Making discussion work

Right now in T175 the second online tutorial is in full swing… and as part of that students are expected to get a discussion going. So often, however, online discussion can be a faltering, awkward thing which never really becomes a vibrant experience and participants can come away feeling that it didn’t really work as well as they’d hoped.

However… help is at hand! There’s an excellent article called “How students can make conferencing work” by Ben Plumpton who used to work for the Open University and it’s a cracker. Full of useful tips and advice and well worth a read. Her key points are as follows:

* Get involved and make a commitment;
* Help people get to know you;
* Construct your messages well, and
* Take some responsibility.

So, read messages, get your head round the topic, post contributions, reply to others… ask interested, interesting questions… and take part! Fingers crossed you’ll end up with an enjoyable experience on your hands! :o)

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T175 Links 03/14/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Time management

I noticed in a few people’s assignments that the question of how to work around other people / commitments was a particularly tricky one. Speaking as someone who works full time, works part-time, is studying 60 postgraduate points and has 2 young children… yes… it definitely can be!

A good place to start to find out some tips on doing the study juggle is at the OU. There’s a whole section for Friends and Family support and the whole section provides some superb examples and advice. There’s also more help on time management skills available and if you’re a bit of a procrastinator, always finding something else to do rather than studying, then there’s even information on just that thing on the site for you!

My main bits of advice would be – tell people you’re studying. Get them on side. When times are tough and you may need a kick up the pants to get on with studying… if they’re behind you, they’ll be able to do this for you! It also helps them to understand that you don’t always have the time to go out as you used to when you weren’t studying, which can help lessen those pressures too.

What happens if you still get behind? The key bit of advice here is that sometimes you have to really focus on what you need to do, rather than what you’d like to do. Look ahead at assignments yet to come. Briefly cast an eye over the materials and identify where you will really need to direct your efforts. Work out a strategy which will get you through this difficult patch, talk to your tutor (me!) and be realistic. You don’t have to be perfect but it is important that what you write is effective so use the TMA as a checklist. Cross off each element as you complete it to make sure that what you can do is the best version you can produce at that time.

You don’t have to slavishly follow a time management planner if that’s not your style. Try instead setting up a calendar in Google Calendar (or another service) and have it send you reminders about a week before key dates and events. Use the course calendar on the T175 website to find the dates and keep track of them in whatever way suits you. Whatever you do… don’t forget that the ECA date cannot be moved and if you don’t submit your assignment by then, the only certainty is that you’ll fail T175… so… NOTE THAT DEADLINE! :o)

Things to do now your TMA’s been marked

1. Log on to your Student Homepage and follow the link to the Electronic eTMA / CMA system
2. Look at the mark! But… this is not where you should stop…
3. Collect your TMA and open it
4. Open the HTML file called “PT3 summary and comments” – read through what I’ve written
5. Open your original TMA document – throughout I’ve made comments in green.
6. Read through the comments on the TMA and follow up anything which seems relevant
7. Any queries… get in touch!
8. Just before you write your next TMA, take a look again at the feedback I gave you for this assignment

Well done on making it over the first TMA hurdle!

The TMA process

So – the first TMA deadline has just passed and the question is probably – when will I get my work back? Since I’m having a break from marking, I thought I’d just explain what happens.

Firstly, you submit your assignment
I then download your TMA from the system
I open it using a bit of software called the eTMA Marking Tool
This allows me to open your assignment as well as creating an overall comments file – the PT3. And no, I don’t know what PT3 stands for… it just ‘is’!
I go through you work, inserting comments using the ‘comment’ facility in Microsoft Word and working out the part marks.
Once that’s done, I write an overall comment on your PT3.
The whole thing is saved as a zip file which I return to the eTMA system.
Your mark is registered and a message arrives in your inbox telling you your assignment is available for collection.

I try to get the whole process done as quickly as possible. It tends to be between 7 and 10 days, but I aim for less… and am given up to 2 weeks by the OU to complete the marking. If, for some reason, you haven’t had your TMA returned more than 14 days after the deadline / any extension deadline – then drop me an e-mail or ring me and I’ll update you with what’s going on.

I hope that you find the whole process useful. I know everyone looks first at their mark… but I do insert plenty of comments as feedback which I hope will help you with your understanding of the course material. If you have any questions on anything I’ve written – you’re more than welcome to get in touch with me!

So… back to marking I go… and… good luck to you!