July 8, 2015
Some of us may be active in online discussion forums around personal and professional interests, some may require our students to actively participate in online discussions with their peers – and some of us may do both, and some may do neither. Discussion forums are challenging in that, just like email, you can’t accurately “read” a facial expression or voice inflection. Synchronous online discussions can be challenging to follow and to participate in, depending upon your typing skills. Asynchronous online discussions can be choppy and take longer than we are willing to wait for a response. The timing, the format, the flow… all are properties that challenge us when engaging in online communications.
And then, there is the challenge of selecting the correct platform to utilize. When connected to a university course, most of us will use the built-in discussion tool with our course management systems. Edutopia has an excellent document that reviews online discussion board facilitation to strengthen the experience for all involved. But what about the other options that exist for professional exchanges through the internet?
I’d like to share an experience I recently had doing a scheduled online chat with the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Wiki team with the platform Muut. Muut defines themselves as “the quickest and lightest forum and commenting platform designed around user experience. Unlimited traffic and users, for free.” (see the Muut Manifesto to learn more, or view this video) The SEG Wiki team uses Muut for bi-monthly chats about their geology and applied geoscience-focused wiki. I have students working on developing new pages for the SEG wiki this summer, and I was happy to be the guest for the June 30th chat to discuss educational technology and ways to keep connected in the geosciences.
Anyone could log in with their Facebook or Google+ credentials to participate in the chat and post questions. Not logging in still allowed people to view the live chat and go through the archive. I was thankful Isaac Farley (SEG Digital Publications Manager) and Andrew Geary (SEG Wiki Manager) emailed me a list of questions ahead of time that they planned on asking, so I could formulate and type up my responses before the chat began. Having the questions ahead of time helped me feel confident and prepared going in to the live chat, but it also meant keeping open my MS Word document with my pre-written responses and a browser window with the chat during the session. I also had to keep an eye on the questions being asked of me, as some of the questions were skipped and jumped in order (which would happen in a normal conversation, so I should have expected this), which meant I had to copy-and-paste the correct responses into Muut!
Despite my desire and vision for a structured interview, I really enjoyed and appreciated the questions that came in. Again, my fast typing skills were tested, but having questions asked of me, as I’ve captured in this screenshot, provided an opportunity to discuss a topic that was clearly important to and on the mind of the online participant. I was surprised at how fast the one-hour chat went by, and how I enjoyed the experience more than I thought. I would absolutely do an online interview/chat again, and I encourage others to think about using Muut or whatever platform you prefer to connect with colleagues and do some Earth science outreach.
My full chat is archived online at: https://muut.com/segwiki#!/segwiki:segwikichat-30-june-2015/.
For those that are interested in viewing or participating in a chat with Muut, a listing of future dates/topics for the SEG Wiki chats can be found at: http://wiki.seg.org/wiki/Wiki_chat.