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Building Democratic Learning

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The Limits of xMOOCs & the Emergence of Learning

There has been a lot of interest in MOOCs, actually xMOOCs, with the launch in the UK of Futurelearn and the support of Secretary of State David Willetts (who closed world-leading elearning NDPB Becta) on Newsnight July 1 2013. This is a blog post critiquing xMOOCs that I wrote in October 2012 and have been updating.
I’ve been following a discussion thread about MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) on the ALT list and wrote this about the Limits of MOOCs, something that I think we are trying to address here on the WikiQuals project.
I’ve been participating in MOOCs and working on various #open #learning strategies and projects, for some time; I actually don’t think MOOCs are now much about learning at all; they have become content-driven #edspam and work in similar ways to spam, with a very limited ‘completion’ rate. Admittedly the original MOOC vision of Stephen Downes, George Siemens & Dave Cormier was focussed on developing a model of learning that reflects their interest in distributed knowledge.  Hence the ‘self-referential’ quality that some people comment on about their CCK MOOCs on Connectivism. MOOCs were about Connectivism, and explored the use of new digital tools, as their excellent What is a MOOC? makes clear, which is fair enough – they are articulating and developing their vision. They also write on the value of open courses being in Research, Learning & Engagement, which ties in with that original vision, and Cormier argues that you wouldn’t want to Assess within a MOOC either. However newer MOOCs have different agendas.
The key part of a MOOC however is the “Massive Course” dimension and this year, 2012, has seen the big American Universities take the globalisation of education, and their traditional content-push model of learning, into the MOOC arena and have focussed on growing the MC business; Udacity, Coursera, MITx etc. Gavin, for example, on the ALT list commented that his experience is that Coursera is content-centric and that you must navigate as they command; of course! Downes et al should have called their work DOOK – Distributed Open Online Knowledge, if they didn’t want the big boys to steal the baby when they made their bigger splash. MOOC growth now is about US Universities winning the race in the globalised education market, meanwhile in the UK we are raising fees, and failing to improve the learning experience on offer, even at our widening participation Universities.
That isn’t to say that MOOC courses, Read the rest of this entry

Affinity Groups

Designing for Rhizomatic Learning

Overview; Last week I discussed what I described as ‘designing for discontinuities’ outlining what I had learnt about rhizomatic learning from engaging in MOOCs. Jenny Mackness has added some parallel reflections in her blog post Between a MOOC and a hard place too. This week I am going to look at how we will try and implement what we learnt from those reflections on the values of social discontinuity for learning and the strength of weak ties in networking. The key element in implementing rhizomatic learning in WikiQuals will be in supporting the process of self-organised ‘affinity groups’. This will develop the earlier idea of using Affinity Partners, rather than supervisors (or teachers), to support the learning process.

Affinity Groups; The idea of the Affinity Partner is to be empathetic to the learner. A key aspect of WikiQuals is trusting learners to follow their interests and to determine for them selves what they want to learn. The affinity partner rather than supervising acts more as a critical friend moderating the work of their WikiSqolar. However having an Affinity Partner still reflects an individualised mode of studying. Following the discussion with Tony Hall on social learning it seemed to me that we need to develop groups within the WikiQuals group process and if allowed Sqolars to be part of differing affinity groups, not based on subject interest per se, but on more human impulses this would be a useful development. It would also be a good way of integrating andragogy into the WikiQuals process, which is a key part of the Open Context Model of Learning.

The Q of Social Intimacy; In Imagination Jonah Lehrer quotes the work by Brian Uzzi on the social intimacy Read the rest of this entry

Affinity Partner

Learning Support in WikiQuals

Background; in an earlier post Show & Tell I discussed the concept of journeymen, people who would help triangulate, authenticate, and validate the learning process identified by a WikiSqolar as part of the WikiQuals project. The term, and the concept, were derived from the process by which the learning of apprentices in medieval guilds was validated; however the term is clearly sexist. A number of female academics, such as Catherine Cronin, who expressed interest in being a journeyman/person, because they were happy with the concept, forcefully expressed clear reservations about the terminology.

Thankfully for the project another female academic, Dr Ilene Dawn Alexander of the University of Minnesota, came up with a different term, which also entails slightly differing concepts and roles as we evolve the WikiQuals project. Ilene suggested that Sqolars need Affinity Partners as part of the WikiQuals process and this discussion will examine in a little more detail what we are trying to achieve with the introduction of Affinity Partners.

Wikiquals; to recap what we are examining in the WikiQuals project is how we might implement the idea of post-hoc accreditation in extra-institutional contexts (which is derived from the “formal” phase of the Emergent Learning Model). As suggested by the University Project a University is a ‘Community of Scholars’

Read the rest of this entry

WikiQuals 2011/12

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The Wiki Quals proposition (August 2011)

Learning Model

WikiQuals is based on the Emergent Learning Model. This posits a 3-stage process of ‘learning’ built around the emergent and social properties of groups. In this model learning is built around a self-organised group that collaboratively identifies its learning needs and then both discovers and creates the resources it needs to meet their self-identified learning needs. We have identified a group willing to do this for the academic year 2011/12 and this blog will outline the issues we will be addressing in making the WikiQuals process work. More detailed information on the Emergent Learning Model is available in the outline table on slideshare and also in the blog post on Emergent Learning. I sometimes describe this as Smart Mobs + Everything is Miscellaneous means Here Comes Everybody

Post-hoc Accreditation

Building on the Emergent Learning Model the accreditation of learning itself will be a post-hoc process subsequent to the self-organisation and resource-creation carried out by the group. WikiQuals itself is an attempt to map out and test an agreed, negotiated post-hoc method of accreditation that will be completely visible and in the public domain. The proposed method of implementation during 2011/12, outlined here,  Read the rest of this entry

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