Getting used to online interfaces

We are into our second week of the FAO/CGIAR Knowledge Sharing workshop (the first, online phase of 4+ weeks) and I was struck by a conversation in one of our mentors learning logs (we each have a space for journaling.) Alexandra (who logs in as Maria Jorge) has come back after taking the first version of this workshop earlier this year to be a mentor. Joined in this conversation copied (with permission) below, is Michael, another past participant returning as a mentor, and Gauri, who moved from past participant to co-facilitator!

Maria Jorge – Friday, 5 September 2008, 03:57 AM

Hi all,

I think this second time (I participated already in the first KS) I am more excited about interacting with people and benefit from their experiences… I also want to browse through the moodle and learn a few extra tools. I hope to have time over the weekend to explore this more.

I like the new look of the moodle! The idea of having the list of facilitators and participants timezone and city all together is great, it gives a sense of group, of ‘room’ where everybody is together. Thanks for the improvement!

Great to see so much enthusiasm and interaction already!

Nancy White – Friday, 5 September 2008, 03:55 PM
I’m giggling, Alexandra, because I don’t think we changed much at all in the moodle. In fact we exported everything from the old workshop, reinstalled it here, then just pulled out the old discussions!! What seems different?

Michael Riggs – Sunday, 7 September 2008, 09:41 PM
Alexandra, I felt the same way! I liked the “new and improved” Moodle site for KS2 when I first logged in last week. It seems much easier to get around. So much so I went back to the KS1 site to see what had changed … and realized, as Nancy says, not much! I guess the site became more familiar through the process of KS1 than I had realized, and now navigating around seems quite straightforward. Chalk one up to experience.

Maria Jorge – Monday, 8 September 2008, 02:19 AM
Hi Michael,
Thanks for sharing your impressions too, so I do not feel so weird… I guess we learn more than we realized and some issues become ‘naturally’ familiar without us noticing. I think that the idea of a week zero (i.e. extra time to browse around without much extra commitment) was good (I don’t remember this in the first KS but perhaps there was that too and I do not remember…? I started a bit late so perhaps is that what I missed then?

Nancy White – Monday, 8 September 2008, 10:58 AM
I would love to “quote” this conversation on my blog if you two would be comfortable. It is a PERFECT example of what changes when we get used to a tool and it starts to disappear into the background.

Alexandra, you are right, “week 0” is new. Remember that first call in the first workshop where we tried to both cover the technology and begin substantive conversations? It was a MESS!!!

Gauri Salokhe – Monday, 8 September 2008, 12:22 PM
I can only second what you both have observed. The second time around it does seem easier to use and navigate. In terms of main page (central part) there is one difference – we have tried to put all the weeks’ main activities right at the top. In week 1, we only have week 1 related information and week 0 information is removed and placed elsewhere. In my case, this helps me navigate the space better.

What I also observed is that as a participant, the constant flow of emails seemed overwhelming but as a facilitator I am excited that there is so much happening, especially happy to see that there is so much interaction between participants and everyone trying to help each other.

Maria Jorge

Nancy, you can use our conversation for your blog. No problem!

Michael Riggs – Tuesday, 9 September 2008, 01:41 AM
That is OK with me Nancy.

Two things surface for me here.

  1. Use over time should make things easier. As we master a new interface (no matter how difficult or simple) it should fade into the background so we focus on interaction and content. Design has a lot to do with how fast this happens, as does frequency of use and individual preferences.
  2. Our role impacts are experience of the platform or tool. Obviously when we design something, we have deep familiarity. But when we have a specific role, we approach the platform with different eyes. Facilitator, mentor, participant, designer. So not only does this harken back to my old saw “designed for a group, experienced by an individual,” but it suggests that we may adapt faster if we have a specific role to play.

What do you think?

Edit on Wednesday – Gauri shared some of her reflections on her blog. And I continue to ponder this not only from a “workshop” perspective, but from an ongoing communities of practice perspective.