Group Assignment, Camtasia, MDDE 610

In MDDE 610, our group project consisted of learning all about Camtasia Studio and then prepare an synchronous or asynchronous presentation to the rest of the class. I really wanted to learn more about Camtasia so I could start to make short instructional videos to support my current students, and so when it was time to form groups and choose a topic I posted in the course discussion forums that anyone that also wanted to learn Camtasia was welcome to join me, and that is how our group was formed. We all stated that we thought it was best if we prepare an asynchronous presentation because one group member was in Norway, one in Qatar (me), and two were in Alberta--too many time zones apart to present synchronously. The final product of our project was so successful that the professor asked permission to use it as an exemplar in the future offerings of the course. (4.5, 4.6, 4.7, 4.8)

To communicate effectively and efficiently we used varied communication tools such as PrimaryPad, which is a web-based word processor that also has a chat feature (with no login and is very easy to use), email, and Skype. Even more so, through these tools, we were able to project ourselves as 'real' people and connect with the other group members socially and emotionally as 'real' people. We didn't hesitate to call each other on Skype to asked each other for clarification, confirmation, or just to quickly brainstorm the next step. By supporting these different forms of connection and dialogue we were able to bring to our group a sense of emotional presence that enabled us to set a healthy group climate. If we hadn't done this our group could have easily become quite negative. For example, for one group member English is their third language and if we hadn't asked for clarification from them it would have been easy to misinterpret their meaning and/or intent of their comments. (3.1, 4.5, 4.7, 4.8)

We found PrimaryPad to be very effective for collaborative work. In the beginning, we did our separate parts alone and placed all of our parts together side-by-side (cooperation) but did not edit another group member's work. Slowly, hesitantly, we started to apologetically edit and improve upon each others' work. By the end, we were able to comfortably edit each others' work without hesitation. It was a wonderful experience to be able to create a cohesive high quality presentation that was real collaboration, not just the usual group work consisting of cooperation. (4.3)

Screenshot of our PrimaryPad document (the document is public so no permissions are necessary)

After we outlined our presentation in PrimaryPad we then created our presentation in a wiki using Wikispaces. We applied our knowledge about Camtasia Studio and instructional design models to create tutorials; discuss applications, benefits, and disadvantages of its use in distance education; created a set of best practices guidelines; and then provided brief overview of Camtasia's competitors. (2.4, 2.6, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4)

Applications for DE.jpg

Our group members' technology skill-sets ranged from very competent (one group member was a distance education teacher) to a complete beginner (an older teacher who was upgrading her skills). The one group member who was a beginner had never used Skype before nor had she ever heard of a wiki. Through emails and Skype calls we found that we had a lot of similar interests and our relationship ended up such that I offered her a lot of tech support for the course, which I didn't mind. (4.4)

Let me note: It is important to understand the difference between someone who is lazy and asks help from others rather than using Google, and someone who is so overloaded that they need to reach out for help or they may drown. Through conversations with her, I had the sense that she was completely overloaded. I could see that she was learning the course materials at a very high rate, but her initial starting point for learning was very different from my starting point.

I enjoyed the contact I had with her and because of this contact; this course was very different from any course I have taken from Athabasca University. I had never made significant contact with any other fellow student (MDDE 610 was my 11th course at Athabasca University). It was nice, for once, not to be completely alone on my journey through a course. Additionally, by then end of the course she had become very skillful at using wikis and created a wonderful e-portfolio using Wikispaces. Here is a screenshot of her wiki.

Sheryl's wiki.jpg
Here is a screenshot of my friend's e-portfolio created using a wiki.

A main part of the success of this project was our ability to collaborate effectively and efficiently, and this was facilitated by using PrimaryPad. PrimaryPad is a simple and intuitive tool to use and thus equitable in use (in terms of diverse abilities). Since then, I have used this tool to facilitate other collaborative projects--collaborating with others to create a master list of basic technology skill-sets required for the teachers at our college, creating live help documents for our team of math teachers (one document for each math course), and to facilitate the use of crowdsourcing to help source products for Qatar's new health food store. (2.7, 3.5)

Not everything was great about our group; we had four group members, and one member did very little work. The three of us emailed the other group member, with no response from the other group member. One member tried calling them to try and see if this would help to get the other member more engaged in the group project, but it did not work. As a group the three, we set deadlines, but there was no or minimal response from the other group member. A few days before the project was due, the one member posted a minimal amount of work. In the end, our group earned an excellent mark on the project and so did this one group member. I thought a lot about this, but not about whether it was fair or not, but more about how could we create a system that would structurally not allow students students to opt-out of learning opportunities like our one group member did. What system could we put in place to ensure that all students engage in the learning process and thus certain skills sets gleaned from group work? At the end of the course, I made the following suggestion to the course professor,
The evaluation of a group project should not be entirely based on the final group product, but should include an assessment of individual group members, the group as a whole, learning, and performance. There are always some people who know that the other group member will carry the load for them and do the minimum amount of work/learning necessary. When accountability is incorporated into group projects, I am guessing that the overall learning would improve (higher level of engagement and discussion from all members) and thus a higher quality and richer end product. Here is an example of a tool that can be incorporated for accountability purposes--peer evaluation. This document can be converted into an online survey tool such as LimeSurvey (or other similar products) to facilitate the ease or interpreting the data. Even if this survey was created and students were to complete the survey, but the data was never used by the professor, I am guessing there would be changes in some of the group members’ participation and thus learning.


Link to artifact:

Related Competencies

2. Instructional Design & Development
2.4 Describe the activities of the instructional design process and the advantages and disadvantages of using them in distance education.
2.6 Discuss the common criticisms and controversies relating to the use of traditional and emerging instructional design models in distance education.
2.7 Apply instructional design principles and models in distance education, in your workplace, or in other instructional contexts.

3. Communication Technologies and Networking
3.1 Use a variety of communication and document sharing tools to create, reflect, and communicate with others.
3.2 Analyze and evaluate the various applications and implications of these technologies.
3.3 Justify the applications of these technologies in real-life contexts on the basis of theory and research.
3.4 Compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of these technologies in various distance education contexts.
3.5 Apply these technologies in distance education and in real-life instructional contexts.

4. Communication & Interpersonal Skills
4.3 Justify and defend your ideas orally and in writing in meetings, forums, seminars, exams and other contexts.
4.4 Support the learning of others when involved in teaching, mentoring, moderating, or demonstration activities.
4.5 Participate effectively in collaborative group activities..
4.6 Demonstrate effective design, delivery and evaluation of presentations, computer conferences, or seminars.
4.7 Work cooperatively with diverse groups and individuals both within the university and/or in the workplace.
4.8 Organize, and convey your ideas effectively through a range of communication skills and work collaboratively and in teams.