Starting online class activities: Our fist net-seminar

Today was the day of our first “net-seminar”. It turned out that I had completely different expectations. When hearing the term “net-seminar” I thought of an online meeting via collaboration plattforms (e.g. Hangouts, Blackboard Collaborate) including a lecture and some relating synchronous task and/or additional tasks to discuss in forums. (I admit that this expectation result from my former participation in online courses, so I questioned my schema of net-seminars today 😉 ).

In the end we used our Facebook group as a discussion group and the input for the discussions were two readings from 1996 – one about theories of educational psychology the other about paradigms in instructional technology. Our task:

To do: Reflect and relate Koshmann to Greeno[…] et als’ elaborations. Everyone put one reflection/elaborated question in the Facebook group – and everyone make at least two respon[d]s to fellow participants. Make sure everyone’s contribution receives feedback!

Literature: Greeno, Resnick & Collins (1996) and Koschmann (1996)


[Taken from the Learning Management System]


When discussing this task in class beforehand, there was a certain uncertainty among us as peers: When do we have to submit this task? When to we have to respond to our fellow students? Do we have to be online at a certain time? The answers to our questions implied a lot of freedom. Meaning that there was no certain time, just a day, during which the net-seminar took place. Though not everybody contributed until now (and I assume not everybode will), I am already able to draw my personal conclusion from this interesting day:

  1. The open task did not make it easy to post something – nor did the environment (Facebook), which was surely new to many of us when it comes to posting in “academic manner”. As soon as there was someone “breaking the ice” others followed very quickly and a quite constructive discussion arose. I was particularly surprised by the various ways of dealing with the task and the progressive development of feedback. Due to the fact that we were not too many participants it was very easy to respond to one another and not lose track. [Nevertheless, up to now there is still one contribution without feedback and I cannot think of a good response to this post…] All in all I think there are better platforms to hold a net-seminar. A Facebook group can be very confusing and it mixes lecture content with organizational issues. But as a start I like the idea of linking familiar online tools with unfamiliar learning activities.
  2. It was not an attendance class and there was not specific schedule – meaning that you could work from wherever you desired, whenever you desired. [Nevertheless I met two of my peers in the library – seems still to be a very productive place to work from 😉 ] This flexibility brings some threats with it: I myself caught myself glimpsing on my mobile phone display even though I considered my task to be done. In the end I contributed more than what was expected. Flexibility means more responsibility of one’s own to determine working time and working place. Not only in terms of motivating oneself but also in terms of stopping oneself in engaging too much.
  3. Fear and/or respect. For me there is still uncertainty about how to write what, being exposed to other’s critiques and making mistakes in public. Before posting my contribution I thought that it was the worst text I have ever written. I have to learn, that social learning activities are not about being perfect from the beginning. But taking advantage of skills and knowledge of my peers and accepting their feedback to improve my initial idea.
  4. I am asking myself why the task attracted not as many peers as I expected it to do. And I try to think of ways to improve this situation. From my experience there is nothing replacing the actual doing. To participate in the activity. This is how a net-seminar comes to life. Having this awesome texts and questions from my peers made me read the texts with different eyes and even understand them better as I was trying to grasp their line of reasoning. Finding arguments for my opinion also contributed a lot to my deeper understanding of the readings and their interconnections. Participation is also an issue in attendance classes but I think it is more salient in online classes, as it is directly “trackable”. Not only in a certrain situation but also afterwards as the seminar was based on written posts.

All in all it was an insightful day for me with a lot of take-home messages to work on. My overall take-home message is that no matter how different your expectations are, there is always something to learn and take home.

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