Unfinished business

A brief interchange with Wendy (I think my first – right at the end of the course) has sparked me off again. If you haven’t seen Wendy’s blog and her video, then you must.

I have been thinking all day about how unsatisfactory the ending of this course feels. I am tired (and I haven’t done anything like the same amount of work as others) but I still have so many unanswered questions. I feel as though I am just beginning.

In her blog Wendy pointed to these questions from George, which I seem to have missed. I’m sure I have missed absolutely loads on this course which adds to a feeling of ‘unfinished business’.

1.       What is the quality of my learning networks: diversity, depth, how connected am I?

2.       How has this course influence my view of the process of learning (assuming, of course, that it has)?

3.       What types of questions are still outstanding?

4.       How can you incorporate connectivist principles in your design and delivery of learning?

I am going to start my reflections by trying to answer these questions – but I may come back with further reflections in a later post.

1.       What is the quality of my learning networks: diversity, depth, how connected am I?

I named this blog ‘Jenny Connected?’, because I questioned whether I was connected. I am naturally not very social and rather introverted. It takes quite a big effort to speak out and this is my first public blog. But now I see that the quality of a learning network is all relative and context dependent and that the quality is more important than the quantity. I work on international online courses so I make diverse connections all the time, but they are often fleeting and time limited depending on the course. I’m not sure I understand what is meant by depth in relation to learning networks. I suspect that compared to many I am not well connected and compared to others I am well connected. At this moment in time I am as connected as I wish to be.

 2.  How has this course influenced my view of the process of learning (assuming, of course, that it has)?

I think the course has made more explicit something that was already in the back of my mind and has given me the language to talk about it. I have been interested in learner autonomy and viewing the teacher as a learner alongside other learners for many years now. In small ways I have tried to exemplify this in my teaching practice within the constraints of the education system in which we find ourselves. The big break through for me came about 8 years ago when I first began to teach online. The whole way in which communication, teaching and learning happens online had a profound effect on my teaching practice. I realised that learners could access knowledge and information when, where and how best suited their needs – they didn’t need me to be the font of all knowledge. They could learn as much, and sometimes more, from each other as from me. They could make their own learning decisions in line with their own learning needs, maybe with a little support from me. They could exploit advancing technologies to enable them to do this. So what can I do for them? I can offer them my experience and expertise, which they can reject if they wish. I think Stephen expressed it so well; I can model and demonstrate. On reflection I think this is what I have been doing in my online work for some time now.

3.       How can you incorporate connectivist principles in your design and delivery of learning?

I’m going to change the order of the questions and make this Question 3. I’m also going to relate this to some work that I am currently doing, which is, I am tutoring on an online international course for post graduate epidemiologists who are interested in becoming more effective tutors for distance learners.  The participants are from Europe, Africa, South America and the Far East. There are two factors in this course that really influence the way it runs. One is that English is not the first langauge of all the participants. The second is that some of the participants have real difficulty with their internet access – particularly those from Africa. Both these constraints have influenced the course, particularly the internet access problem. Everytime I post a photo, or a link I wonder whether I am just creating problems for some participants.

If I didn’t have to consider these constraints then the principles that I would incorporate would be:

  • knowledge is in the network more than in the teacher, so go out and make connections
  • you can learn as much from your peers as from your teacher, so communicate and share
  • reciprocity reaps dividends. Isn’t there a biblical saying that says something about getting back twicefold what you are prepared to give?
  • advancing technologies are there to be exploited and there is now a lot of free software which if used appropriately will make your study easier
  • you are in control of your own learning. The teacher is there to model and demonstrate

Following these principles gives learners choice over their learning, so courses should be designed with this in mind. How do we design courses to put choice into the hands of learners?

4.       What types of questions are still outstanding?

For me the questions lie more around approaches to change rather than what needs to change.  Do we need to be subversive? I know of universities where mentioning ‘e-learning’ causes an immediate ‘switch off’, so I can’t imagine what referring to connectivism would cause. I remember five years ago giving a presentation to my Faculty on whether we would need buildings for teaching in the future (we have had this discussion in this course). My presentation was received with either glazed looks or direct feedback that I was somehow not in the ‘real world’. I have learned that sometimes a ‘back door’ approach is more effective. Perhaps if we talk about teaching and learning rather than connectivism, we might be more successful.

5 thoughts on “Unfinished business

  1. Lani November 27, 2008 / 8:02 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    I like the title of your post- unfinished business– and although I too know I’ve missed lots, I’m wondering if this feeling of unfinished isn’t a part of this kind of learning. In other courses, there’s an end, you’ve completed the study, you read the text(s). You turned in your papers to the professor (teacher). Here, there are opportunities for continuing dialogue and learning, more connections; and thus for me the different feeling.

    We share a common perspective –“I think the course has made more explicit something that was already in the back of my mind and has given me the language to talk about it.” –for I feel exactly the same and intend now to use that language to try to effect just a bit of change.

    I’m glad our paths crossed in this course and that we able to make a connection– I hope that connecting will continue–


  2. Mike Bogle November 27, 2008 / 9:30 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    The sense of incompleteness you describe is shared – but in many ways I think that’s to be expected. In fact George said something to that effect at the very beginning of the course.

    I’ve learned an incredible amount during the last 3 months, but in many ways I leave the course with more questions than I began with – not through a failing of how it was organised or facilitated, but by virtue of our exposure to new and important ideas.

    I think the period following the course is as critical – if not more so – than the stages where we grew to gain a grasp on the concepts, because it’s a call to action in many ways. Sort of like “Ok now we know what we’re facing, and the changes that need to occur. What are we going to do about it?”

    At least that’s the way I’m looking at it anyway.

    I think preserving and enhancing the networks we’ve developed will be really important in that sense, because as peers we have a tremendous amount of support and insight to offer one another. For that reason I hope you and the other CCK08 students continue to blog.

    I’m already banging the drum at UNSW right now, in the hopes of calling attention to the importance and value of networked learning. That said it’s not like I wasn’t doing already, I’m just doing it louder now, and with a clearer sense of purpose 🙂

    Thanks very much for all of your contributions to the course. I’ve gained a lot from your perspectives. Good luck to you and keep blogging!



  3. sarahstewart November 28, 2008 / 12:48 am

    Thank you for the post. I will be using it as a framework for my reflections. I agree with Mike-I too am left with more questions than answers. But what I am hoping is that we keep our connections going now the course is ending so we can see where we are going with our knowledge seeking, and in particular learn from each other as we all seek to apply the knowledge we have gained from this course into our own teaching.

  4. suifaijohnmak November 28, 2008 / 10:21 am

    Hi Jenny,
    So grateful to learn your views. And your insights strick a chord that I strong resonate.
    I am still having a quiet reflection on this and would like to echo with yours at a later time.

    With regard to the suggestion of further exploration on connectivism, I have got responses from Viplav, Connectirmeli and Sarah on the network or community initiative. Would that fit into your needs of unfinished business? See http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com for the details and comments
    I could see your enthusiasm in this network learning and connectivism, and so would like to learn your views on this.
    John Mak

  5. suifaijohnmak November 30, 2008 / 4:42 am

    Hi Jenny,
    I have just posted one on my blog in response to Lisa post and your response to her. I think we have touched upon the crux of onnectivism, with “us” thinking seriously about what is actually underneath the “iceberg” of connectivism. And how to put connectivism to the cutting edge of education – teaching and learning.
    Is this the time for another exciting flight of connectivism, this time to the outer space? LOL
    I would develop a more detailed post on how this course could be re-structured, once I have got more wisdom from others like you.


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