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Week 4: The benefits of support networks and how to develop them

Introduction

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Figure 1 Technology gives us the opportunity to connect widely

One of the best ways to enhance your confidence and ability in teaching online is to reach out to others. This may be to form a network of peers who are all at a similar stage and can work through teaching ideas together and offer moral support and shared experiences, or it may involve connecting to people who have already achieved the objective you are trying to achieve and can pass on useful advice. The great advantage of using online tools, and in particular social networking tools, to establish these connections, is that you can decide what you want to discuss, how, when and with whom. You can be passive and ‘lurk’, or be more active and join in with sharing or discussion. The control lies in your hands, and you can choose to share only what you want to share, or how much time you want to invest.

Concepts that we have introduced to help you understand online teaching, such as synchronous and asynchronous communication, also apply to the variety of platforms and tools you find here. Social networking tools include discussion or message boards, but equally, can focus on ways of sharing and curating information such as social bookmarking and micro-blogging. Much of what you do when you use the internet can be shared if you want it to be. In turn, you should be able to find people with similar interests in using online learning to you, who share findings or resources that they think are useful.

In this week of the course you will find out about what advantages can be gained by expanding your online networks, and will start to work on developing your own.

Teacher reflections

This week we have another clip from Sarah S., whom you have already encountered in a previous week. Here she reflects on her experiences with online networks:

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By the end of this week, you should be able to:

  • understand the benefits of networks to the online teacher
  • discuss the concepts of communities of practice and network weather
  • develop useful online networks to augment your teaching practice.

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