Learning Community, PLN

Building Communities of Practice in Higher Ed

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Milton Cox from Miami University, met with a group of students, staff and faculty to share ideas on how to build effective communities of practice at UNT known as Collaborative Learning Communities (CLC).  In his lecture and our discussion, Dr. Cox shared suggestions on how to “mind the gap(s)” in higher education and consider the broken spaces between our current disciplines, departments and silos on campus.  The process of connecting to establish a community of practice (in his example, faculty learning communities) it is to connect faculty and their institutions to think beyond their department, discipline and separate goals for the campus.
Image c/o Dr. Milton Cox
It is all to common to see department loyalty being rewarded and interdisciplinary activity questioned in higher education. There are also disconnects between student development and academic affairs priorities. For higher education to move forward it will be critical for faculty and staff to engage students in new ways of learning and scholarly activity. Although many students want to see the sage on the stage, to just consume information, it will be increasingly critical for our learning institutions to encourage inquiry-based learning and promote self-regulated scholarship.
One way to close the education gap and challenges in higher education, is to consider forming communities of practice (CoP) that work together. There are a number of students, staff and faculty need to collaborate to discuss civic engagement, learning communities, and pedagogical shifts to our higher education curriculum. Dr. Cox introduced the concept of Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs), which tend to be more structured than the organic CoP, and they are voluntary, structured, and at least a yearlong commitment from the members. Here are some other suggested practices for setting up FLCs:
  • size: 8-12 faculty, professionals, Administrators, TAs, students
  • voluntary membership by application
  • Affiliate patterns: consultants, mentors, student associates
  • multidisciplinary and from different departments
  • encourage participant curiosity
  • allow for richness of innovations
  • permitted relief from dysfunctional units
As we connected and discussed ideas around our own Collaborative Learning Communities (CLCs), we found sharing ideas could help work towards resolving institutional challenges and support the strategic goals for our campus. As our CLCs gather and collaborate, I am looking forward to connecting, brainstorming, and creating initiatives that will enhance what we do on campus.
Along with this idea for collaborative learning communities, Sue Beckingham, Jeff Jackson, Eric Stoller and I hope to discuss this topic as a #sxswEDU panel in 2013 => Communities of Practice in Higher Education as we hope to answer the following questions:
  1. How can communities of practice and learning networks play a critical role in meeting the challenges of higher education across the globe?
  2. As professional and personal learning networks (PLNs) develop, how can these informal entities support and contribute to the future of higher education?
  3. What are some actionable items and issues that higher education communities of practice can take on both at the local and global level

References:

Cox, M. & Richlin, L.  (2004). New Directions for Teaching and Learning:  Building Faculty Learning Communities.  Vol. 97.  San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wenger, E. (2002) Communities of practice. Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Volume 1.5, Article 5. Elsevier Science, Amsterdam. 
Book Review, Higher Education, K-12, Open Education, PLN

10 Principles for the Future of Learning

While working on some late night treadmill mileage, I decided to catch up on documents and books I have been collecting on my Kindle. Last week I read The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age, which was a precursor to The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age book published by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Although this material is a bit dated, I think that some of the pedagogy still applies for educational development.

Image c/o Martin Hawksey (and his musings on this text as well). 

In the first collaborative project, the authors share ten principles to support the future of learning. Davidson and Goldberg (2009) presented these pillars of institutional pedagogy to help institutions rethink learning and meet the challenges that lie ahead for both K-12 and higher education:

  1. Self-Learning – discovering and exploring online possibilities
  2. Horizontal Structures – how learning institutions enable learning; from learning that to learning how; from content to process
  3. From Presumed Authority to Collective Credibility – shifting issues of authority to issues of credibility; understand how to make wise choices
  4. A De-Centered Pedagogy – adopt a more inductive, collective learning that takes advantage of our era and digital resources
  5. Networked Learning – socially networked collaborative learning stressing cooperation, interactivity, mutuality and social engagement
  6. Open Source Education – seeks to share openly and freely in the creation of culture and learning; provides a more collective model of interchange
  7. Learning as Connectivity and Interactivity – digital connection and interaction to produce sustainable, scaffolding ensembles
  8. Lifelong Learning – there is no finality to learning; learning is part of society and culture
  9. Learning Institutions as Mobilizing Networks – networks enable flexibility, interactivity, and outcome; new institutional organizations reliability and innovation
  10. Flexible Scalability and Simulation – new technologies allow for collaboration beyond distance or scale for productive interactions that warrant educational merit

Reference: Davidson, C.N. & Goldberg, D.T. (2009). The future of learning institutions in a digital age. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

CCK09, EC&I831, eduMOOC, PLN, Professional Development

Online Learning: More Than Just a MOOC

As a life-long learner, I have appreciated engaging and interacting with a wide variety of educators in a few Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The concept of a MOOC is has been around for a while. In previous blog posts, I have shared the definition of a MOOC and my participation and experience. I have appreciated learning from the #eci831 and #CCK09 MOOC facilitators, such as Alec Couros, George Siemens & Stephen Downes. Even more,  I appreciate the knowledge shared by invited speakers and the connected learning participants who I continue to engage and exchange with beyond the course structure. MOOCs are now on the tip of everyone’s tongue due to recent education technology start-ups who are now designing MOOC-like courses and creating partnerships with many accredited higher education institutions. What’s all the MOOC about if the concept of a MOOC is not a new innovation?

#jiscwebinar What Is A MOOC? @dkernohan @mweller @jonathan_worth @loumcgill @daveowhite [visual Notes]

Image c/o Flickr user guilia.forsythe

In a recent CBC radio interview and blog post, George Siemens discusses more about the good and bad aspects of Massively Open Online Courses are for online learning. There are different sides of the camp on this topic. Some believe MOOCs will either kill or transform the academy as we know it. Here are some interesting points that were shared in the interview from George and callers to the show:

Current Learning & Development = #AltProDev

If there is an interesting alternative professional development (#AltProDev) opportunity available – I’m there! Part of the reason why I have connected to podcasting with BreakDrink.com or participation in Twitter Chats (#AcAdv Chat, #SAchat or #PhDchat) can be attributed to my early learning experiences with MOOCs. I enjoy engaging in PD to improve my skills and add to my knowledge repertoire. Across various personal and professional spheres, I have learned a great deal at formal conferences, workshops and education sessions; however, I am also proud to say I learn a great deal from my informal training and development environments that are primarily cultivated online. I think that MOOCs provide a set time period for professionals to learn about a specific topic and engage with others in a similar informal fashion. What is neat about this classroom is, that although the course might end, your network and learning artifacts continue to thrive outside the specific learning environment.

Teaching locally but accredit widely.

As a current student in higher education (I’m in process of working on my doctoral degree in learning technologies at UNT), I tend to research, read, archive, and share online to keep on top of the trends and happenings. I think my involvement in MOOCs have connected me to new concepts, research ideas, learning networks, and continue to support my formal education goals. My intention when signing up for this type of free, online learning was to support my own professional development and expose myself to new learning concepts. I reflected my MOOC experiences to my faculty advisor and he believed that participation in any one of these classes could be an added elective for my doctoral degree plan since this informal learning environment was contributing to my research design. How would this type of learning be looked like at your institution for degree requirements? Here is one suggestion for earning college credit from MOOCs if interested.

Sustainable model? Or Just Branding?

The MOOC talk seems to be all the rage as start-up companies, such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity, partner to “reshape online learning” with well-known higher education institutions. Will the massive hype of these MOOC types lead to effective use and sustainable funding models? Or is this just another method for marketing and propagation of the university brand? I do not know. I agree with George’s thoughts – we will see after the dust settles and the MOOC hype levels off in higher education.

Types of MOOCs

As the online learning trend grows there will be various types, targets and tiered offerings of MOOCs. Some of the MOOCs I have reviewed have included areas for digital competence, open education and technical resources. The content, subjects, platforms and learning environments will vary from MOOC to MOOC – and will most likely depend on the partnering institutions influence as well. Online learning will continue to be part of higher education curriculum at many institutions, but as George says “open and online courses is not going to be what cures the ails of online education.” I concur.

Incomplete = Failure?

Does a lack of commitment or completion mean that a MOOC failed? In looking at the retention and completion rates of MOOCs, the numbers vary from start to finish of a MOOC. Audrey Watters wrote a great about dropping out of MOOCs last week. She questioned if it was the content, instructor, platform or learner themselves. Good questions. If this was a multiple choice test, I might even select (E) Any of the above. Or perhaps our MOOC participants would commit more if they paid to learn – even $2 Would the freemium model commit participants more if there was a certification, badge, or accreditation for courses attached? Does extrinsic motivation trump the intrinsic goal for learning and self-fulfillment? I’m not sure.

Dynamics of MOOCs vs. Organic Classroom Experience

There are many pedagogical and theoretical underpinnings for MOOCs. If designed well, a number of online education opportunities allow for discussion, problem-solving, reflection, and unique dynamic interactions. A question from one of the callers to the CBC radio program asked (paraphrased) – can online education and MOOCs really replace the organic interactions in a face-to-face classroom environment? My initial response = it depends. I have always thought good teaching and solid learning outcomes is what drives the course. That being said it is important to note that technology is “not just a tool.” As a student, I have been in both fantastic and terrible courses both online and in class. Depending on the course purpose and objectives, instructors have the POTENTIAL to engage learners in a truly immersive and participative online learning environment. Technology is the instrument; the students are the musicians – it is up to the instructor to orchestrate and guide the collaborative instrumental play in online education.

What are your thoughts about MOOCs? Have you participated in a MOOC? Are you planning to participate in a MOOC in the near future? Please share.

#AcWri, #phdchat, Learning Community, Learning Technologies, PLN, Social Media

Personal Connections in the Digital Age – A Book Review

Speaking of book reviews… there are a few texts I’m reading now that I will be submitting for #acwri projects and there are others I will blog about from my #SummerReading list, such as Personal Connection in the Digital Age by Nancy K. Baym

Personal Connections in the Digital Age #summerreading

This book was published in 2010 as part of the digital media and society series to share how new technologies are impacting our lives and altering our communication. As I research and compile information on digital media and its impact for learning and training for my literature review I thought this academic work provided a solid overview of digital relationships. By sharing the evolution of technology, mediated communication, and online community development, Nancy Baym presents both theoretical frameworks and historical perspectives about digital media’s influence on our society and personal relationships.

Baym provides an overview of interpersonal communication, and she threads both academic research and societal practices of digital media use in this book. As an academic text, there are a number of detailed references and theoretical underpinnings that I have flagged to follow-up as I edit my own literature review. For others who might not be researching and writing in this area, I think this book is still accessible and an interesting read as digital and social media consumes our lives. The technical jargon is kept to a minimum and the writing flows well with research, examples, and anecdotes intertwined in the text.

As I read this book, it was easy to reflect on my personal connections and how digital media shapes my PLN. I thought about how great it is to have peers and communities that I can interact with and play in – without being geographically close to them. I thought fondly of those relationships that have been either been initiated online or mediated digitally from a distance, and I am thankful for how digital media as evolved. I am able to communicate  and enage with a variety of networks/communities beyond e-mail, discussion forums, and IM (Thanks VoIP, video, web conferencing, photo-sharing, social bookmarks, blogs, Twitter, social networks, and much more!).

For anyone who is interested in personal digital connections and what it means to be “connected” to a learning network, I think you will enjoy this book. As  digital identities and online communities grow, it will be critical to consider the issues Baym introduces in each chapter:

  1. New forms of personal connection – identity of the self online and offline, interactivity on the internet, and reviewing social context for digital media
  2. Making new media make sense – emerging technology reflection, social construction, technological determinism, and how technology shapes the social
  3. Communication in digital spaces – how digital media influences communication and personal expression; digital mediums and modes; context of communication
  4. Communities and networks – online networks, shared practices online, social integration, relationship development, lurkers, virtual “space” and community engagement/civic action; networked individuals vs. the collectivism
  5. New relationships, new selves? – meeting new connections, digital identity development, authenticity, socially mediated/constructed relationships
  6. Digital media in relational development and maintenance – building relationships with those you met online, mediated relationship development – influences & effects, social norms and information sharing
EC&I831, eduMOOC, Higher Education, Learning Community, Learning Technologies, Open Education, PLN, Virtual Communities, Web Design

#mtmoot Opening Keynote: Digital Pedagogy to Engage

This morning I will be joining the Mountain MoodleMoot at Carroll College in Helena, MT to share some thoughts and ideas around engaged digital pedagogy. Our learners are connected; however  I think more educators and instructional designers need to support our students in developing effective learning skills to navigate this new culture of learning. For those of you interested in following along, be sure to tweet with hashtag  #mtmoot, check out my slides (below), and feel free to scope out the digital handout http://bit.ly/mtmoot12 I compiled for this session.

 

Today’s learners operate in a world that is informal, networked, and filled with technology. Connectivity and digital access is an increasing need for our students and a vital requirement to excel beyond structured learning environments. Our learners are now able to interact with information, learning materials, and peers from around the globe. There is an increasing need to expand and enhance our learners’ involvement in learning technology to support engagement in online learning environments.

With the emergence of collaborative, online tools, educators can take advantage of multidimensional and engaged participation to reach their learning outcomes. Social media creates a space where “everybody and anybody can share anything anywhere anytime” (Joosten, 2012, p.6). Educational paradigms are shifting to include new modes of online and collaborative learning and student-centered, active learning to challenge our students to connect curriculum with real life issues (Johnson, Adams & Cummins, 2012). As a new generation of learners begin to create and share content, educators need to understand how to effectively utilize social web resources to impact in instructional practice create a culture of online participatory learning.

Emerging technology platforms and devices are beginning to disrupt education as we know it. To coevolve and positively impact learner success, it is critical that instructors and instructional designers consider how digital pedagogy can support learning outcomes. This keynote plenary will share ideas and suggested practices to develop a richer learning experience and thrive in the changing digital learning frontier.

References

Johnson, L., Adams, S. & Cummins, M. (2012). The NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

Joosten, T. (2012). Social Media for Educators. San Francisco, CA: Wiley/Jossey-Bass.