I don’t often have the opportunity to be a newbie in a web based learning experience. Last week the Executive Director of our national professional association offered to take the staff through the “Values Exchange” . The Association has been working with Professor David Seedhouse to develop ethical cases relevant to occupational therapists to work through. However, the uptake has been very slow across the profession despite the fact that it is free to do and available on the NZAOT website. One of our staff is also considering using the tool in class with her undergraduate occupational therapy students, so the opportunity to trial out the “Values Exchange” in a F2F situation with the Director who has used it seemed like a great idea. About 7 or so staff came – one or two a bit late – the significance of which I’ll talk about soon.

The programme is supposed to be intuitive, so the Director was there to help us, but didn’t plan to run a ‘tutorial’ as such, to teach how to use. For me it was a very interesting experience to see how we all approached the task of working out how to use Values Exchange – who was successful (if you define successful as being able to interact with the programme)… and who found it to be a frustrating exercise and why. This is really useful learning for me as our postgraduate students engage in their study on a fully online basis and what looks intuitive to us, I know is not always so!

But back to the “Values Exchange”. Some of us were relatively quick to get going in that we were able to find the right spot on the webpage, and to get into the parts we needed to quite quickly. We also had the skills to realise that when we selected a video clip that demonstrated a particular aspect and we couldn’t hear the sound, then we knew how to find the speaker and unmute quickly without having to ask for help. So problem solving skills and ability to scan a web screen and decide which buttons to select first seem to be key skills in being in an online learning experience for the first time.

What else – well it seemed that thinking styles were really influential as well. Some of us were happy just to work through the various steps – treating it very much as a trial and error process and not worrying too much about what might get saved and read later by others or not. This meant that we clicked lots of different things, found stuff, but weren’t hung up about whether we were doing it ‘right’ or not. Others were obviously frustrated right from the beginning as they didn’t know what the ‘end’ would look like, so didn’t quite know what they should enter at each stage. This slowed them down as they clearly wanted to think about what they should enter in the decision making boxes… but didn’t know how the data would be presented back to them and what others would see. They were hesitant to use trial and error, and wanted to understand the ‘whole’ before engaging in each part as it was presented.

This approach to the same task in different ways by different people reminded me of the work around thinking styles byAnthony Gregorc. Information about his thinking on this topic can be found here (information on the questionnaire) and here (information about each style – there are 4 scroll down to the end of the page to view each one).