OUConf10: Open Learning (second session)

More notes from the OU Conference Learning in an open world, from the afternoon session of Tuesday 22 June 2010.

As for this morning, I’m posting the live notes straight in to the appropriate place in the Cloudscape for the conference, and gathering them together here to give a more linear view.

Notes on Andy Lane – SCORE

(Andy is stepping in for Chris Pegler, who had trouble with connections in the originally-scheduled slot this morning.)

Andy is the former director of Open Learn, and is now a Senior Fellow in SCORE.

SCORE is part of a ‘national role’ for the Open University, a big project called Shared Solutions where the OU helps the English HE sector with its expertise.

OU was set up to be open, have a long history of publishing material of many types – for our students, and through broadcasts, which gives us much expertise.

SCORE builds particularly on OpenLearn. OpenLearn is a huge project, two Moodle-based sites: LearningSpace with 6000h of learning material from OU courses; LabSpace with 9000h of material including archive stuff and things from other contributors beyond the OU. Numbers large, going up all the time, significant international recognition. Has been very good stimulant for changes in practice at the OU, pushing thinking. LabSpace experiments include OU folk as well as outsiders.

Just this week, OpenLearn won a Times Leadership and Management Award category for ICT Initiative of the Year.

What’s happening now? Trying to increase the sector’s capacity for effective OER creation and use. Moving from pilots aimed at getting institutions up to speed in publishing- the supply led model – to a more demand-led one. Not just publishing, but using and re-using and collectively moving forward as Frank Rennie mentioned this morning.

Through the three years of funding from HEFCE, will have fellowships, extra publishing of OER, events, support and advice service, and trying to create a community nationally and internationally.

One activity is rejigging LabSpace – change from resources/play/collaborations/research model to resources/ProjectSpace/IndieSpace/SectorSpace. Keeping resources – the content and topics, play-space is now IndieSpace for individuals to upload/remix. Collaborations is now ProjectSpace for a grant-funded project to have an area for publishing, reusing, proto-/pilot courses, experimental space for exploring the tools. New area SectorSpace where an institution can have more rights – so a University could have their own branded area for just their own content and what they’re doing, and much more clearly coming from that particular institution. Might make it easier for them to start without setting up their own repository.

Exploring issues – e.g. sustainability – see http://www.slideshare.net/score and a Cloudworks site on the Leeds manifesto on OER sustainability. (http://cloudworks.ac.uk/cloud/view/3676)

Fellowships – 36 people, 2/3 from outside the OU. Six fellows already started. If you’re interested, talk to Andy or Chris Pegler or look on the SCORE website.

Creating more OER to expand/develop the collection – if you’re from a HEFCE-funded institution, get in touch with Kiki Clark. Other people can publish themselves by simply registering and doing it – but the funding for the support is only for English HEIs.

Sharing reviews of OER activity, etc. Interesting example from medicine and dentistry about how to make material available as an OER when it contains stuff that’s confidential to an identifiable patient.

Have a blog at http://oerworld.wordpress.com, a JISC mailing list (OpenEd), and a Slideshare site www.slideshare.net/SCORE.


Iris: Picking up from chat – could an independent scholar, e.g. if retired, have their own space?

Andy: Yes. Through the IndieSpace you can just do it yourself. If you want some more control, and you know about Moodle, can do it in ProjectSpace – need to do an application for that for a more dedicated space. Will need to abide by a code of practice.

Q: Is OpenLearn built on the back of Moodle? Any local things required?

Andy: OpenLearn the LearningSpace and LabSpace are based on OU Moodle. The OU has invested a lot of money on adapting and adopting Moodle for its use with students and for OpenLearn. There were two installations but now merged together to one codebase called OU Moodle. Depending on who you are, or what you’re browsing, you’ll see different things – e.g. students will see their own course. Many things there you won’t see in Moodle out of the box, but Moodle 2.0 will include some OU-built features, especially the assessment and quiz block.

Clare: Helen White in chat asked if there was opposition to OER in the sector.

Andy: Don’t know if you’d call it opposition. Some are rather indifferent, can’t see what the fuss is. Some individuals are wary. Not come across direct opposition – yet.

Laura Dewis – OpenLearn

Laura’s giving a view of the future of OpenLearn. Are in the depths of some new developments of a site that will launch very soon. Came out of a review of our broadcast strategy in 2008 – a paper called New Journeys with the BBC (?) – one proposal was to merge key OU online destinations, in particular open2.net and OpenLearn. Open2.net has been around for years, site to go to when you want to know more about broadcasts on the BBC. From broadcast, will go to BBC site, then to Open2.net page, where OU academics will have created content to take you further through in to the subject, then potentially in to OU course materials (OER) and signing up to it.

OpenLearn will be expanding. Things that have a presence online – YouTube, iTunesU, addresses people’s need to have smaller, more relevant content but also OpenLearn gives OU a way of managing it.

Third party platforms are a way of being where the users are, and not building platforms that already exist in best of breed form elsewhere. But want to pull content and learners to OpenLearn, where we can create wrap-around context and learning. This is where the user can start to build a relationship with the University, potentially as a first port of call. May then go in to study with us, learn more about our research, or on to Platform our community site, or iSpot if they’re interested in biodiversity.

We are tracking how many people are going through from OpenLearn and so see what impact our public presence is having. Want to help people from a casual interest to develop and nurture a passion. Might have an interest from say a BBC broadcast, or a topic like the World Cup (we’ve just built something). Fulfilling our public engagement mission, making them relevant to people not immersed in university culture. We want to promote these and maintain our lead in the sector.

In contrast to Open2.net, won’t be BBC branded. Will still have BBC broadcasts, but may have stuff from a range of different providers – cultural festivals, institutions, very broad scope. Meeting more faculty priorities within the University.

Laura gives a tour of a sample section of OpenLearn new look. Want to make it clear that this isn’t the OU in its entirety – it’s part of the OU where you can explore your interests, try things out – and then if you want to go on to study you can find out more about that and get the support. Won’t find tutorial support in this site, or be able to sit an exam, but will be able to access a lot of excellent quality academically-sound materials.

Trying to be accessible in terms of wording to people who don’t have a university vocabulary – but underneath have a mapping to OU courses and qualifications.
Science/Technology/Nature sample – have thousands of pages – 10 years of legacy content – so have a filter to help people sort through particular area, media or date, or ratings.
Clear copyright badging – on each asset, have a grey box with copyright information. Important. And editorial and user-generated tag clouds.

Example of BBC co-production site on ‘Life’ – a wealth of material around a particular subject, linked to. Could be podcasts, learningSpace materials, or specially-produced material. Links from each episode, behind-the-scenes info. The ‘try’ tab is highlighted here, but can highlight all sorts of things. People won’t come in through the home page, but land on a page linked to what they put in to Google. So need some explanation of the purpose of the site on every page.

Have ‘You Might Like’ section based on editorial selections, but also ‘What’s Hot’ based on what people are finding popular. Very multimedia content, interaction. Audio and video all with transcripts. Comments at the bottom, and RSS feeds for authors, tags, content, etc.

An ‘about author’ link to raise profile of people who write for the site, including their biography and all the comments on their articles, links to their research in Open Research Online (ORO), their posts, and other articles that they’ve rated – their recommendations, and their personal tags.


From chat: Don’t you find the step from OpenLearn topic to full OU study rather large?

Laura: Yes, it can be a very significant jump. But it can be otherwise – sometimes they’re considering study, and the learning Space gives them the confidence to go on and really study. We anticipate that users here may not even be considering study – some may never do so – but will still make use of the site and be inspired. An important part is engaging people and keeping them engaged to have a long-term relationship.

From chat: Where is the core market for this content? Informal learning or going in to formal courses?

Laura: Informal learning, although we will work with other stakeholders as closely as possible so we can work effectively with courses. Timescales and other factors don’t always come together but do aim to support course development. Happens the other way round – almost all course material comes out that way.

Diane Brewster: Don’t find the formal/informal dichotomy very helpful, might be better to talk about assessed/unassesed or accredited/non-accredited.

Laura: An interesting point. Any terminology interpreted in different ways. The real distinction is whether they are having structured timetables and assessment and support.

Andreia Santos: Didn’t see you mention the LabSpace, how does that feature now?

Laura: Andy’s presentation goes in to that a bit more. My team aren’t working on that, really being developed by the SCORE project to work with the sector collaboratively to share their content.

Notes from Simon Buckingham Shum – Social Learn

Martin worked on Social Learn from the early stages. This work is the intensive work of many people, drawn from right across the university, from Strategy, KMi, IET, LTS, working closely with lots of groups.

We have already blown the world away with making high quality material – OER – available to the world. The next milestone is the development of social applications, which assume that many people will be online and contributing.

The OU has already been developing those – e.g. Facebook apps and iSpot.

What comes next? Is that it? Do we just train our ALs how to work with a loosely integrated set of tools?

The next step – he suggests – is a social learning infrastructure. This isn’t just plumbing and wires and techie stuff. Infrastructures that transform the world – railways, electricity, phone etc – a lot of societal evolution happens when the technologies are appropriated. The people and practices around social learning – recommends a reader by Chris Blackmore (Social Learning Systems and Communities of Practice).

What do we actually want to build?

What we *don’t* want to do: Build an OU-only social network. Build our own versions of the coolest tools – we couldn’t keep up.

What we might be interested in is a collaborative network where people do come to learn, or inquire. We’ve learned from our ALs that you need people to challenge and stretch you too, so want to provide that. Also want to provide better views of what might be relevant to your passions – agents, recommendations tuned for learning.

So want to build a more robust infrastructure that builds your tools in to an integrated user profile set up to work for you round your learning interests.

Four silos in the OU – OU VLE, OpenLearn, Cloudworks, ORO – don’t talk to each other, and you might be interested in (parts of) all of them. So in Social Learn, set up a profile, connect you up to the cloud.

Four core tools: profile, user interface, social graph (who you know and how), and services – recommendation tools and applications.

Does a demo from http://sociallearn.org – not yet live but you can watch a video, register interest.

Have a dashboard of gadgets, bit like the iTunes App Store. Gadgets developed by them and others, can embed in SocialLearn website and in many others.
Gadgets might be around managing PhD skills, paths connecting OER, gadget asking for help when you’re stuck, a whole world of applications – built to a standard so can embed them.

Configuring a gadget set – a toolkit of apps that you can strap on when you’re doing an activity – and activity-centric model. Example of three gadgets relevant to history of art, but then switch to others for another topic. Can drop them in to any website that’ll contain them – e.g. iGoogle, or a partner site that’s enabled to host gadgets.

Have done a gadget on Cloudworks – it’s a baby, just emerging – that starts giving recommendations relevant to you and your interests when you build it.

Want to enable you to take your toolkit where you go – even to sites that know nothing of this. A bookmarklet in your toolbar enables you to overlay your gadgets over whatever site you visit – add a reference, link things in, whatever, goes back in to your secure SocialLearn space.

SocialLearn services are a virtual rack of recommendation engines – Amazon is ‘people who bought this toaster also bought this Y, people who looked at this ended up buying that’ – not so much interested in commerce. But interested in leveraging the wisdom of the crowd of your peers. Also navigational – people who viewed this also viewed that. And social/reputation – you have three friends in common, people who rate her also rate him. Vast amount of activity being aggregated. Fourth set – content. Currently matching on exact tag matching, but can do a lot cleverer than that – semantic maps, e.g. art and Van Gogh relate conceptually; also multimedia search. Then services specifically tuned for learning – usually platforms no idea what sort of discourse is going on in a forum. But when people annotate using e.g. Cohere we can map that. The 21st century skills, Deeper Learning agenda – this person is also trying to develop X.

Supports some basic core social moves – but working hard not to re-implement what’s already been done well. But do need to allow people on Social Learn to talk to each other, etc, and e.g. creating an ad-hoc group.

Go to sociallearn.org to try it out, or www.open.ac.uk/blogs/sociallearn for the blog.

Prioritisation at the moment on escholarship and research, and on professional development. Open source release and a developer programme later in the year.


Michelle “Eingang” Hoyle: Are gadgets just basically widgets and we could embed them in various web sites, like Netvibes, Google Desktop, etc.

Simon: You can’t drop them in to every possible website, but any website can be enabled to host them. If a site isn’t able to show them inline, can still carry them with you through the toolbar. [Juliette explains that SocialLearn has gone for Google gadgets]

Markuos: Front end to enable navigation of OER?

Simon: Not trying to be an OER repository, nor OpenLearn. Give ability to find a community interested in a particular OER who might want to go in to further. One idea – weave a path or network of OER together in to what you think is a coherent journey or map. A lens on to the ocean of OER out there – e.g. take section 3 of this, then this paragraph of this OER, then watch this YouTube movie. User-generated overlay on top of raw OER.

Steve Swithenby: Student appetite and student need – is this a parallel stream to existing support systems, or is this new default method for having conversations with and between learners?

Simon: Potential of a platform to wrap around informal learning, not tied to a particular OU course. Or could be used for self-organising groups to explore a particular enquiry or project in the context of an OU course. It’s agnostic in that respect. It’s not replacing the VLE. We are helping people keep track of the ocean of stuff out there and the people who can help, and help people manage their learning interests and activities. Complements the VLE, doesn’t replace it.

Giota: Is there any research with existing learners on Social Learn?

Simon: Lots on social learning, Communities of Practice, etc. Did preliminary evaluation on an early beta, but have rebuilt substantially since then. System is not yet mature enough to do any authentic user studies yet. Is a research and innovation platform to study how learners make use of tools in a very disaggregated infrastructure. Like the iPhone app store, can drop in a gadget to the ecosystem and see who uses it. If it’s good, word will spread, like Facebook apps.

Notes from moderated discussion:

Helen Whitehead said that assessment of informal and non-formal learning is a problem – does anyone have any strategies?

Doug Clow: If it’s assessed, is it still informal/nonformal?

Clare: One solution is quizzes, automatic answers.

Helen: But if informal/nonformal learning becomes the norm how do we convert it?

Patrick: How much does the accreditation matter? People are gathering evidence of what they’ve done out of what they’ve made – e.g. if you’ve made a YouTube movie, you have that to show.

Helen: A portfolio rather than qualifications?

Patrick: There’s a mix of things that are happening – you can see them.

Markuos: Will we see an increasing amateurisation of learning?

Patrick: There’s scope for individual participation. If you go to Connexions, one of their stars is a complete amateur doing music training. Amateurisation, but not in a bad way – chance for enthusiasts to share things without being part of huge organisation. E.g. people who are retiring, can share things with the world.

Simon: From their work on accreditation (not a focus just now), it’s a very important piece for some learners who want to learn in order to earn their way out of poverty. A trusted provider – such as the OU and partners – who are able to confirm the activity that oyu as a learner have been doing – and APEL – is an emerging framework. Assessing real-world authentic activity and give credit for that. High-stakes assessment – not necessarily exams, but demonstrating a skillset employers will be interested in, more than waving a piece of paper. If can show that you can think critically, mentor – these are skills that employers claim people don’t have, and that you can evidence on a secure, trusted platform.

Markuos: Any incentive to create learning resources without recognition, i.e. licenced CC0?

Martin: From the academic side? If not getting recognition? Talk given a while ago – academic output as collateral damage. Academics give papers, talks, conferences, seminars. With not much effort can turn those in to digital artefacts, don’t need to know whether they’ll be used. They payoff is statistical. When I put up a Slideshare presentation, nice when you get lots of visits. When someone uses it in teaching that’s a nice additional thing, but don’t have to do it for that reason. Helps you embrace unpredictability.

Markuos: Do you need the recognition?

Martin: Yes. In some ways wary of formalising online reputation. Can gather your digital scholarship material that would be comparable to e.g. publications.

George Siemens – Teaching and Learning in Open Social & Technological Networks

Timely topic – are in process of a week-long research seminar at Athabasca on Social Networked Learning. There is a change consciousness, impact on teaching and learning, but less clear where it’s going. We know lots of people are using social media, mobiles, location-based services – but what’s the impact on educational practices?

Open Educational Resources – OER – popularisation by MIT’s Open CourseWare Initiative. But now focus on Open Educational Practices – OEP? Transition from content to practices: need to do for teaching and learning what MIT/Yale/OU did for content. Open-ness of content is a foundation, not an end-game. That sets the stage for creativity and innovation. It’s what we build on that that has a dramatic impact on the educational cycle. The activities around open teaching begin to provide an indication of where we’re heading.

Concepts to tackle these – presented at EDEN earlier.

Our notion of a course needs to change. From a pedagogical or learning stance, what’s the value of a course? It provides a narrative of coherence. It’s sustained time to focus on a particular topic. In terms of organising knowledge, or administration – that’s not overwhelmingly interested. An educator takes content, creates structure, presents it for learners to engage in. It’s from a singular perspective – few are inclined to provide strong counter-examples or muddying material. We try to sanitise the conflict, the disagreement. We provide a lucid structure but it does away with the reality of learning in chaotic spaces.

The notion of media and message fragmentation – doing away with pre-constructed blocks of content. Increasingly engaging with a free-floating environment where we don’t fully engage with, say, a 30-minute newscast. This isn’t new, but this hasn’t yet had an impact on the educational sector. The course still reigns supreme. The social and information habits from online interactions are not making their impact on education. We still have a unitary model, but the broader society is driven by complexity and emergence.

Much of society is being impacted – technology on all sectors of society, but not as dramatic on education. Does impact concept of scholarship – do scholars still publish in closed proprietary journals with an 8-month plus review cycle, and coming out a year and a half after that? Should scholarship be driven by only publishing and reviewing for open access journals? Which habits are we using which will be transformed by the new media?

Transition in terms of control and capacity to change – “from . to /” – in terms of content and identify formation. ‘Should we get a website?’ was the question in the mid/late 90s; now it’s distributed – whatever.com/you etc – so no one place to go to find out about you, instead jumping all over the place to get a woven-together identity, being created on a daily basis.

The drawback is that most universities rely on yourinstitution.moodle.com rather than allovertheweb.com/yourlearner

The fragmented interaction has a direct impact on educational process

Martin: Move from dot to slash is interesting. Are you handing over more of the identity to other companies?

That’s where we’re at in Athabasca – have a social networking site based on Elgg. Have a closed social network that gives you both dot and slash. Can use Twitter-like functionality, image sharing, blogs. The core shift is one of fragmentation of space – we’ve created spaces instead of connections. How we implement this is critical – at core there’s a power relationship. Seeing this with Facebook and Twitter, committing your identity to them, gets harder to leave. Need to be quite thoughtful about the long term impact.

Key question – who owns the content created? Can pull out your content. Ideally all own our own domains, but systems not developed enough to draw this together if it’s fully distributed. It’s still very clunky – neurosurgery with a machete.

Reading from chat that learning should be an active process. Have sat in a lecture and had ideas light up in my head. We’re conceptually building ideas, that’s quite an engaged process.

We do have power structures. But in networks there’s always the prospect of surprise impact. Martin’s latest blog post on unpredictability – always the prospect that your work will be broadly picked up. The prospect of greater equality that’s not always evident.

You could be taking a course with, say, Gráinne, can hear discussion with the resources she’s sharing, but can read her blog, see presentations she’s done in the past. The walls of the classroom have dissolved, things are being brought in all over.

Educationally, we are left with a challenge: our mindset of what a class is and what a course is influences what we do online. Online we duplicate that – learners must come to our technological space to learn – but we can do away from that. Emphasise the formation of connection between spaces, knowledge is a distributed phenomenon. Our value as educators is exposing learners to them, and helping them eliminate the parts that don’t belong. The learner has to pull the parts out for themselves.

In the past, the economic base for education emphasised the input for a course. We create a course years before the learners show up, invest in instructor who’s treated as an input agent. Changes around social media, networked learning – a shift from the input basis to the output basis. Look at what happened with Yahoo and Google – at Yahoo, had a directory of resources organised by someone on your behalf; difficult to understand where things were. Decisions had been made at an input level for access. Google alters that process by only focusing on outputs for the user experience – rendered your information as an output. Would like to see this in education – a course as a computational process, it doesn’t exist until the learner engages. Notion of curation – our social network aids us and guides us. If I follow a few individuals on Twitter, build up trust, emphasise resources curated by members of my personal network. Manage output based on social sense-making. Growing movement in analytics – emphasis on understanding what users are doing, and what the impact is.

Talking now about networked learning and courses. A networked course doesn’t have a centre. This is the most frustrating aspect. In my sessions, CCK08, CCK09, others, the first experience of individuals is conceptual change. It’s not as simple as going in – we’ve conditioned learners to consume content and readings and then produce an output that demonstrates that they understand the concepts. In an online environment, the process of filtering and sense-making is offloaded to social and technological networks, so can’t find a single route in. From consumption to active sense-making and participation – people find that very hard.

We need centreing to understand. I need to pull the different elements together, find how things relate. The instructor has done this for us in the past, now we need to do it ourselves. We need centering for sensemaking, sharing, etc. We create temporary centres – short-lived, created on-the-fly – e.g. the #OUConf10 hashtag for this conference. People use this as a point of connecting with each other. Multiple temporary centres – chatspace here. These are critical in online learning. A centre is a space where we self-organise around an idea, and when that activity has concluded, that temporary centre vaporises and we create something new.

How do we do it? Tags. Active on Twitter, Delicious. Alerts – monitoring of social media. Many good tools, many for-cost at the moment. Where a company gets daily reports of who’s saying what about them, get an analysis of the type of conversation – negative, positive, topics. Another one – entity-relatedness. Network/language analysis – gain a sense of depth of understanding by the nature of their dialogue. Clustered aggregation – Tony Hirst plays with aggregation to bring information together in novel ways. Techmeme – try to start grouping elements, clustering them; Google News too – instead of overlapping articles, group all 1500 articles on a topic. Increasingly critical because we’re applying more organisational structure we’re encountering. What is it that technology do well, and what is it that people do well? Data visualisation is a good example – the cognitive gruntwork is better handled by technology.

Creating a central message through distributed means – drives educators nuts. ‘I have outcomes to achieve in this course’. (Is there a link between structure and quality of resources? Interested to hear of any research.) Why is structure more effective – pre-planned – than the process of sensemaking that goes on more distributedly.

Clare: Discussion in chat about what the role is for the HE professional – what do lecturers do now?

Good question! The role is more critical than it has been in the past. Students at Harvard can’t answer basic science questions – model of educator as provider of information has huge errors. Learners form erroneous connections, regardless of the lecture. Say I give a brilliant lecture, I don’t know the minds of the learners and what they’ll conclude. Structure in advance implies a uniformity that isn’t there. Engage in questioning and critiquing what’s provided by the learners. Educator plays vital role – of network administrator – a learning gardener. Asking what are you hearing and understanding? Like a marriage – if was me talking to my wife and not accounting for feedback and how what I’m saying is being received, wouldn’t work, have to iteratively develop your understanding. Educator not a provider of understanding, instead an individual inquisitive about the inquisitive development of learners.

Martin: Anthea raises good points in chat. Students are often quite conservative, old-fashioned notion of what they’re spending their money on. Often want content, not what they’re expecting or see as valuable.

Alec Couros: Students are worried about structure. When I get students, I get asked what content we have, like Martin says. But once you really empower them to learn differently, see it can be anywhere. I try to allow them to see how this fits beyond a structured course – in formalised learning they’re paying for a particular credit, getting an experience. Used to getting structures, places. But over time, and if you do this well, students do see a much greater benefit – they become independent learners that goes beyond the course. This can be part of their assessment. When teach teachers, they can see that structures up to this point have been detrimental to the type of learning that’s possible. You can provide structure and empowerment that is very real, that negates that. A real transformation, but it takes a lot of work to get your head around that type of teaching.

Simon: The Power of Pull by John Seely Brown et al, congruent to this. Pull platforms.

George: Haven’t read the book yet, but know the move from push to pull terminology has been around since 2002 where Dave Winer was talking about this on Scripting News. Some interaction habits more broadly in society are making their way in to the education space. News has moved from a push to passive consumer to active engagement.

Simon: David Snowden and complexity theory blog post too, will look in to.

George: Question before – who designs the learning outcomes? It’s not that learning is without goals. “If we have clear goals we must have clear learning process” – no, you can have clear goals for learning but don’t have to have a clear process for it. Can still evaluate against set targets. Still get centralised outcome but through distributed means. Better experience for each individual learner – ‘authentic’ – experience on learner is based on their needs.

Roles for educators:

1. Amplification – RT on Twitter is an amplification. Twitter, or Facebook, or some newfangled tool is just an illustration here – it’s the functionality that’s consequential, not the particular tool.

2. Curation – came up in the chat. Educators absolutely curate. You don’t tell people what to think about a concept, but place the concepts in the paths of learners that are important. MIT with first-year physics moved away from lecture format, an experimental lab setting. Educators still involved, but direct experience by learners and feedback from educators on understandings.

3. Wayfinding and sensemaking – CCK08 harped on this – this happens frequently. Edubloggers have done this since early 2000; suddenly a concept grows in prominence, no one person understands it all. Was Facebook, now location, will be Internet of Things – individuals find their way around by sharing with each other. Sensemaking in a social system; wayfinding by sharing and linking. Stephen Downes has more formal role, wayfinding role for new to the field or short of time people.

4. Filtering – function of social networks, very effective agents. Educators do this by default by saying what should (and should not) be read. In a large course, learners don’t stay as a large network, they form smaller ones, was true in CCK08 and 09, individuals clustered with people they had a connection with. Served as a filter within that subnetwork.

5. Modelling – role educators have always played. You become a dentist, or a doctor – there are attributes that are not taught in a cognitive, knowledge sense but in a being sense. Modelling critical or creative thinking is quite valuable.

6. Persistent presence – an active role engaging with learner’s comments, providing adjustments, corrections. Learners dwindle in their participation. If there isn’t a persistent presence, learners will self-organise to a degree, but educator much less about information provision but about being active as a feedback agent in a system as a whole helping learners understand basis concepts.

What does this look like?

CCK08/09/10 – edfutures.com – David Wiley too.

Basic structure is to disrupt concept of what is a course, destabilise. Instead of educator sole provider, learners take active role. IRRODL article – emphasise technology used in CCK08. It’s a process where you design a system as loosely as possible so learners have the capacity to self-form. So send out a daily newsletter related to weekly themes. Learners would tag blog posts, we’d aggregate those in Moodle, course tags through Google Alerts. Follow Twitter hashtag, put that in daily newsletter. From there, key challenge is to alter the mindset of a learner in terms of their role – emphasising personal autonomy, self-efficacy, personal control. Don’t learners get overwhelmed? Yes, they do, and they should be. It’s ineffective model to say master what I’ve put together and then you know the field. The impact on the learner is that chaotic, confusing space – it’s not our job to make sure that our learners are not distressed. That forces them to rethink. Where else are they going to get neatly packaged concepts that have been filtered for them? They need to find systems to manage and organise that content. I’m a fan of injecting complexity. Learners realise early on that there’s too much information, and use social networks to filter it- or drop out. The recognise that they cannot manage those concepts in the course. Conectivism course to exemplify the concepts I’ve been advocating. Course successful in that regard.

Had traditional assessment issues. Want to reflect society at large. We labour under the system until we can change it. Second iteration of the course, people came back and served as co-instructors. Fascinating to see that happen.

The structure of sense-making need not take place by the instructor ahead of the course, can be a product of the interaction in the course.

Final point – the promise of analytics. Pulling together a conference on learning analytics in December in Banff. Relying on a distributed network model of learning. Not by having structure assigned complete in advance, but rely on technology to make that process more personal and adaptive. Rely on the fluidity of social interaction, but a lot of things that e.g. text analysis, learner profiles, people learners interact with – the basis for a field of learning analytics. Efficient learner hypothesis – like efficient market hypothesis – we know they’re different but we teach them the same. Challenge is to create customised courses for each learner. We reveal more about our knowledge deficiencies, but get a better understanding of how to address learner failures, what they need for personal growth or development, given their history. Analytics has a huge potential impact.


Clare: Where do library services fit in? Role of educators and library services blurred or disappear?

George: Good question. Librarians are further along this path than most educators. Saw this in the 90s, something dramatically different occurring. Move from information provision alone to enabling connections, developing literacies, sense-making skills. Developed well from library perspective. Librarian plays core capacity role.

Simon: Do you have a language for talking to students about the sense-making skillset your trying to instill?

George: Not 100%. There are a lot of issues outstanding. Doing a doctoral seminar at Athabasca, discussion on just this topic. Also matter of asking what we need to use to communicate that. How do you define networked learning? We need some shared language. Particular skills, competencies – don’t have a particular language around that.

Simon: Interesting conversation to go on here between information scientists and others. Can have amazing effects in children and their ability to learn to learn, when they have a language for talking about what they’re doing. Need this coupled to what’s happening in the social media space.

George: Undiscovered public knowledge – educators need to be aware of this concept. Librarians, information scientists – we need to pick up what’s there and contribute. Research as aggregation. Bring together related concepts.

Simon: Analytics workshop – learning analytics is about recognising patterns, grounded in a framework.

George: Links to knowledge representation and modelling, the semantic web. Martin invovled in analytics conference as is Gráinne. Others, info in the next week or two. m_hopwood: What about Liberal Arts tradition?

George: Absolutely. Has become highly utilitarian. Arts, humanities, social sciences, and important tradition, emphasises development, participation in systems of society. Strong appreciation of that background, not shift entirely to a utilitarian model, but recognise focused being as a whole. Comfort and interest in work of people like Neil Postman, others, You Are Not A Gadget, human aspect of technology process.

Martin: Implicit equation in educators’ heads: Quality = Control. So if lower control, lower quality – this decentred approach really gets to the heart of that. Many educators fear. Show can still get the quality.

George: Quality concerns are there. That transition enables a better process for the learning outcome, better meets needs of learners in the future. Need to increase teacher skills in participating in networked learning.

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Author: dougclow

Data scientist, tutxor, project leader, researcher, analyst, teacher, developer, educational technologist, online learning expert, and manager. I particularly enjoy rapidly appraising new-to-me contexts, and mediating between highly technical specialisms and others, from ordinary users to senior management. After 20 years at the OU as an academic, I am now a self-employed consultant, building on my skills and experience in working with people, technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, in a wide range of contexts and industries.

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