So the new arrivals and returners are mostly up and running. Each time a new BN cohort starts I try to 'promote connections' by creating a small number of discussion lists in Blackboard. This year there are three: 'General support, feedback and collaboration'; 'Profiles' and 'Set Rep'. During induction sessions I encourage students to use them by:
1. Describing how the forums are different to facebook (no-one yet has succeeded in getting all the students into a single facebook group)
2. Reading out a really useful discussion that took place some years ago about student placements.
3. Encouraging students to 'subscribe' to the forums so that they get email alerts when a new message is posted.
4. Letting go, telling them that the forums have great potential but that this will only be realised if they participate meaningfully.
After some initial buzz, the lists tend to quieten down somewhat. But I had reason to hope that some lights might have come on when a student posted up a list of common nursing abbreviations for the general good, adding that the order they were listed in made sense to them and if anyone wanted to contribute some more, they'd be welcome.
This started alarm bells ringing for me because threaded discussion is a poor tool for accumulating knowledge. Threads get lost over time and only one person can add to the original list. So I posted the abbreviations into a wiki page. This wiki has been up for years, in a place where all the students on this programme can access it, but none of them really 'get' what it's for, in spite of my attempts to seed it with useful suggestions. I've had about fifteen 'views' of this new abbreviations page now so I'm hoping it'll at least plant the idea in a few heads.
I believe that this kind of opportunism could be at least as effective, 'pound for pound', for promoting networked learning (as an element of their nascent epistemic fluency) amongst students as anything else I could say or do.