Monthly Archives: January 2012

Week Three Reflections by Debra

This has been a whirlwind week for me with extra demands at work, along with my husband being in the hospital. I managed most things very well, but did less on the class discussions this week.  I had plenty of time to read, and reflect about this weeks readings.  I found the topics very meaningful, as creating an inviting online environment within our learning management system is my goal.

This leads into my topic of fostering  community in the online class to encourage and facilitate peer collaborative learning.  My goal in the online courses I’m teaching is to foster and encourage critical thinking skills especially as applied to the field of diagnostic medical sonography.   Critical reasoning, learning , understanding and culture will be included in my topic of  fostering community.





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Week three reflection from Dena

It’s Sunday late evening. This week has been completely crazy for me at work. The weekend flew by and unfortunately I had to table much of this week’s course work until the weekend. I know I’ve been pretty invisible to my group mates this week and hopefully I’ve not caused them too much concern. Once I saw the reference to their being no real group work this week (sometime during the middle of the week) I breathed a sigh of relief. I was fortunate that we did not have a major assignment due this week because I honestly don’t know how else I would have squeezed a few more minutes into my work week.

I am happy to report that the extremely busy week I’ve had is rare, and I took action to ensure this would not happen again the rest of our semester.

I was very grateful to read the comments left by our instructor on our blogs this weekend, and personally I was very happy to read her comments to my post, in support of having a lot of projects and encouraging me that I can do it. Honestly, it was just what I needed to hear, and the sociological focus of this week’s topics made me feel blessed to have an instructor who truly connects with her students — thank you!

I’ve found the topics in this course to be of great interest to me personally. I love the idea of building learning communities and social aspects of learning. When I signed up for this course and read the course overview, I wasn’t too excited about the class. However, once we got access to this course and I saw the materials we had access to, I knew this would quickly become a favorite of mine!

Now… onto the topic of a midterm. I have many interests, the difficult part will be fine-tuning and choosing just one! I really have spent a lot of time exploring social learning tools – how others successfully use social networking tools to promote community building in the classroom because I feel that too often the e-learning environment does not support or use social tools to the benefits of the students. I know many faculty opting to use Facebook or Ning network. I’d like to encourage the use of social tools in my community college courses but my distance learning program frowns upon it and feels like we would be violating privacy rights of our students and/or not have access to be able to remove content that is inappropriate. I feel that this is an outdated risk — our data is all over the Internet and if the group is setup with privacy controls, there shouldn’t be much to worry about.  So, that is an idea, or focusing on e-learning environments that do have a social networking aspect to it, but that’s part of my ultimate research project for this program, so I’ll probably skip that. Anyway, that’s where I am at with things. I’ll keep thinking…


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Week three post-Chris

Week four is coming up and I have no real idea of what to do my midterm project on.  I am thinking of doing it on something with math.  Maybe how using online discussion boards to discuss math will help student learn math or understand math better.  I am not sure if this is too broad.  I need to review the guide lines to understand the required length.  I will also be posting this in my group area to see what feedback they can give me.

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Who Are We? A Collective Profile of Our Group (David)

Our group consists of Debra Crandell, Christopher Felix, David King, and Dena Laney. The “collective profile” below is based on interviews submitted by other members of the class. Thanks to John Lujan, Maritza Rodriguez, Joseph Rosa, and Sam Sternman!

Debra Crandell

Debra works at Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Services where she teaches advanced courses in diagnostic medical sonography and ultrasound physics. She feels that certain courses that she presently teaches work well in the online or hybrid format, but “there is [nevertheless] a technical component that needs traditional instruction.” She previously taught at the community college level as an adjunct instructor while working as a sonographer. Debra was born and grew up in Southern California. She began the OTL MS program in 2010 and plans to finish it this year. Her other interests include photography, travel, reading, and video games. Debra volunteers at a literacy program one day a month.

 Christopher Felix

Christopher teaches pre-algebra at a junior high school. He is interested in designing online Math courses: at present he is working on an algebra challenge course. Christopher grew up in Santa Maria (on Highway 101 between San Francisco and Los Angeles) and currently lives there. His other interests include outdoor activities such as bike riding, hiking, and kayaking. During the summer he works as a “carnie” which is a food concession vendor at fairs.

David King

David is a librarian at Mt. San Jacinto Community College in Southern California, where he also teaches for-credit classes on information competency and research methods. Mt. San Jacinto College offers almost 20% of its courses in either online or hybrid format and has a well developed distance education program. David is hoping to complete the OTL MS this year. He wants to apply the knowledge he has learned in this program to improve library services especially for the growing distance learner population, as he feels as though they are underserved. David was born in England and grew up in Australia. He migrated with his American-born wife to the United States and has lived in both Texas and Southern California. His interests include Lebanese cooking, public speaking, reading, hiking, and Celtic music.

Dena Laney

 Dena is also a librarian at Long Beach City College who, in her own words, is “the computer geek librarian who manages all things online and [are] technology related.” She enrolled in the OTL MS program because she wanted some formal education in online teaching and learning. Dena has an extensive music collection and enjoys listening to “Adult Contemporary” music. However, since she has two small children she has gravitated recently to toddler songs such as “Fire Truck! Fire Truck! I Want to Ride in a Fire Truck!”


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How Can We Function More Effectively As a Group? (David)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dear ‘Cozy-Team’ Fellow-Members:

 While the primary focus of Week Three has been to study the role of cultural differences in virtual education communities, I have also ‘discovered’ some important issues of secondary (for this week only) interest in the assigned readings.

In this post I am going to focus on the important question: ‘How can a group such as ours work best in this online community?’

In terms of successful group collaboration, I was impressed by the assigned reading that described a survey of online graduate students as to their ‘online team experiences, challenges, communication, social and cultural influences, and suggestions for improvement to the virtual team experience’ (Khalsa, 2010). I am going to reproduce here some of the quoted comments from the students. Please note that the emphasis is entirely mine.

 “The team experience was such a joy, [and] the team members were able to communicate OFTEN, share ideals, [and] set GOALS and OBJECTIVES. The team members were extremely knowledgeable in their field of expertise and SHARED constructive criticism and positive interaction.”

“When deadlines approached, and TEAMWORK was needed, the process was clumsy, frustrating, and often times counterproductive. We did not meet our deadline because we had a very difficult time working TOGETHER. The frustration of the group didn’t improve until the topic of respect and trust had been addressed.”

 “With my individual paper, I had greater CONTROL [over] the process and outcomes (content, research approach, writing style, editing, etc.). But I did not have input or other ideas or feedback … With the team paper there was corroboration, brainstorming and more support to write, research, and edit the paper. The challenge was to harmonize different points of view, writing styles and AVAILABILITY SCHEDULES. Doing this also trained us to work in groups, to be tolerant and supportive of the group.”

 “Suggest a format for [team] members to reintroduce themselves with tombstone data, time zone, industry, restrictions [and/or] other commitments for the period.”

 “Discuss the topic, workloads, and schedule [of each] team member.”

 “[Seek a] common understanding of the requirements of the assignment.”

 “Communicate on a daily or at least REGULAR basis.”

 “Discuss a method of communication … Our group used too many forms and it caused delays.”

 “Get the team to choose roles and communicate those roles BEFORE the work actually begins.”

 “Ensure [that] the team members have a similar time frame for working on the course [since] some prefer early week [and] some prefer weekends.”

 In conclusion, the above article listed the TOP PRIORITIES for ensuring successful interaction in virtual learning teams:

  •  Provide flexibility and democracy for choosing team members, topics, and group roles;
  •  Each student needs to provide the team tombstone data, time zone, industry, restrictions/other commitments, etc.
  •  The importance of GUIDELINES should be emphasized: this should include team norms and styles, a detailed timeline, a description of the communication PROCESS and FREQUENCY, rules of cultural etiquette, and DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITIES (roles)
  •  A group leader needs to be clearly named even if the leader ROTATES from week to week

 I think that we can function far more successfully as a cohesive group if we incorporate these ‘suggestions’ more fully!

Enough said?


 David D. King






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David’s “Group Experience” Past and Present

My Fellow Colleagues:

Overall, I think that the experience of working with others as a group in a virtual environment is beneficial and should be encouraged. There is much to be learned through collaboration and the sharing of ideas provided that there is openness,  trust and mutual respect. Each member of the team have individual strengths that can contribute to the whole.

I have participated in both face-to-face and ‘virtual’ groups within an educational setting several times before. I have found that good communication is essential to the success of any group. In a virtual group, especially, it is important to agree on who is to do what and to clarify when members will be available to ‘meet’. It is often a good idea to appoint a group ‘leader’ or ‘moderator’ (as long as they don’t dictatorial tendencies). Some of my past experience has been disappointing as not all the group members participated equally which left one or two group members doing the bulk of the work!

I had a lot of trouble getting into a group for this class. Two of us initially tried to form a group which we were going to call “Three-Blog Night” but were unable to find a third person despite vigorous efforts at solicitation. Finally, Dr. Kaur intervened and placed me in this group. In my ‘search’ I used all kinds of methods  to locate the needed team member, including the public discussion thread as well as the ‘private’ Horizon email. I tried ‘blanket’ notices and individual solicitations. However, it was difficult to tell who was already in a group and who was not.

This ‘cosy’ group appears to contain some high caliber people! I am looking forward to working with you all!


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David’s Musings …

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Dear Fellow Students:

This posting is my (limited) attempt to define social capitalism as it relates to virtual learning communities,  such as this course.

I have not encountered the term ‘social capitalism’ before.  It appears to belong in either the discipline of sociology or perhaps even economics because of the latter association with the word ‘capitalism.’  However, our assigned task is to explore the relationship between social capitalism and virtual online educational communities.

An online community is almost any group of individuals who use Internet technologies to communicate with each other. It is a type of social network. Nowadays, the strength and nature of relationships between individuals is the most useful basis for defining community rather than physical proximity (Preece & Maloney-Krichmar, 2005). Several definitions of ‘social definition’ are offered in our Week 2 readings. I consider the following definition to be the most succinct and pertinent to online educational communities: “Social capital refers to features of social organizations such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” (Putnam, 1995).

Furthermore, an optimal online community evolves by providing opportunities for growth beyond the confines of the ‘virtual’ classroom that includes exploring ideas that both emerge (and diverge) from initial topics, applying such ideas to actual teaching, putting into practice these ideas within the students’ institutions, and sharing the lessons learned plus results within the learning community. Thus, the learning process shifts from an individual responsibility to a collaborative responsibility (Khasa & Hildreth, 2000).  In the days of the traditional classroom lecture, learning was very much an individual responsibility. Nowadays, the learning that takes place in online distance education communities is purposefully constructivist in nature and involves much interaction among the students who participate in the community. The optimal online community consists of building relationships even beyond the class boundaries itself, which presumably results in developing social capital.

There are a number of interesting issues concerning social capital and online communities that might be worthwhile for us to explore further:

1). At least one the readings made the point that social capital (as in civic engagement and social connectedness) has markedly declined throughout American society since World War II. My question is: Has the Internet further hastened this decline, or has it increased the level of social capital? Social capital, according to some, used to be measured by the degree of face-to-face interaction. The Internet has provided the opportunity for individuals to interact with far more people, even if it is online and not face-to-face. Does this represent a new kind of social capital? Are people more connected to each other? Is there a greater degree of interactivity? What is the quality of interaction?

2). What forms of interactivity within an virtual educational community foster the development of social capital?

3). How does one build mutual trust and respect within virtual educational communities?


David D. King




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