Understanding norms

I wasn’t able to attend the Ustream session on Friday – so I’ve just listened to the recording. These sessions are really valuable in providing an overview of the week and Dave Cormier does a great job in hosting them.

The session started with Stephen talking about his view of what this course is offering. ‘This is not an instructor led course. The point is that people learn to manage their own learning.’  Dave doesn’t disagree with this and neither do I – but Dave follows this up by asking – ‘At what point does this mean, just go to the internet to learn?’ This was a good question.

Stephen answers that this obviously is a course  (more than just going to the internet to learn)- but not the sort of course that many of us are used to. It’s very easy to see the structure – and Stephen was able to point this out very clearly when talking about The Daily, Moodle, the wiki, the readings and so on. I don’t think either Stephen or George need to justify the structure. It’s very obvious. Stephen pointed out that it ‘s also a course because the University of Mannitoba says its a course with associated accreditation and assessement criteria.

I think that possibly some people’s problems have not been with the structure, but with understanding the norms. Stephen feels that we have a culture of learned helplessness, where many expect to be led to the learning and told what the learning is. I don’t think that people necessarily want to be led. What is most important is finding the conversations and feeling connected. For me this has been particularly difficult on this course and I think its because I didn’t understand the norms quickly enough. I am used to traditional online courses with a facilitator, and to online communities with community leaders and mentors. I have for a long time known that I can find out whatever I need to know from the internet. I suppose what is new for me, is the degree of autonomy that is offered by this course – not just offered, but expected. This is a norm on this course which I have needed to understand.

Understanding norms is a critical part of the learning experience. It’s interesting that one of the norms here is that you would have an understanding of the norms associated with open courses before starting the course. Isn’t this a bit of a tall order, given that the whole concept of open courses is new?

Thinking aloud again. If these posts are coming across as criticisms, I’m sorry – they are not intended to be. I am fascinated by how this amazing course is working – what makes it successful, where people are struggling and so on. By the end of the course, I hope to be clear in my own mind about how education in the future might change and how I might change my existing practice.

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