Lately, the big question[s], I am grappling with have to do with notions of learning community or learning webs:
- what conditions are necessary for learning webs or communities to work?
- why do we care about webs, networks and communities for learning, and how do we make that explicit to learners?
- why would learners care about webs, networks and communities for learning – what would they need to know to help them decide whether or not to care?
I plan to explore these questions over a couple of posts. Starting with a course design project that I am working on with students.
The project is to make space (and provide guidance/mentorship on the design process) for a group of 7 students to design a short 2 week orientation course to prepare them to participate in a blended learning physics class. We’re calling it Blended Learning 101. I’m collaborating with Lucas Wight (for edX expertise) and Noureddine Elouazizi (for the Science and research context). We had some constraints:
- time: we have three days with students to accomplish 90% of the build.
- platform: we needed to use edX – given UBC’s new collaboration for open/flexible course development.
- re-use: it has to be easily adaptable to other contexts (outside of physics)
- community: one of the goals was to build a framework that would support the development of a learning community
My role in the hackathon was to guide the students through a design process. In the past, I had used a pared down versions of Stanford’s d-school (design school) bootcamp, so I decided to stick with that. The bootcamp includes some really great principles/mindsets to work from (including focus on human values, embrace experimentation, be mindful of process, etc,). I also appreciate their framework for the design process as follows:
The aspect of empathy building is so important to the process – through interviews with each other, students learn about different perspectives, values and approaches to learning. Discussion and debriefing of the process has led to some pretty important insights/questions as you can see below.
The aspect that students really seemed to get stuck on (when it came time to start building the course) was the aspect of learning community. Questions emerged like:
- why would learners participate in a community, for just one course?
- why would people want to interact with large, unknown groups of people when it can be so intimidating?
- why would anyone want to use Twitter for networking – isn’t it just for celebrity gossip?
We spent some time talking through these questions, and deciding an approach for the first iteration, then revisit. It was helpful to have the visual map of #TWP15 Twitter connections to show them what was possible when a learning network was actively sharing.
Back to the questions I started out with in this post:
- For learning webs to work (at least for new undergraduates) I think the value and rationale and relationship to learning needs to be made explicit in order to motivate learners to take a risk and try it out.
- It helps to have enough people on the network, beyond a typical course enrolment, to make for rich interactions. That’s the only way learners will stay engaged.
- As mentors/instructors/guides, it helps for us to model (through our own interactions/participation its value (sharing links, posing questions, commenting, bringing in new networks/people with a common interest.
Not quite sure how we help learners begin to see themselves as teachers, mentors and guides and view their peers as such. I see this as partly a developmental challenge, but not entirely. Any ideas?
I’m still reflecting on Christina’s course challenge – to build more of a web than a website – and I’m thinking that this is a big challenge for all of us. Many learners got to university not by collaborating, sharing and connecting – but by competing, keeping their heads down and grades high. Beyond building a web, maybe we’re supporting a shift in values.