Thursday, November 30, 2006

Online tutors and student satisfaction

These days I'm a bit less active on my blog because I'm struggling with the statistic analysis of the surveys and data about tutor support for the E-business course that is delivered through a virtual classroom (for more info on the course check one of my previous posts). And so it is only fair to share some findings that already surfaced during the analysis. I actually found out that tutor's activity (i. e. number of post) has significant positive effects on how students grade their tutor. However, the number of students' posts shows no correlation with the number of posts from the online tutor. In other words - students have to write a certain number of posts to complete the task anyway and the number of posts by the tutor serves mainly to increase the satisfaction with the tutor's work. What the tutor usually does in his/her posts is to answer questions, lead students in the right direction and that is why it is not surprising that students are more satisfied with e-learning in general and are able to focus on learning and not on their doubts and technical problems. Also, the frequency with which the tutor checks in the virtual classroom positively affects the grades students assign to their tutor. Of course, these results are mainly based on quantitative analysis and don't say much about the quality of post, but I think they represent a good starting point for further development of tutor support (and also future training courses for online tutors).

So, that's just a brief update on my research work and findings. If you've got similar experiences to share or questions about my research feel free to leave a note :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Getting into the flow

Today I came across an interesting post in the Moving at the Speed of Creativity blog in which there's a short description of the flow experience as described by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. For a definition of the flow experience I suggest reading the post Flow, curiosity, and engaging education or the Wikipedia article.

The post and ideas that are presented caught my attention because I think that educators should be aware of this phenomena and consider it when preparing activities for our students. This is especially important when we're trying to present e-learning to students that have low ICT skills. In this case the chosen online learning environment and especially the human support should be simple and available enough to represent a manageable challenge for students - but on the other hand we should consider students that are "digitally native" and give them enough challenges to avoid boredom. And of course - here comes the tricky part. How can we find an equilibrium and satisfy all groups of students?

Perhaps one way to solve this problem could be to motivate students with higher skills to help students with lower skills - in this way experienced users get some challenges while newbies get the needed support and the ability to improve their "digital" skills and begin the "digital immigration" process. Also, in this way students start learning how to cooperate online, start building a positive online community, and construct knowledge and group identity. And let's not forget that this method could also be used by faculty staff - teacher and tutors after all have different attitudes and skills towards e-learning and I think that building an online support community within an organization can strengthen relationship between teachers/tutors, improve skills and attitudes toward ICT, and consequently contribute to a more effective delivery of e-learning courses. I certainly think we should be giving this idea a try in our practical work and engage more people in the flow where they'll be receptive and positive about learning new things and skills!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

MIC'06 Conference Report

Here I am back again from the MIC'06 conference in Koper (Slovenia) where I presented my article Communication in a Virtual Classroom (read the abstract). The conference was focused on management and business topics, but there was also an e-learning section. There weren't many papers in that section, so I didn't really attend to many of the presentations. But of the presentations I did attend, I most enjoyed Alex Koohang's presentation of his paper In Search of a Learner-Centered Instructional Model for Blended Learning in which he presented his blended learning model (in this context blended means half face-to-face and half online learning) and some of the constructivist methods he uses with his students. And although our students come from a different background, I think that they could benefit from the methods that Alex mentioned. I really liked the idea of students writing short essays with their reactions to some material and then having to read, comment, analyze and react to essays written by their pears. That's really constructivism in action!

I will be posting the link to my and other interesting full articles from the conference as soon as they are available online. But for now here's my conference presentation. For any additional information about my paper or the presentation feel free to contact me!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Google Page Creator: Simplicity and power

I already revealed myself as a Google fan in one of my previous posts and again there's some great news coming from Google that can be in my opinion be useful in education. Here's the thing - Google Page Creator now has some extra powerful features. As described in the post Simplicity and power, you can now edit images you upload to Google Page Creator within the browser (not in Safari though :( ), you can multiple sites with different addresses and the feature I'm most exited about: all sites made with Google Page Creator have a mobile edition without you having to move a finger! Now that is cool! I really appreciate all the support Google is giving to mobile devices.

These new feature and the existing simplicity of the service yet again confirm my opinion that our students should be using web publishing tools to make web sites. Goodbye FrontPage, hello Google Page Creator! Making web sites is now easy, intuitive and when necessary you can still edit the HTML code (that is if you're a geek like me and want to have complete control of the code :) ) But for our students Google Page Creator is in my opinion a wonderful tool to learn about how web sites work, practice linking in between sites and plan the structure of a site - which is after all what they'll mostly be required to understand in their professional lives. And most importantly - tools like that give the students the freedom to focus on the content and forget about the dull (for most of the students) technical details of what they are doing.

We're still discussing about how to restructure the E-business course for the next year and though many options are still open (wikis, blogs) I really think Google Page Creator is a serious player in this game!

(By the way: Here's my first Google Page :) Easy to make, easy to publish.)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Podcasting: Getting started

Podcasting - yes, another of the new e-learning buzz words. Another buzz word I think that we should be researching and trying to find out how it could be useful to our students.

And just what are these podcasts everybody is talking about? Basically, podcasts are audio files (usually mp3) that are described by a web feed (using RSS or Atom standards) and that can be downloaded and played on personal computers or portable media devices. (Read about podcasts on Wikipedia)

The benefit of having a web feed describing audio files is that applications that understand web feed can alert us when a new audio file is added to a certain channel and even automatically download this file to our computers. Which means that you don't have to manually check for updates on your favorite podcast channels, but you can let your favorite program do the checking and downloading for you. Pretty cool, right?

Now, podcast channels can of course be also used in education. You can record lectures, additional instructions, information or feedback and students can download this content and listen to it at home or on the road using their iPods, Zunes, mobile phones or any other portable device. In this way they can learn whenever they want and at a chosen pace. For example - I always wished I could fast forward parts of the lectures that were already known to me and focus more on parts that were new or particularly interesting to me. Of course that can't be done during traditional lectures, because there is a whole class of students with different needs, knowledge and interests the lecturer must accommodate to. But learning with podcasts is different. You can choose the appropriate time for learning and use the recording of a lecture in any way you want - you can for example review only parts of the lecture that you did not fully understand.

And it is because of the learning flexibility that podcasts offer that I think we should try out this form of delivery and see how students react to it. I also think it's great that we can use our existing e-classroom for this purpose, as there is a simple podcasting module available for our LMS Moodle (the Ipodcast module).

So, I hope we'll be able to test podcasting at our faculty and if and when we do so, I'll surely be posting observations and results on this blog. For now here's a list of articles about podcasts, the process of making podcasts and the uses of podcasting in education that I've used for making a short paper about podcasting for our teachers:

(By the way: if you want a taste of podcasts I suggest listening to the podcast channel 60-Second Science that offers short daily bits of interesting science. If you use iTunes go to Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast... and enter this URL:

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Feeling lost on the web?

If you don't know where to go or what to try next on the web, I suggest checking out these sites:
  • Popurls - want to know the latest news, pics, videos on the web? That's a site that can help you.
  • - self-named complete Web 2.0 directory. A great starting point to find interactive Web 2.0 sites!
Yep, these two sites can really keep you busy! :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What can we learn from the Lost Experience?

Lost is a popular ABC TV show with a pretty simple plot: a plane crashes on a remote island and the plain survivors get stranded on the island, which (as they soon find out) is modestly said a bit odd with a few shy monsters, polar bears, whispers, the Others and what not. Through the show we try to learn more about the island and the lives of the survivors in a really interesting way. The show itself is quite interesting, but what has really made it stand out was the Lost Experience that kept fans busy during the summer break.

The Lost Experience provided fans with new mysteries and some explanations in different forms and through different channels. Fans were hunting for clues through websites, ads, voice mail and even a novel, and had to use various skills to make sense of the clues. The creators of the game also managed to include very clever ways of advertising for different products (see the Wikipedia article).

Ok, ok - I'm a Lost fan and all this is of course very interesting to me, but why am I writing about the Lost Experience on this e-learning blog? Well, it is my opinion that educators could learn a thing or two from this interactive game and perhaps use it to our advantage in our classes. Just imagine a class that would be as interesting as the show and that would provide additional information (and training) through a series of interactive web (or mobile) tools. Just imagine your students getting so fanatic about searching for new clues and having to use different skills to access them. That would be pretty cool, right?

I already wrote about a similar form of learning in my post about WebQuests, and the Lost Experience was a sort of WebQuest, but I think such quests (not just with the web prefix, but also including libraries, mobile technologies, traditional media etc.) should also be taken a step further by lectures (not necessarily exclusively face-to-face) that would interest students in the subject perhaps with a bit of mystery and stories - why shouldn't we borrow some tricks from the most interesting TV shows? If I think back to my education I see too many boring hours of facts (not always up-to-date), interesting topics killed by poor delivery, too little space for creativity and not enough of collaboration. And collaboration is also something very important that made the Lost Experience not just interesting but also possible. The Lost Experience would be a really boring and difficult experience to follow without the collaboration among players. The players of this games worked together to find clues, understand their meaning and then discuss it. One week you could be the first to find and decipher a clue and share it with others, the next week you perhaps got clues from other players.

So, how can we put all this cool stuff into practice? Well, first of we could and perhaps should encourage students more to look beyond the typical LMS. Of course it's great to have all the course materials and assignments in one place, but students should be encouraged to look for other sources of information and other tools. The course material should be written in a more interesting way, it should challenge students to verify information, to look for alternative explanations. And course activities should encourage students to use different tools and skills. The LMS should perhaps mainly be a centralized place to share learning experiences, discuss new findings, argue about important questions etc.

I really think that we can learn a lot from the observation of things that manage to intrigue people. And I believe that learning and education should be intriguing for students. Now we have lots of tools that can help us to make that happen; the only limit is our own imagination and creativity. And I think the best way to get new ideas is to find forms of learning that people start on their own and that they find fun and rewarding. I think that instead of asking ourselves How can we teach this? we should be asking the question How can we make the learners want to learn this?

(If you want to learn more about Lost or the Lost Experience I suggesting the Lostpedia. Yes, the show even has its own huge Wiki!)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Digital flexibility

I am young enough to qualify as a member of the Digital Natives, and although I try to keep up-to-date with all new technologies, I've noticed that in some aspects of computer usage I still stick with my old thought patterns that can be dated to as back as the times of Windows 3.1 (when I was learning to use computers). Of course, that's something we always do to simplify our lives: when you find something that works you keep it, and rarely stop to reconsider its efficiency after some time. And this thought has led me to consider my digital flexibility or in other words try to answer this question: How much do my thought patterns that are related to computer usage change as a consequence of developments in the software I use?

This year I was finally introduced to the world of Macs and Mac OS X (Tiger). After a few months of heavy daily usage I can now say that I got used to the UI pretty fast, learned new keyboard shortcuts, but I can still catch myself using certain persistent Windows 3.1 methods that aren't really adding to my work efficiency. You want a practical example? (If not, move to the last paragraph ;) ) Here it is: I wanted to modify a contact in my address book - and what did I do? I opened Address Book and started looking for the contact in the list. It was only after a few seconds of intense reading through the list of names that I said to myself: why don't I use the search box? And so I did - I typed the first few letters of the name I was searching for and ta-da! the contact is ready to edit. Ah, so simple.

Another example? One of my favorite Windows applications was the Windows Explorer. Why? Well, because it allows you to organize your hard drives, organize files in folders and sub folders and then have a nice hierarchical view of all folders. Yes, pretty. And I am still very strict about keeping and organizing files in folders - whenever I have more than a few files on a certain subject I make a new folder. Really tidy.

So, now I'm on Mac OS X and here I of course use the Finder and guess what's my favorite view option? Columns of course, so that I can see the structure of folders on my disk. But why is that necessary? What is wrong with the icons view? And an even more important question: Why don't I use Spotlight to access folders? After all it's much easier - Command + Space, type in a few letters and you get all related files, folders, calendar events etc. I already use Spotlight to access programs, so why can't I do the same with files and folders? I don't know - maybe seeing files so nicely organized in folders gives me a sense of physical presence.

But then - why don't we organize our files like mails in GMail? There you have all messages in one place (the Inbox), and you can use Labels to sort them in categories (each item can have one or more labels) and then it's so easy to see the elements in a certain category and if you want to search for something specific just use the search box! And the same principle also applies to blogs on Blogger. And it's a principle I really love to use - but why don't I use some to manage my files? One thing that drives me crazy is saving and organizing different articles - right now I have an unknown number of folders with the title "Articles" and they are located in different folders for different projects. So, why don't I put all the interesting articles in one folder and use Spotlight comments to define the topic or/and the project they relate to?

And it was then that I realized that although I catch up with new inventions relatively fast, I am still attached to some old thought patterns. For this reason I made a resolution: I will try to train myself to be digitally more flexible. I must not stop at admiring new ways of digital interaction, but I must move forward and try to get used to the new way of interaction and if it proves to be efficient, I must adopt it. So my first step will be no more columns view, let's try to take advantage of the Spotlight live search technology! :)

Ok, ok, why is all this important for anyone else but me? Because if we want to keep up with new developments we have to try to really understand new ideas and concepts. Of course - I'm not saying we should all start doing things in a new way as soon as the new way is shown - but we could at least try to give the new way a try. And from time to time we can evaluate our digital flexibility. Trying to adapt to new thought patters can after all be a great mental exercise, and for those of us that are trying to bring technology closer to new generations it is almost necessary to understand how new generations are thinking. My younger brother is surely not bothered about folder structures as much as I am, and is certainly more comfortable about dragging and dropping things around the place (that's something I am still not completely comfortable with ;) ). And with the development of new technologies and ways of interaction these differences will probably increase. Now, there's no reason to fear the change - instead we should keep an eye on it and from time to time ask ourselves questions like: How digitally flexible am I? Can I do this task in a different way? How are children using computers - can we learn something from them? And at last but not least - we should be prepared to share our experience with others and be prepared to learn from each other.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Need help with Moodle?

So far I haven't been posting as much about Moodle as I intended to, so to make up for that I'd like to post some resources for using Moodle (for teachers):
These resources were really useful to me when I helping to rewrite the new Moodle manual for teachers of our faculty. I've also been working on a Wiki version of the manual (in Slovenian) and I hope it will be soon available to the public through the new Moodle site we're preparing at our faculty :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Friday, November 10, 2006

About time perception

Maybe a bit off topic (though this being my personal blog I can never really be off topic ;) ) - I stumbled upon a really interesting article on about inner time perception: Teach your brain to stretch time. The article presents some really interesting findings and theories about how our brains deal with time and why time flies by or seems to stand still on different occasions.

This reminds me of a great BBC series that I recently saw - Supernatural. The series features the episode Time Warp in which differences in time perception among animals are presented. Definitely a series I recommend to see!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

"More College Students Taking Web Courses" reports that there are More College Students Taking Web Courses. Hurray! Of course, such articles can be very useful to support arguments about how cool e-learning is, but I think that they can also be a bit misleading. Why? Well, because in a way they lead to the conclusion that quantity equals quality. The article makes me think more about those 38 percent of "chief academic officers" included in the reported survey that don't think that students learned as well or better from online courses (compared to face-to-face courses) and that perhaps think that the obstacles for online learning are just too big. This isn't such a small percentage - are we just going to ignore this number?

Of course, the report brings good news that the interest in online learning is growing, but with more students enrolled in online courses we also face the problem of having more demanding students. Students are expecting the online learning experience to be as good or even better than their previous face-to-face learning experiences. And if we want this to happen, we can't just let students in an online classroom and tell them to learn!

My personal experience shows that online students need quite some attention and support to deal with online learning, and that is why I think our efforts should be focused on developing ways and strategies for providing better online learning support. I believe that providing better support for students will also lead to even more positive quantitative statistical data and will help to kick most of the online learning barriers away. But for this to happen we must rethink our educational paradigm and start proving quality tutoring for online students. Among my favorite articles on this subject are Mark Prensky's E-nough! and Alfred Bork's Teaching and Learning are Often Mentioned Together.

So, I really hope that more articles and reports will be focusing on how to improve support for online students. And when we learn more about that and put it to work in practice, then perhaps it will be the right time to be truly proud of an increasing number of enrollments in online courses. Let's not forget that we are here for the students and that the key factor for our success is their satisfaction with online courses and not the number of students that give online courses a try (and perhaps drop out soon afterwards because of poor course delivery)!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

MIC'06: Communication in a virtual classroom (Abstract)

Here's the abstract for the article Communication in a virtual classroom that I will be presenting at the MIC'06 conference. I will post the link to the full article when the conference publication is published online.

Internet is a communication information technology that can be used for different activities, including online learning. As with traditional learning, communication is an important aspect of the interaction between teachers and students. In this paper we try to present the communicational view of online learning and the unique issues that must be taken in account when using Internet for pedagogical activities. Our research showed that differences in relationships, communication comfort and forms of communication emerge in online learning. We also found out that Internet can be used for successful learning based communication, provided that the participants have sufficiently developed skills for online communication.

Keywords: online learning, communication, learning flexibility, online relationships

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Three types of work-changing IT

The article Mastering the Three Worlds of Information Technology by Andrew McAfee describes three types of work-changing IT (Function IT, Network IT, Enterprise IT) and the steps for managing these three types (IT selection, IT adoption, IT exploitation).

Great resource for all managers that are confused by the variety of IT on the market and the pressing need to introduce IT in their business processes - and also a great resource for students of our E-business course :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What is E-learning 2.0?

Web 2.0 has become a popular buzz word and of course you can't have Web 2.0 with ordinary e-learning - so now it's time for E-learning 2.0! Confused? Yeah, I know how you feel. But I think that reading this article about E-learning 2.0 by Stephen Downes can help you to understand the meaning and practical application of these buzz words.

For me E-learning 2.0 represents a real opportunity to finally shift the focus from the technology to the users and to make e-learning really a learning experience and not just a different form of study material delivery. Education does in my opinion need to move with the technology developments. Not only because we need to develop appropriate 21st century skills to keep with up new technologies, but also because we need to learn how to involve digital native generations in learning.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Let's go on a WebQuest!

Huh? Can I hear you asking what is a WebQuest? Here are some formal answers:
Now that we are familiar with the theory we can see that WebQuests promote an active way of learning through the transformation of various web resources and prior knowledge to a learning outcome that students relate to. WebQuests can use different types of tasks (for a classification of WebQuest tasks see A Taxonomy of Tasks) to activate students and stimulate their learning and understanding of a subject.

And where can an educator interested in taking his/her students on a WebQuest start? You can browse sites that provide list of WebQuests in different categories (like or you can make up your own WebQuest. If you want to create your own unique WebQuest I suggest the reading of The 7 Red Flags: Warning Signs when Sifting WebQuests (also by Tom March) that provide some examples that can help you distinguish between real WebQuests and quests that will mostly result in training your student's thumb and index fingers (because of the continual stroking of Command+C and Command+V keys).

Of course, our students aren't the only people that should be taking WebQuests. WebQuests can be a great way of learning - even for educators. If you want to give it a try I suggest following the WebQuest: Leveraging the Latest in Learning Technologies (guess by who? Yes, again Tom March). Through this quest you will try to answer the main question: "What's up with these new technologies and are they any good for learning?" and I think it can be a great exercise to get a bit more familiar with all these new technologies and to think about how they can be used in practice.

I hope these links will encourage some new WebQuests to take place and consequently some new knowledge to be learnt :) And don't forget to share your experience with WebQuests with others in your favorite way!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who wants to be a member of the European Parliament?

Coming from Poland there's an new online game that imitates the European Parliament. In the game players from EU (and other) countries can discuss current issues, join political fractions, cast their votes and much more. You can read more about this game in this article or on the game site: Supposedly there will also be e-learning lessons that will teach participants about EU politics, though non are currently available.

As you can guess, I already signed up for the game and taken a look around. I am still looking for a fraction that promotes e-learning to join - or maybe I'll just create my own e-learning/geek fraction ;) Jokes apart - I think the game is a great EU initiative that will hopefully help us to learn more about the mysterious EU politics and build a stronger EU identity.

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

How can blogging help our brains

Today I came across the article Brain of the Blogger in which the author explains his hypothesis that blogging has beneficial affects on our brains and can help to develop critical and analytical thinking.

Although I've been seriously blogging only for a short time, I can already agree with most of the ideas presented in the article. Keeping a blog makes you analyze what you read more deeply because whenever you see an interesting idea you feel the need to share it with others through your blog. And as publishing new posts is so easy that you don't need to worry about the technology behind it, you can just focus your mind on how to best present this new ideas to the readers of your blog.

Also, for me reading other people's blogs is very stimulating not only because I pick up many new ideas and points of view, but also because you can see so many different forms of expression (both verbally and visually).

And finally, I also think that blogs bring back the fun to "surfing the web" that we had when first web sites appeared online in the 90ies. And it's not just fun - from my personal experience following links between blogs can be a great learning experience - and I can only humbly hope that my blog can be part of a learning experience for its readers :)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Friday, November 03, 2006

List of free open source software (Mac & Win)

Two essential websites that list the best open source software:
Right now I'm giving Democracy Player a try. The player enables subscription to video RSS feeds and is available for all major platforms. Sounds interesting!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

My favorite education/learning quotes

In this post I'd like to provide a list to some of my favorite education/learning related quotes. Why? Because I think they can be used to as an reflection on what we are doing as educators and how is this affecting our students - and although thinking reflection will not by itself make big changes in our work, it can be the first step toward great new practices and ideas that can make a change.

“Someday, in the distant future, our grandchildren's grandchildren will develop a new equivalent of our classrooms. They will spend many hours in front of boxes with fires glowing within. May they have the wisdom to know the difference between light and knowledge.”
“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel”

Chinese proverb:
“Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand.”

Oscar Wilde:
“Everybody who is incapable of learning has taken to teaching.”

Albert Einstein:
“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”

Robert Frost:
“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper.”
“There are two kinds of teachers: the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can't move, and the kind that just gives you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.”

Tom Bodett:
“The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson.”

Roger Lewin:
“Too often students are given answers to remember, rather than problems to solve”

All quotes were found on - have fun at finding your favorite quotes!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tips & tricks for online tutoring

Since the first day I've found the work of an online tutor highly challenging and engaging. The biggest challenge for me is finding ways in which to direct and motivate students with their course activities, and getting to know individual needs and expectations of my students. At the end of the study year 2005/2006 I carried out a survey about student satisfaction with the work of their online tutor. In this post I'd like to present student opinions about my work, while a more detailed presentation of the survey will be included in my diploma (after I study some more advanced statistics ;) ).

So, what did the students like most about my work?
(I picked some of the responses - the only change I made was the translation from Slovenian to English)
  • An unobtrusive way of presenting information.
  • That the tutor participated whenever it was necessary and that she always helped us when we were stuck.
  • Kindness, immediate answers, professional attitude.
  • Objectivity.
  • The tutor's interventions in our discussion were good and she guided us.
  • Encouraging words, quick response in case of problems, relaxed atmosphere.
  • That she always responded when she was asked to and when she sensed that we were going astray from out discussions or that she encouraged us when we despaired.
  • Actually, I got more than I expected.
It is clear that students appreciate short response times, and a fair relationship. All this in my opinion helped them to get a sense of my constant presence and in a way make up for the physical and time separations among us. From my experience I can say that the trick of being a good online tutor is being with your students just when they need you most. Being online 24/7 is absolutely unnecessary - students don't really notice your presence if they have no need for you; but they will notice your absence if you're not with them in times of greatest needs (like approaching deadlines, first encounters with a new activities, major group conflicts etc). Also, it helps to give a sense of presence to occasionally write a few words of praise when the students are working well and on their own - just to let them know that you're there and that you appreciate their work. For me the best compliment I got from my students was when a student asked me: "How many hours a day were you online? At least 8, right?" - when actually I was spending on average less then 1.5 hours a day in our virtual classroom. But of course - there were days when I was spending 3 whole hours just working with students online, and then there were days when I only spent half an hour in the virtual classroom.

And here's another trick - it's better to log in the system a few times a day than to spend a certain amount of hours online once a day. The picture I made displays this concept. The red dots represent activities that require response, the rectangles (the color matches the color of the tutor) represent the time each tutor spends online - we can see that in the case of the Morning tutor (that is online online for X numbers in the mornings) the response time for certain activities is much longer than in the case of the Flexible tutor (that also works less because he responds to student needs).

While I was tutoring the course, I checked for new posts AT LEAST 3 times a day - first thing in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening; and that is how I was able to quickly respond to all questions and all unexpected situations. And why is that so? Because one of the advantages of e-learning is the flexibility in time and space - students can freely choose when and where they will work from. Some do it when they get to the office in the morning, some do it in the afternoons, and some in late evening after they put their kids to bed. And if you as an online tutor want to be there for them you have to keep track of all these groups (luckily for me we don't have students in different time zones or I'd probably be awoke by concern in the middle of the night to check the evening activities of american students and morning activities of asian students ;) ).

Yes, being an online tutor (in my opinion) definitely isn't a straight 8 hours work. In hours it may seem like you don't too much, but you do have to work practically all day and even during weekends. Plus you have to predicts the needy situation that will require more of your attention, but in the end, for me, it's a fun and exciting job as few others.

And here are some of my favorite links related to the the subject of this post (alphabetically):

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Apple Dashboard Widgets on Windows

So, what can you do if you're stuck on Windows and want to use Apple Dashboard Widgets? You can go to Widgetop - a site that imitates Mac OS X widgets in your browsers (the site supposedly works best with Firefox). The whole thing isn't as pretty as the real thing of course, but if you want pretty you stick to Mac OS X ;)

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.

Creating Passionate Users

Marketing professionals are already aware of the importance of user attitudes towards products. User loyalty can be won by regularly exceeding user expectations and giving them just that extra bit more to create passionate and thus loyal users. Products that consumers mark as good are on a good path, but those that users mark as very good or even excellent have the potential of gaining user loyalty.

And while most of the really successful companies are trying to catch up with the consumer centered production, or educational system is still ages behind. From my experience of formal education schools are run for school's sake - meaning that they don't really try to create knowledge, but to achieve preset goals that don't really care about the participants (and here I mean both teachers and students). Teachers must "teach" a certain quantity of facts that students will forget in a few months anyway - but hey! the school's plan was carried out! And the evaluation only takes place a few times a year and few care to wonder if what is being taught is really being learnt.

Surely, these days learner centered design is a big word, but (speaking from my personal experience) it is still too slow in catching up with real life education. And that is why I think it is important for educators to actively think about the needs of our students and share our experience with other educator - and more than ever the technology to do it is now at hand.

Blogs are certainly a great way to stimulate reflection and share ideas, and one blog I will certainly keep an eye on is Creating Passionate Users. The reading of this blog was actually what motivated me to write this post, and although there are still many interesting posts I have to catch up, I'd suggest reading the article Crash course in learning theory as a starting point in this great blog. Click, click - this blog certainly goes to my favorite RSS feeds!

Note: This is just an archive post. The blog has moved to a new home at, where you will also find a copy of the entire blog.