.
      Understand what you are saying Heli about the clarity of my comments–it is something I’m working on and certainly observed by others. Your suggestion to to assess how people responded to me is something I’ll certainly do. My spoken self has become unfocused from working alone for years and multiple thoughts seep into all of my writing. Listening for me isn’t a strong point and that might be the place to start. The construction site “classrooms” where I practiced teaching apprentices were loud and disturbing. Hand signals, silently mouthing words, showing without comment and pictures drawn on scraps of lumber were the communication norms. All visual, none verbal.
      Attentive listening must be something taught teachers? Are there resource for this?

Comments are closed.