In reflecting on my participation in the open connectivism courses (CCk08, CCK09), I realise that I am more interested in these than the other open courses on offer at the moment, because whilst they require technology to run, they are not so much about technology as about how learners learn and how teachers need to develop to help learners to learn in this fast moving digital age. Currently, my interest is in learner autonomy. What does this mean? Stephen has written a blog post about this, which I really need to get my head round.
Three things have cropped up in the last week, which have refocused my attention on learner autonomy.
1. One of my sons is doing a music technology degree. He has just entered the second year and was excited because the course outline stipulated that he could choose a module to work on and choose a group to work in. He wanted to do a video/music module and wanted to work in a group of three. As it turned out this year two key lecturers have gone on sabbatical and one has left – so the students (for administrative purposes and logistical reasons) have been told which module they must do and the working group has been reduced from three to two. I can see why the University has had to do this, but I do wonder about the reality of student autonomy. This is a mild way of saying that I feel quite cross about it. After all his fees are huge and this is his once chance. He had already worked out what his video/music project would be – was motivated and keen to start. Now he has to do a module he is not so interested in, simply because the University allowed two lecturers to have a sabbatical at the same time. But presumably the lecturers must also have autonomy – so if everyone has choice over what to do when they want to do it, how do we deal with the inevitable conflicts?
2. I have been invited to be an External Advisor for a University post-graduate course which is being revalidated. To my delight I read that the new post-graduate course will put a heavy emphasis on student autonomy – but then I read that this is interpreted as self-assessment, peer-assessment and reflective learning. Whilst all these contribute to student autonomy, I see students’ control over their own learning as being the most crucial element. Now I’m wondering whether this is possible in Higher Education – or to what extent it is possible. I need to think more about this and will be interested to hear what the tutor team has to say when the validation panel meets.
3. A feature of the CCK11 course is that there is no central meeting place. Past courses have had Moodle discussion forums – but this course is taking a true distributed learning approach . This is going to be very interesting in terms of learner autonomy. Will participants be able to cope with this? Will they find each other? Will they be able to have ‘meaningful’ conversations? How will they forge connections? Will they like/value/appreciate the amount of autonomy that has been built into the course design? This will be a real test of whether learner participants can handle the level of autonomy on offer.
So for CCK11 – I will be observing/participating (probably more observing than participating) with a view to understanding more about learner autonomy.