Back here to check where I am with my online PBL trial completed a few weeks ago thanks to all participants and the 2 facilitators. In total, we had 2 drop-outs (work and family reasons) but both groups come up with solutions to the given scenario and provided feedback to each other. So, mission accomplished. There, were of course a number of issues, which are coming out of the data and are in line with my own observations and I find that really interesting. More on that to follow further down.
I have now completed all interviews, except 1 participant from whom I will hopefully hear this week. I have to admit that I felt overwhelmed by the data collected through the interviews. The good thing is that it is so rich and will help me to capture the variation of the experience. It also helps that everybody who completed the trial was interviewed. A few participants had technical problems and we couldn’t use skype (used the MP3 Skype Recorder– really good!!!) or any other technology to talk and record and we emailed each other and had, if I can say conducted an asynchronous interview. It worked but I have to admit that the data I received by speaking with participants and facilitators directly, was richer. Let’s hope that the remaining participant will respond to my invitation.
After recording the interviews, I had to transcribe them. I had heard when you do it yourself you really get to know your data. Not that I was looking forward to transcribing these 30-40min interviews but this gave me hope that the time spent wouldn’t be wasted. And it definitely wasn’t. I ended up with loads of pages in Word. What next? I went for excel and created a table to insert the data and create categories as I was going along. Not as easy at it sounds and I definitely haven’t finished with the categories and will probably have to re-think my approach to categories anyway. We will see in the next few days. But I would like to use this opportunity to share with you the very very first findings:
Almost nobody, including the facilitators had participated as a learner or tutor in online programmes before. Scary! However, all participated because they found the idea interesting, wanted to find out about online PBL and explore if it could be used in own practice. That was encouraging. Also, the opportunity to work with colleagues from other institutions and other disciplines was also a factor why most decided to participate in this trial. Some of the participants stated that they had negotiated with their own institutions to use work done during this trial for assessment for one of their PgCert modules. I was very pleased to find out about that and I wish the facilitators knew about that!
- Time seems to come up again and again. Everybody was very busy!
- The technology and tools used.
- Working 100% online problematic.
- Some commented that asynchronous communication slowed things down
- The social element was missing and many commented on this!!!
- Facilitation! This was the biggest issue of all and recognised by participants and the facilitators themselves.
Suggestions made by participants and facilitators:
- Facilitators to receive training in advance
- More structured and supportive approach to facilitation
- Arranging regular synchronous meetings and
- participants and facilitators to get to know each other and create the foundations of a learning community from the very beginning.
- Everybody found it a useful experience and learnt a lot despite the above issues
- The trial provided an insight into the problems of working fully online, engaging in PBL (as a student or facilitator) and made them think of developing strategies to resolve these
- Participants and facilitators see a potential in using online PBL with some adjustments to resolve the above issues but most feel that blended PBL would work better. Nothing can replace face-to-face sessions – many told me during the interviews.
The above are my very first observations, which will be refined further after more thorough analysis of the data.
The next 2 weeks will be very exciting and will enable me to immerse in the data attempting to make sense of it all.