I attended the first session of our e-learning dissemination event last Friday (11/01/08) on 'Session 1: what do our students think about the use of Web 2.0 tools in the curriculum?' - presented by Richard Hall- it was a good session and raised a number of lines of thought to be further explored.
One thing that stood out for me when we came onto 'peer online evaluation and support' - that as part of student learning we need to respect the fact that students need to have their 'own' online space where we (tutor) do not need to engage - this could be seen as part of the changing study habit/style of students. Before online supported learning we would reference our materials in various means, talk to a few friends including the tutor if need be and and write up our assignments - today we can do this process online, in a far much wider forum (of course this raises the stakes higher on issues of plagiarism, copyright etc) which we are aware of and have mechanisms in place. I don't think we should feel that we (the tutor) should always be the part of the process when informal learning is taking place just because students choose to 'work' and 'collaborate' online. Students need their 'space' and may choose to use other online spaces 'outside' of DMU so as not to feel that they are being monitored all the time. What we may want to consider is what kind of learning activities using web 2.0 would we (tutor) want to know and should be a part of (aside from the collaboration tools we already have) and this decision can be made by the tutor or with his/her students! There is a danger that if we attempt to 'engage' with 'students' in online spaces where they don't want 'us' it can pull them away and they will move onto another system where 'we' aren't there. On the other hand one could argue that this reflects on our current system - as from the presentation students did express that they wanted more informal feedback from the tutor. Could our current structure and nature of our main platform (Blackboard) be less inviting for students? Other online SNS have a more relaxed look and feel - and link with more of the social aspects in their lives, thus making this more an informal environment. Depending on the student (part-time, distance learner, international and your typical undergraduate) online 'spaces' may be accessed differently and for a number of reasons - some groups (distance learners) may want more online tutor input than others - Lots of interesting branches to follow up - for me the point of my post was to raise awareness that study habits of students online is their 'space' which we should not necessarily feel that we have to be engaged with.