Ashburton College e-Learning teacher, Nicky Lewis outlines the various online tools she uses to connect with students enrolled in her Moodle courses. Nicky says, “accessibility is important”.
I have an online course that's set up through Moodle. Once a week we do a Google Hangout with them. That's usually used for questioning and each week the course is set with a "must do", and a "could do", and a "should do", so it allows the students to work at different paces, and it also means that they can link into what they find really interesting about the course. All the work's completed in Google Documents, and I can mark their work in Google Documents in comments or actually writing on their work, or highlighting stuff – just like you would in a normal class situation. Only I and them have access to those folders, and they may have other people that can view them, but only me and them can edit. It's good for things like internals. Sometimes they request extra help, we might have an extra Google Hangout, or we might Skype, or sometimes they just email. I've done it the old school way and talked on the phone. I think a lot of it is being about making sure that you're open and accessible, so that they feel that they can have help. That you're not just the computer screen.
Accessibility is important. I think they need to feel that you will talk to them and help them, and just because they're not in an hours class situation that you will do that. As soon as there's a problem, obviously, you try and get from the student, if you can, what the problem is. So, it's really about them delivering the information they've learnt for the week, so there will be stuff up on the course, on the Moodle, that will talk about a certain aspect. Like, at the moment we're looking at comparisons between Millet and Daumier, and how they produced images of the working class. We've looked at the context. There's a couple of paintings, and I said, "Tell me about the context that you've leant about the realists, what was happening for the realist, tell me how that works in this painting, where's the evidence in this painting". They'll either deliver that through Google Documents or through...sometimes we do a lot of referencing through Hangouts too. They have a shared folder, which they can choose to share their work. Sometimes I ask them to. You know, somebody will do something really good, and I'll say, "Can you put that in their shared Google Documents,” and then the other students can then go and get it. If they haven't quite got it, it's not then just me saying, "This is how you do it.” They can also see how different students approach different things.
They've got to learn the skills of being an online learner, which is a skill set in it's own right. Then your course skills, then the content as well. So there's lots of layering of different learning going on.