So last night we had our last group discussion, and it was a bitter-sweet affair. We had started out as a group of people with disparate backgrounds with varying levels of IT skills and digital literacies, yet we became a team with amazing synergy, energy and dedication.
Why did this group differ that of other groups that I have worked with? We had to overcome language barriers, technical barriers, and the normal group norming processing, yet we became a team within very early days of starting out and maintained throughout the course.
After our last conversation, I sat back and thought about this. I know the role of the facilitator made a huge difference, but I also think that the group members played a major role. We were dedicated, had a sense a humour (we definitely laughed a lot), were sensitive enough to each others’ emotions and spaces, but at all times driven to achieve.
Social constructivism has a place for sure as a pedagogy, but it is not an easy pedagogy to support in an online course. In my last blog I mentioned the role of the facilitator being so important, and I think this cannot be underestimated. Especially, when wanting to add the emotional circle to the Community of Inquiry model.
I have seen the effects of Online Disinhibition Effect (ODE) so often, be it in a course or just in the online space, that I firmly believe that there needs to be a space created for the emotional element in any online course. By creating the emotional space, one can hopefully prevent any “outbursts” associated with ODE, that can negatively impact on the group members. So for me, I would like to explore more this aspect of the emotional building element in online courses. I don’t think it is easy to do this, as it is very hard to ‘read’ emotional cues when it comes to online courses.
So going back to my conundrum of why my PBL9 group differed from previous groups in the past, and that we worked so well…I tried to understand what it was that made us so unique. I realised it was the “two” elements: The facilitator and then the “motivation” of the group. When the facilitator “set the scene”, she allowed for the “motivation” of the group to do what it needed. The scene setting was such that we felt unrestricted and could explore where we wanted to go. Our emotional side was also nurtured in such a manner that we wanted to achieve. As one of our group member’s said in closing of our meeting: “When Sonja and Gizeh were so enthusiastic and motivated, I felt I had to produce. It made me want to keep the standards of the Topics to what we had achieved in Topic 1”. The fact that the group member felt she could say this in the first place, shows how open the group is and that the emotional side was nurtured sufficiently to give this kind of feedback, but moreover, it also indicated what kind of “pressure” was put on other group members to perform. If the “pressure” is equal to enthusiasm and motivation, then I would say it is a win, but if “pressure” becomes equal to “you will fail” then the emotional quotient is lost.
I can’t say I really am much closer to knowing how to emulate such a group, although I have an idea. I will say this, it was well and truly a most enjoyable (if not stressful at times) journey and will surely miss my PBL group 9 members 🙂