#CLMOOC Guide to Social Tools
"Even if it ends up being just the 10 of us in this MOOC, I think this is going to be really amazing."In our earliest planning conversations, our facilitation team wondered if anyone would show for the Making Learning Connected Massive Open Online Collaboration (#clmooc). In the month leading up to the June 15th start date, before we made any substantive decisions about organization or facilitation, our team expressed a collective desire to invite and support learners who were unsure about the technology involved. While we joked about potentially leading a MOOC that was in no way massive, we openly worried and wondered how best to support would-be participants who might be new to MOOCs, social networks, and digital tools in general. More than we wanted a massive-in-size MOOC, we wanted a novice-friendly MOOC.
Creating a novice-friendly MOOC
Immediately after our decisions to use both Twitter and a G+ Community, questions arose:"What about people who don't have Twitter accounts?" Or, "How will they know to find and use the G+ community?"
In response to these questions and in an effort to be novice-friendly, we chose to create the Guide to Social Tools, a series of pages on the Wordpress home site that would support participants in using all of the tools and channels associated with #clmooc. The guide was my suggestion and fittingly became my task.
I remembered seeing Alison Seaman's wiki, "Your Online Self: Preparing for a Connectivist MOOC" when I participated in #etmooc. (Though her guide was a wiki and in theory collaborative, I looked closely at the revision history and found that almost all of the work was Seaman’s.) The early part of #etmooc was devoted to the use of Twitter and her wiki provided a thorough explanation of everything from sign-up to hashtags.
In my first effort in creating the guide pages, I borrowed too heavily from the #etmooc wiki. About 5 or 6 hours of writing amounting to 12 webpages now live in a strange limbo- the trashcan of our #clmooc wordpress site. Those pages, I determined, were too comprehensive to be useful.
In place of voluminous support, supportive tone
In my second attempt, I set aside the exhaustive approach, creating instead a tidy guide with five pages. I explained the purpose of each tool in our MOOC and provided links to the support pages on both Twitter’s and Google’s sites. In the end, I decided that the purpose of the guides was not to explain everything about the tools, but to direct traffic and do dirty work. I would spare beginners the trouble of finding the web pages they needed to get started with these tools. I opted for a few pictures and links instead of volumes of text.
At Chad Sansing’s urging, I included his email at the end of each guide page. If someone truly got stuck, Chad wanted an email. Each time I referenced Chad's email address, I made a joke about just how skilled he is online, and his willingness to help. I hoped that the light touch would keep folks reading and maybe nudge a desperate participant to send an email rather than give up. Here's my favorite:
If you’ve tried using the support provided here and you still can’t find the information you need, email Chad Sansing, one of our facilitators, at email@example.com. Chad rescues virtual cats out of Internet trees in his spare time. He can help.
Mixing humor into the guides helped me arrive at what I hope is a supportive tone. As for the content of the pages, I applied an approach that amounted to, "Here's what you need. Here's why. Here's where you go to get it."
A Participant's Success
So the guides are still there on the #clmooc site and I’ve heard from a few participants and facilitators that they proved helpful. Of course, the guides are just one artifact of our effort to support folks new to digital making and MOOC learning. Our facilitation team would agree that supporting the community of learners was a daily effort that our entire community happily shouldered.
At the close of the third week of #clmooc, I encountered the reflection of Allie Bishop Pasquier, who might exemplify the type of learner we concerned ourselves with during our planning. While her whole reflection is worth a read, the first couple of sentences revealed that #clmooc was having some success in supporting participants toward meaningful participation.
In two short weeks, I have found myself transformed from someone who kind of understands hashtags to the kind of person who uses them in appropriate ways. I have shifted from scribbling notes about websites to keep in mind for classroom use to someone who can remember the tools and what they are called - because I have used them.