Wednesday, September 4, 2013

[This is cross-posted from a Google+ comment in the Community called Google Apps for Education] I used G+ Communities for two of my undergrad classes last semester. Different courses, one face-to-face and one online. I am just activating new ones for fall, similar situation. I did not have a single Community for the whole class because I did not have a good reason for making students join in. But I did have a Circle for the whole class so I could share with everyone in a single post. Here are a few points that might be of interest. Feedback or suggestions from anyone here will be welcome!

  • I set up all student Communities as Private, not Public. This was to create the sense of a "safe" space. Only a few students had stated concerns. The institution doesn't know or care, to my knowledge. This semester I am doing the same setup.
  • I encouraged but did not require students to use Circles. I think the G+ experience is much richer if you do Circles, but I am not sure you can force that level of participation on someone else.
  • I make sure students know they can set up their own Communities for class or for anything else. This is not obvious to everyone who joins G+. (In other words, don't assume.)
  • There were about 10 students per Community. This was "management" on my part. Smaller means you need more Communities. Also, with only 4 or 5 people (reasonable for face-to-face) you can still have a "dead" online space with no conversation or interaction. BTW only a couple of Communities seemed to have organic/spontaneous conversation. The rest waited for the instructor (or TA). So I will change several things this fall.
  • On that note, my participants are students in General Education courses (required, not elective, not usually in the student's major). Some are very interested in the subject matter and some are not. I don't want to stereotype further, but I do want to allow multiple ways to participate in the class. G+ is only one way.
  • As to the Google Apps side, one class did very well sharing Docs within the Communities—some real collaboration here and there. The other class treated the space more like a conventional discussion board. I think this was more in the nature of my assignments for each class and I will be more mindful of that. The point is to allow lower-case "c" community to happen, not to duplicate an old LMS or forum.
  • This fall, I have included a registration survey to look for people who might be more active and who might get "promoted" to moderator. I will put one or two (who are willing) in each student Community. (Survey tip is from +Jeannie Crowley.)
  • This fall, I will use Categories more frequently and (hopefully) better aligned with my course topics. This was an afterthought in the Spring, poor planning. I think this will give a better sense of organization inside the Communities.
  • This fall, I will share my class Circle with all the students early and discuss my #PLN openly with them. This was an oversight! In my defense, I didn't expect anyone to really get into the Circle thing or network-building. However, more students are being gently pushed into LinkedIn for some reason, so the current crop are thinking about networks beyond Facebook.

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