I wrote some while ago Updates about the progress of my “Studienberechtigungsprüfung”. So here is another one for everyone interested: It’s finished, since last Tuesday I’m officially studying “Software & Information Engineering”.
After my last math exam around end of June, the last exam missing was the Essay about a general Topic, which I had on the 8th of July.

I needed a little bit over one year for it. And it was a fascinating year. The idea to study, even though I already had the thought to one day do it already a long time, came up as such a small idea and all the exams (also some university exams for the first & second semester) went on so smoothly … I’m really surprised about … about the way all this worked out, about myself, …

So in October I’m starting my first semester as an official Student … till then I have holidays (at least from learning … I’m at the moment working around 70 hours per Week in Prater, which is really funny because you work outside and work with people and even though you don’t earn much per hour have a great time there and see “new working worlds”).


So this is the last entry in the projectlog for my Seminary “Grundlagen Methodischen Arbeitens”.
I will try to wrap it up with some conclusions about the topic of E-Learning & Virtual Communities, partly related to the Seminary, partly non-related stuff that was coming into my head while thinking about these topics.

Seminary related Wrap-Up:

I never thought before that so many people were researching the topic of the combination of “E-Learning & Web 2.0” or “modern E-Learning”.
Slidecasting is one of many projects in this area and I think that with more functions it will be more motivating and of better use for the Students.
But it could also be that the whole motivation by features/rating/membership-levels thinking is idealistic and that the only way to motivate Students is by giving them something back that can affect their grades (e.g. points).
And maybe another point is that some Students can never be motivated to take part in anything that isn’t necessary to receive a positive grade.

Personal Wrap-Up:

Especially the topic of Virtual Communties is a really big topic, which got me interested (maybe because I’m taking part/took part in many Virtual Communites 😉 ). There is then also the fact that some Virtual Communites also change to also be Real Life Communities. Even that alone (questions like “how to sucessfully motivate users to also join Real Life Meetings”,”why are some communties so sucessfull in motivating their users to also join meetings in Real Life”,…) brings up many questions which probably were already researched by many people.
Also I found out that Virtual Communties are nearly a 1:1 reproduction of the Real-Life. Including people who work a huge amount of time for the communites, but also the possibillity of a sort of “burn out” syndrom. People are still doing their voluntary work for a Community but did too much, so that they no longer really appreciate to do it.

Invent a Feature for Slidecasting

The last task of the Seminary was to read the Paper about Slidecasting (Exploring the “Massive Multiplayer E-Learning” Concept) and then invent and present a new Feature for Slidecasting.

Our Idea was a Feature where you could send comments for Slidecasting via SMS.
The slides of our presentation can be found here.

Why send comments via SMS? Well, 99 % of the Students have their mobile phone in the Lecture, but only around 16 % have their Notebook in the Lecture.
So this could be a possibillity for more Students to make comments during the Lecture.

Disadvantages of this Feature would be that a SMS needs longer (even though not much longer, due to Students often writing SMS). Also even though many Students have a high number of free SMS per month or only pay 1 Cent per SMS, some pay around 20 Cent which is even though it’s not much, more than what you pay if you are using a Laptop and WLAN to make comments.

Advantages of this Feature would be a higher Quantity of Comments, because nearly every Student could make a comment and that the Students don’t have to take their Notebook to the Lecture.
Also we found out in the Seminary, that there could be the possibillity for Students to send in a Slidecasting Comment via SMS or MMS while they are on their way.

Invent a Motivation Strategy for an E-Learning System

The next task was to think about all the Motivation Strategies presented in the Seminary and invent an implementation of one of these or a new Motivation Strategy for use in an E-Learning System, that motivates the Students and think about if it is “fake resistant”, and post it as a comment on the Blog of the Seminary.
My idea (english translation of my comment on the Blog):

GSI (the Course in which Slidecasting 2.0 is used) is a Course which is about diverse latest topics. Textcomments are interesting, but more interesting would be URLs with further Content to this topics (URLs are especially convinient because they can link to all sorts of Content [e.g. Pictures, Videos, Text …]).
My idea relates mostly to the use of URLs as Content.
Due to the fact, that, while the Lecture, you don’t see what other people posted, it could be a sort of Qualitycriteria how often a Link was posted. Links which were posted by 5 People are most probably more interesting and relate more to the Topic, than links posted by only 1 person.
Eventually it would also be possible to don’t publish the comments in the Slidecasting System for a few days after the Lecture, so that also people without a Notebook have the possibility to post interesting Links without knowing if someone else found the Link before them.

In General I think an important factor for Motivation in E-Learning Systems for Courses like GSI could be, that there must be the possibility to create a comment out of Multimedia Content.

Motivation Strategies in Virtual Communities

Task Number 4 was to read an assigned paper and introduce the main concepts of this paper to the rest of the Seminary.
We had to read the Paper User Motivation in Peer-to-peer Systems.

It is about Comtella, a P2P System for the exchange of resources, e.g. Papers, used at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
The problem with the system was that it’s technical functionallity was good, but there were not many Users online and due to this fact not many Resources were found.

The Team of Comtella looked for a Solution to this problem and tried to solve it by implementing a hierachical membership model, where Users get a higher Level when they do more for the Community (e.g. share Resources, stay online, …) and get better Functions with each level.

They implemented this motivation model into Comtella in a testphase for one course. The results of this testphase were that more users used Comtella more often and the Quanity of the avaiable resources increased, but also that the overall Quality of the resources decreased.

Why do people participate in Web 2.0/Virtual Communities?

The third task (even though it’s already a while ago, but I have to finish this projectlog soon) was to find out why people do participate in Web 2.0 and Virtual Communities. To find answers to this questions, we did some literature research in the Internet and bookmarked the pages with interesting answers on diigo.com

So I found the following pages:
1.) Criteria for using Web 2.0
2.) Virtual Communites: What and why?
3.) Motivating Users – Peekaboom and the ESP Game
4.) The Art of creating a Community

The first website lists some Criteria when it can be usefull to “add” Web 2.0 Elements to a Website. Mostly related to business websites, they also list user motivation as a main Criteria, for example by letting the users generate or share content and then do something with all the shared or generated content.
Website number two explains shortly what Virtual Communites are and lists some examples of Virtual Communities. Also it gives examples of what people do in Virtual Communites: Socialize, Work together or have conversations about diverse topics.
The site “Motivating Users – Peekaboom and the ESP Game” is about 2 Web 2.0 Websites, that try to motivate their users to tag pictures/parts of pictures by creating a game around the process of tagging.
The last website describes how to create a sucessfull Virtual Community.

So there are many answers about why people participate in Virtual Communties, some where described above and I think one of the biggest one is clearly motivation. If there is no motivation (in what ever form the creators of a Virtual Community choose), nobody will take part in the Community. While reflecting about this subject and wondering why some people invest as much (monetary) unpaid time as you would work in a part-time job, I found out that Virtual Communities are much older then Web 2.0 is and that people were already active in diverse Virtual Communites (Mailbox Systems, Online Games, Chatrooms, …) before the Web 2.0 “hype”. Now with “Web 2.0 Virtual Communites”  just much more people take part in them. And investing much unpaid time into a Community also already existed before Web 2.0, even before the Internet. Before the Internet (and also nowadays) some people invested their spare time into clubs/associations (in german called Verein). But nowdays with the Internet and newer Technologies like Web 2.0 more people can connect much easier and find people who are interested in the same topics as they are.

About Web 2.0 there is a very interesting video, made by the same guy as “A Vision of Students today” which I posted earlier in this blog: