Stephen and George started talking about this in the Ustream session on Friday. They have the interesting dilemma of trying to match the principles of connectivism with a course about connectivism. As SD said – the course needs some structure for it to exist at all – but as Dave Cormier asked, ‘Doesn’t a centralised course structure demean the idea for constructivism (I mean connectivism – interesting slip of the tongue there!)?
It was suggested (by Dave I think?) that the Internet is a large connectivist learning system. When learning on the Internet, each person picks and chooses the resources they need, the sources they will go to for their information and the communities they will join. SD thinks that the Internet is the best argument for connectivism as a theory of learning. So the course has been loosely structured around these ideas. It has been loosely centralised around a course site with wiki, Moodle forums, The Daily and Aggregations, but there is also a great deal of flexibility and choice about where people can meet and interact, e.g. in SL, Facebook, Twitter and so on ( on a personal note, I don’t think I’m yet aware of all the places where people can and do meet). Stephen sees this clustering of activity and groups as an emergent property of networks. I have already seen this happening on more traditional courses. Students will meet there they want to (not necessarily in the spaces determined by the course) – which is where the real meaning making is likely to be happening (which reminds me of Dead Poets’ Society!)
But conceiving of a course in this distributed way, does raise some questions.
- How do learners make sense of learning when the course is distributed across a network? (I think Dave asked this)
- Does this degree of flexibility enhance or constrain learning?
- What is the role of the teacher in this type of course?
- Where does responsibility for each other begin and end in such a course?
….. and so on. I’m sure the list of questions will grow as we move through the weeks – and some I have already raised in past posts.
From what I can see so far, this course seems to be going well for a lot of people, so the structure is obviously holding up for a significant number. I don’t think I can be alone is being impressed by the enormous generosity of spirit shown by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. This long and huge course is completely free with access to a huge range of resources. I would not have been able to attend if I had had to pay, and I am greatly benefiting from the experience.
The only thing I would change would be to add a ‘Help’ forum – a place where the ‘technologically’ challenged can go and receive help from the network to make the learning process smoother. It is difficult to keep up with the content and fully engage with the ideas, when a lot of your time is being spent getting your head round the technology.