Update on using Google+ in an elearning themed SSC

Google+_2A few weeks ago I blogged about how I was using Google + (G+) with a group of SSC students.  I shared some initial reflections following the first week of the SSC, which involved five students who had opted to develop an elearning related project.  The SSC finished last week and as promised here’s an update on how it fared over the 4 weeks.

I had a super group of well motivated students, and they all engaged with the G+ community.  My colleague Annalisa Manca also joined the group. After the group was set up, and everyone had joined, G+ was our main means of communication, there was only the odd email, and these didn’t relate directly to the SSC.

Over the course of the SSC we used the G+ community:

To share resources including sites that were useful sources of creative images and icons, such as Wellcome Images, Noun Project and examples of #FOAMed resources such as Anatomy Zone, Hand Written Tutorials and the One minute medical school. This was useful as I could share resources intermittently rather than bomarding everyone at the start of the SSC and overwhelming them with too much information at once.

To arrange meetings – we used the events feature to arrange our group meet ups and confirm availability.

For support – Four of the students were using Artiuclate Storyline to develop online resources. Storyline is a great tool but like Articulate Studio it’s buggy and can be very frustrating and the students had issues using it.  They posted problems in G+, where it wasn’t clear what the issue was we suggested using Screenr to show us. The students also posted and shared some Articulate Screenr tutorials that they had found useful.

We didn’t use the Hangouts as we tended to meet up together a couple of times a week to review progress and share developments.  Had the snow been worse and getting into the medical school been an issue we might have used them.

The students were all positive about using G+.  Using the G+ mobile apps made it particularly easy to respond to posts and comments. I realised for the first time that the iPhone app included an instant messenger, which one of the group used a couple of times with me.  G+ wasn’t used at the expense of face-to-face interaction, the students still popped in to to ask things and check things and hire out equipment.

As well as G+ we also introduced the students to a few other tools and tips, which they were enthusiastic about.  These included:

  • Skitch – they loved this for labelling illustrations, diagrams etc
  • Google Docs and Google Drive – this was new to most of them, some used it for sharing their log books and reflections with the group, others used the forms to run quick surveys amongst their peers to guide their projects
  • Screenr – for highlighting problems they were having with Articulate
  • Pinterest – for organising and tracking creative commons images used in their resources and ensuring that appropriate attribution could be given
  • Dropbox  – was new to all but one of the students, who was quick off the mark in sending invites to the rest of the group to get more storage.  We also introduced them to SugarSync which gives you 5Gb of storage for free.
  • Google power searching tips, which proved very popular.

I felt that using G+ helped to foster a richer group dyanamic than I’ve seen in previous SSCs where students and I have met together as a group but communication in between has relied on email.  All the students developed fantastic resources and we’ll be embedding these into our curriculum resources and we also hope to share the resources as OERs/FOAMed learning assets.  I’ve also encouraged the students to consider running a workshop at our annual University eLearning Symposium on students as producers of learning and hopefully they’ll go for it.  One of the students developed a bank of formative assessment questions to support revision and again we’re going to look and see if we can submit a poster or presentation to the eAssessment conference that’s annually held in Dundee.

As for G+ I think it worked well with a small group of students.  Annalisa and I will be introducing it to a group of 5th years tomorrow on a prescring SSC, we’ll see if it proves as useful and works as well second time round.

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