The Paradox of Structure in eLearning Environs

structure

This week’s materials in the CICMOOC on the Paradox of Structure sparked that seed of interest for me.  For the last couple of years I have been exploring the contours of self-organizing within open organizational structures (e.g. open source software movement, world social forum).  The 119 Gallery in Lowell, MA is often the focus of this work and I’ve written about it at various place on this blog [post 1, post 2, post 3].  However, the prompt to explore structure in the CICMOOC as one of week 3’s exercises has me returning to the comparison between this MOOC and my current Collaborative Exploration (CE) offered up by the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston.

I’m trying to enlist the help of one or more of the current participants of the CE to collaborate with me in the CICMOOC exercise on the Paradox of Structure.  In the meantime, I thought I would explore the enabling and limiting features of the two current learning spaces I find myself in at this time.  Both learning spaces are looking at creativity and ways to engage and enliven individual creativity.

The CE is a 22 day small group, case-based exploration under the topic of “Everyone Can Think Creatively!”.  Meeting synchronously once a week for an hour using Google+ Hangout and engaging in individual inquiries based on the case in between are the main activities. Each synchronous session has a format and structure, while the individual inquiries are diverse and broad.  The group exchanges are intended to support and stretch individual thinking.

The UMass Boston CE enables me to pick my own path of inquiry, but within a defined structural space that focuses or contains the inquiry. Much like the story shared in the CICMOOC lecture this week by Kathryn Jablokow..  There are colleagues to motivate and be accountable to as well as provide additional thinking and support.  It also helps me to know that this is a contained activity with defined parameters of time and input which helps me move forward.  In terms of limits, the CE has a small number of individuals to engage with.  The connections are deep, but not particularly diverse.  Also even thought the time is specified, it still creates some pressure to maintain the schedule.

The UPenn CICMOOC on Coursera has a more formal 8-week course structure.  It is a MOOC, so thousands of individuals might be engaging at any given time.  The course has build in a great deal of diversity in terms of materials, levels of engagement and assignments.  There are assignments, activities and projects to prompt accountability.  I am also participating with a learner initiated quadblog initiated by Cathleen Nardi with myself, Maureen Maher and Jack Matson.

The CICMOOC is enabling in a very different way. Here the course materials are more prescribed, but they are provided in easy to access and digest formats with the option to dig deeper if I like.  Likewise, weekly activities and exercises are diverse enough and there is enough freedom to choose those that interest me.  I have thus far found at least one exercise that energizes me each week.  The course’s three possible levels of engagement create both freedom and support.  Each level is presented as completely valid and no option is presented as better than the other, just different.

In terms of limits, the CICMOOC has provided the opportunity to engage with a very broad set of learners and potentially ideas.  I have yet to fully engage in deep exchanges.  In part this is a lack of my own commitment to do so, but without accountability (or obligation) built in I am finding it difficult to make the time to engage.  The exception to this is the self-organized quadblogging group.  This commitment to quadblog has been enough to prompt me to write regularly and interact with a few folks.  I see that part of the exercise for this week prompts a step to participate in the discussion board, so I will see what happens next.  This inability to have others really respond, react and prompt further thinking prevents deep understanding and exploration of the content.

I am gong to continue to think on these formats and for the time being it seem to me that any eLearning ecosystem needs to have a diversity of options and levels of engagement with content and learners.  Enabling others and supporting learners to build that ecosystem is what I hope an upcoming open seminar on Personal Learning Networkswill explore.

Image from: http://davincidilemma.com/2010/12/add-structure-to-your-schedule-to-be-more-creative/

Creative Community; Community Creative

It is written in many places how the arts and creative individuals contribute to community and community development. The concept of “creative economy” owes its origins to this body of work.  But what about the influences in the other direction?  What does community add to the creative process?  Is there creativity without community?

We think of creativity as an individual quality.  Incubated and expressed by a singular brain making sense of the world.  And certainly there is an understanding that creative individuals can band together and form a community for mutual support and exploration of creative impulses.  But what if creativity only exists because there is community?  Because there are thoughts, ideas and connections to make sense of?

So this is the line of inquiry I started as part of the UMass Boston Critical and Creative Thinking’s current Collaborative Exploration -Everybody Can Think Creatively!!  I came across Rhode’s (1961) concepts of the four Ps in the creative journey (Person, Process, Product, Press) which works from that idea that creativity is part of individual cognitive processes. But Glaveanu’s 2012 article entitled “Rewriting the Language of Creativity” argues for a sociocultural approach to these concepts transforming them into ones that have more social meaning.  Person becomes Actor, Process becomes Action, Product translates to Artifact, and Press splits into its social meaning of Audience and its material component, Affordances.  Here is how Glaveanu details the relationship between Rhodes “sociocognitive” approach and this more “sociocultural” one:

Glaveanu5As

Glaveanu also provides a visual of how these 5As integrate with one another:

Integrating5As

As someone who is more of a sociologist than a psychologist, Glaveanu’s 5As resonate with me at a deeper level.  What if it is our ability to come to a situation and then the interactions of that situation that embody creative processes?  What if it is not the product itself, but the meaning we attach to the product, its function as an artifact, that is the more important aspect of goods and ideas?  And can any idea or creative endeavor exist outside of its social context, those who interact with it and the material constraints that birth it into being?

So how do these ideas and questions connect into the activities and concepts being explored in the #CICMOOC?  The concept of being an actor or having agency is my next line of thinking and it seems to me that the lectures and exercises presented in these first two weeks by the University of Pennsylvania team are all about individuals viewing themselves as creative agents.  By encouraging hands on experimentation and self reflection the materials invite and prompt us to think and act as creators.  They provide multiple doorways into the act of creation and this week we gets some actual tools to get us going.

These three things – 1) an invitation and openness to create; 2) permission and encouragement to start with what you have and enter into the process with what you are and 3) support and materials to get you going seem critical to becoming and agent and feeling empowered to be creative.  I still have much more to think about in relation to this creative agency concept, but I am at the start of this inquiry.

Referenced Articles:

Gl?veanu, V. P. (2013). Rewriting the language of creativity: The Five A’s framework. Review of General Psychology17(1), 69.

Rhodes, M. (1961). An analysis of creativity. The Phi Delta Kappan42(7), 305-310.

Considering Self and Community while Exploring Creativity

I started the Creativity, Innovation and Change MOOC (#cicmooc) this week as well as a Collaborative Exploration (CE), “Everyone Can Think Creatively!” offered in collaboration with the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston.   Exploring self was the focus of the two activities I engaged in for CIC and understanding how my personal story connected with others was step one with the CE.

Reflecting on self in CIC was a relatively deep endeavor designed to unearth my creative style, my motivations, my driving forces, influencing factors and thinking about blocks and supports.  Connecting with others in this context is a secondary activity and a community of learners is still in the early stages of emerging.  The injection of a quadblog group headed up by Cathleen Nardi helps with the idea that I’m at least accountable and connected to others who are sharing this experience.  That I am part of a learning community. The return of familiar names and faces from the previous #edcmooc is also connective.  So, here in CIC-land I’ve had time to consider material and think on self and move slowly into “conversation” with others.  Although the conversation is right now more like a bunch of random broadcasts waiting for response.

The CE starts from a different place.  The content is less prescribed and as such the starting place is a little more unsettled.  I’m very familiar with this format now — I have my sea legs so to speak.  While a small group has formed around a loose case or idea, the first step here is to really get to know each other.  Intensive autobiographical introductions are the mechanism for doing this along with thinking about where each of us connects to the others. These connections are collectively shared.

So these are two very different places to start in thinking through creativity and creative process — structured content and a loose community vs. loose content and a structured community.  It will be interesting to see how my thinking and knowledge builds through these two distinct learning experiences.

 

 

Exploring Creativity with Micro Communities

This week starts the Creativity, Innovation and Change MOOC (#cicmooc) on Coursera as well a semester of creative thinking oriented Collaborative Explorations offered in collaboration with the Creative and Critical Thinking Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston.  For the CIC MOOC, I’ve joined a quadblogging group comprised of myself and these three other engaged learners:

What both quad-blogging and Collaborative Explorations have in common is that they attempt to create “thicker” connections within a learner community that is disperse and diffuse.  Strategies such as these seem essential in creating one’s personal learning network (PLN) in the ever expanding world of MOOCs and other online learning venues.  It will be interesting to see what these micro-community of learners yield and how the two formats differ.

Current Exploration on Creative and Transformative Education

I have been engaged in a collaborative exploration on “creative and transformative education” run by Peter Taylor who directs the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston.  My thinking related to creative and transformative education is still in a very unsettle space.      Below are the threads I’m starting to considered based on the three goals of the case.

a) expose a variety of possibly competing views of “Creative,” “Transformative,” and their combination;

I began here by searching for “transformative research” since any doctoral program would need to make the case on what new knowledge and research would it be preparing its students for.  The National Science Foundation put out a report in 2007 (https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/documents/2007/tr_report.pdf) calling for the NSF to fund and support more “transformative reserach”.  In the context of the report concepts of “risk,” “innovation,” and increasing openness to paradigm shifts.  The NSF defines “transformative resaerch” as:

research driven by ideas that have the  potential to radically change our understanding of an important existing scientific or engineering  concept or leading to the creation of a new paradigm or field of science or engineering. Such  research is also characterized by its challenge to current understanding or its pathway to new  frontiers.

In particular the report looks at the resistance to change that comes from long standing institutional and cultural practices in the field of scientific research.:

Experts in the areas being challenged (many of whom may sit on  review panels) may dismiss such ideas by pronouncing the research overreaching or without basis. Consequently, such ideas can remain hidden or discouraged and their breakthrough discoveries delayed or even missed. (p. 4)

I was also able to locate a call for transformative research in the social sciences (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding-and-guidance/funding-opportunities/23831/transforming-social-science.aspx) put out by the Economic and Social Research Council which is the largest funding agent in the UK for research in the economic and social issue arena.  Issued for the 2012-2013 funding cycle, it is a relatively new push with a focus on “innovation” and “risk” as well.

 We regard transformative research as that which involves pioneering theoretical and  methodological innovation. The expectation is that the transformative research call will  encourage novel developments of social science inquiry, and support research activity that  attracts an element of risk.( p.1)

Some of the possible characteristics of transformative research according to this call include (p. 2):

  • results that will radically change accepted thinking in the social sciences
  • research that may be high risk but with the possibility of high reward
  • research that is carried out with the expectation that it will produce a broad base of
  • knowledge and new thinking/insights

The next line of inquiry in this area would be to look at concepts of “creative research” and transformative research in the context of the educational field.

b) draw employment possibilities from their own location in the world;

Thinking on who might be the potential audiences for a doctoral program in creative and transformational learning it occurs to me that these might be possible candidates: 

  • Those working in fluid and changing contexts
  • Organizational leaders with diverse staff and customers / constituents
  • Those at the intersection of sectors, fields or disciplines
  • Individuals responsible for managing complex problems with diverse stakeholders
  • Those in transnational / global environments
  • Those seeking new ways to research and explore areas in new ways

I was then thinking about programs that are out there and have “non-traditional” or alternative concepts of graduate education with the idea that they might trigger ideas for promotion and language.  The European Graduate School’s Expressive Arts PhD  and Goddard’s MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts were two examples I was starting to explore along this thread.

The next step in this line of inquiry is find some additional examples and try to synthesize their approaches.

c) do blue-sky thinking about what kind of mid-career or mid-life creative and transformative education that would attract their personal interest

Thinking about the kind of program I would attract me, I jotted down these elements.

  • A program that would ideally attract an extremely diverse set of students with varied experiences, research interests, and personal backgrounds
  • Provides many, many opportunities for these students to interact and learn from one another — a learning community — Peter Taylor has been exploring the idea of a studio and in a previous collaborative exploration Marius Foley talked about elements of a co-constructive design environment. here Peter’s Studio idea,  Marius’s criteria above
  • Demonstration or mastery would take multiple forms an not just a written thesus (need to find examples)
  • A small set of required core courses that focus on inquiry, research, engagement etc — similar to 3 core research and engagement courses in CCT program — 1 initial course designed to allow students to identify their core interests and begin a learning map of additional courses that will meet their goals.
  • How can you design a program that seeks creativity and transformation without being too prescriptive?

I am going to continue thinking on what I would desire. I also started an inquiry in the term “doctorate”

  • The term doctorate comes from the Latin docere, meaning “to teach.”
  • At the university, doctoral training was a form of apprenticeship to a guild.

Resources

I’ve also collected these resources to follow up on mostly prompted by Dan’s paper on practice-based research.

  • Hanson, Phil and Baron Bruce 2009. Research-Based Practice: Situating Vertical City between Artistic Development and Applied Cognitive Science.  TDR/The Drama Review, Winter 2009, Vol. 53, No. 4 , Pages 120-136 (doi: 10.1162/dram.2009.53.4.120)
  • Leary, Mark R. 2001. Introduction to Behavioral Research Methodology. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • PARIP. n.d. Practice as Research in Performance. University of Bristol, www.bristol.ac.uk/parip/ (5 September 2008).

  •  
  • Art & Research – http://www.artandresearch.org.uk/v2n2/busch.html

Borgdorff‘s vision of artistic research

Embedded in artistic and academic contexts, artistic research seeks to convey and communicate content that is enclosed in aesthetic experiences, enacted in creative practices and embodied in artistic products.

 

Engaging in MOOCs: Exploring motivating factors and goals of diverse learners

NOTE:  this piece was update on 4/28 at 6:11pm EDT.

A good chunk of my adult life has been involved in community-based and group level endeavors that sought change, both large and small.  These efforts have included a band of college students searching for a more fulfilling learning experience, a cooperative house dedicated to egalitarian decision making, neighborhood groups fighting to maintain cultural and physical assets, women banding together to move themselves out of poverty through job skill training, and organizations working to protect free speech, increase community capacity, build creative connections or support newcomers or youth in gaining power.  To some degree or another, these efforts have involved individuals who were motivated by some level of self-interest with a belief that action with others was an effective and necessary strategy.  However, often these self-interests melded and expanded a larger set of collective concerns.

Throughout these experiences, I have always been intrigued by why individuals engage in anything?  What prompts a person to volunteer, vote, act, create or even learn?  How do we create environments that welcome engagement?  Can these environments be crafted to meet the needs of heterogeneous publics? What is needed to ensure that those environments are nimble enough to adapt to the changing needs, skills, interests and capacities of its various members?

Over the last year, I’ve been engaged in a half dozen MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses).  The topics have including the technical (e.g. Social Network Analysis, Learning Analytics) to the cultural (e.g. e-Learning and Digital Cultures, Learning Creative Learning).  They have been offered in a variety of platforms (e.g. Coursera, Canvas, P2PU).  They have employed instructivist and connectivist pedagogical theories.   As a result of these experiences, I have connected with others who are interested in technology, learning, and engagement processes.  We have tried to make sense of our own learning experience in MOOCs and think through what these environments mean for new individual and collective inquiry.  I have also tried to understand how this learning environment relates to my own interests in engaging environments.  Through these learning experiences, conversations, and reflections, I have come to think of MOOCs, especially those informed by connectivist ideals (cMOOCs), as something different than a course.  Rather, like many other spaces where I have found engaged individuals (i.e. neighborhood parks, city streets, a community art gallery, social media), I have come to understand MOOCs as a public learning commons.  Spaces individual learning and inquiry connects with that of others towards a larger set of social learning .

M.K.Stewart in a post on the U.C. Davis blog The Wheel, talks about the experiences of engaging in the e-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC as a participatory community of learners.  Linking that experience to a MacArthur Foundation report by scholar Henry Jenkins, Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture, Stewart writes:

Because MOOCs are voluntary and are taught online, the features that traditionally dictate the make-up of a classroom are irrelevant—quite literally, anyone with internet access and a few available hours a week can participate. In eLearning and Digital Cultures, the one thing we had in common was an interest in the topic, and the only reason we were compelled to complete the MOOC was sustained interest in the community.

It is this idea of “sustained interest in the community,” that has been the focus of my most recent inquiry. This inquiry has explored how and why individuals engage or participate in MOOCs generally, and cMOOCs specifically.

A recent working paper out of Stanford University using data from three computer science course designed for those with a high school, undergraduate and graduate level education.  The courses were primarily of the instructivist, or xMOOC, variety with course video lectures and graded assessments.   Through a cluster analysis of standard learning analytic data drawn from these courses, the authors described four “prototypical trajectories of engagement:”

  • Completers – most video lectured watched, assessments completed and course credit received
  • Auditors – video lectured watched, sparse engagement with assessments, and not course credit received
  • Disengagers – videos watched and assessments completed at beginning of class and then decreased or stopped engagement
  • Samplers – watched a few video lectures, usually at the beginning of the course and occasionally after the course was under way

source: M.K. Stewart, e-Literate

On the blog e-Literate, Phil Hill shared an emerging typology of student engagement gleaned from course analytics of Coursera-style offerings and engaged conversation with colleagues.  The typologies share much in common with the Stanford working paper above.  Hill articulates five levels:

  • Active Participants – These are the students who fully intend to participate in the MOOC and take part in discussion forums, the majority of assignments and all quizzes & assessments
  • Passive Participants – These are students who view a course as content to consume. They may watch videos, take quizzes, read discuss forums, but generally do not engage with the assignments.
  • Drop-Ins – These are students who perform some activity (watch videos, browse or participate in discussion forum) for a select topic within the course, but do not attempt to complete the entire course. Some of these students are focused participants who use MOOCs informally to find content that help them meet course goals elsewhere.
  • Observers – These students login and may read content or browse discussions, but do not take any form of assessment beyond pop-up quizzes embedded in videos.
  • No-Shows – These students appear to be the largest group of those registering for an Coursera-style MOOC, where people register but never login to the course while it is active

source: M.K. Stewart, e-Literate

Hill’s typology has more nuance than the Stanford paper, although I probably would still keep the category of a “disengager.” However, I’d probably rename it to something more like “drop-outs.”

Still, these typologies are primarily descriptive of the individuals involved in these MOOCs.  They don’t capture that next level of understanding, which is related to the motivations or goals driving the engagement.  They also don’t fully measure engagement that goes beyond consuming course content and completing assignments.  How do you capture conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and blogs?  What about intereactions of subgroups within the larger MOOC community?  How might we measure shares, retweets, and likes?  How are people connecting outside of the formal forum or discussion board of a class?  How are individual students helping each other? What do these MOOC-based  social networks look like?

Understanding the motivations and breadth of engagement activities would help better inform the design and teaching strategies used to keep “sustained interest in the community.”  They also seem to lack a conception of engagement as an activity or entity in itself.

Hill does talk about learner goals a bit in a post that preceded the one above which is worth noting.   Ethan Zuckerman, in a recent keynote address to the Digital Media and Learning Conference, explores more fully the concept of engagement.  Zuckerman posits two vectors  (thick / thin and symbolic / impactful) that define engagement practices and work to form four quadrants of engagement:

  • Thin and symbolic – acting is online only in things like online petitions or liking a cause
  • Thin and Impactful – a simple action which itself might be thin, but whose impact is meaningful, such as voting
  • Thick but Symbolic – lots of activity and work in a manner that may result in primarily symbolic change or attention such as the actions of the Occupy movement.
  • Thick and Impactful – full participation, but often works best in small groups such as neighborhood change.

I took these ideas of “thick and thin” and applied them my experience and thinking about MOOCs and engagement.  At the same time, I was thinking about how individuals in MOOCs seemed to prefer working independently or with others (interdependently).  This may align with a third vector that Zuckerman adds related to scale (individual, small group, and social activities).  These ideas also resonate in Peter Taylor’s thinking about learning in microworlds, messyworlds and the real world.

So MOOCs present themselves as learning environments where individuals have varying capacity and interest in engaging (thick /thin).  They also have varying modes or preferences for engaging (independent / interdependent).  These interactions may serve varying levels of meaning for the individual and the community of learners (symbolic / impactful).  And while the MOOC is a large-scale endeavor, its ability to accommodate learning at a variety of scales is possible.

Thus, I’ve come to a mental model or metaphor of MOOCs being like the green quadrangle in the center of the quintessential college campus.  It is open to all in the learning community.  On a nice spring day, a formal philosophy class has pulled its chairs outside for a class session.  A study group for a Calculus class is swapping notes for an upcoming exam and another group of students are working on a presentation for a class on global markets.  Multiple individuals are reading, studying, and taking notes for a range of learning goals while occasionally stopping to share casual social interactions with passing classmates or peers nearby.  Another group of students are playing Frisbee as several groups are promoting a range of activities from end of semester events to political causes.  An acoustic guitarist has a small audience listening to her songs as professors and students pass through on their way to other spaces – classrooms, dorm rooms, offices, labs, coffee shops, community service activities, athletic practices.  Some of them may return later to the quad to engage in any range of activities form the educational to the social.

My interest now is how to design MOOCs and other open online learning environments in a way that can accommodate and respond to the varied demands that learners may have of them.  And how can such design facilitate the smooth transition back and forth between activities, as learners are able to understand what they need and aspire to.  And can such environments support and recognize these varied needs.

Here I am starting to explore the role that instructional designers, teachers, leaders, mentors and peers play in engaging and motiving leaders.  How do they encourage sharing? How do they create models of peer support?  How do they orient learners to the processes of engaging in such a learning environment?  How do they help learners connect to and “know” each other?  How do they encourage feedback and response from peers as a motivating factor?

Thus, rather than pure sets of technologies and structures, how do we ensure that MOOCs are able to create and re-create a set of social and cultural practices that unleash the learning potential and agency of us all?

Panic, disorientation, risk, trust, self-efficacy and transformative learning

image by Charity Johansson

As part of a Creative Exploration (CE) on cMOOCs, Rhoda Mauer at Cornell has been posting comments and resources related to concepts of panic, trust and storytelling.  At the same time, Peter Taylor, who is also part of the CE, is talking about a possible new collaboration on transformative education. These conversations intersect with my attempts to understand the power of shifting perspective and building confidence and competence (self-efficacy) that may result from being in a new or unique learning environment.

A brief Google search on the terms “disorientation learning trust” got me to a piece on transformative learning.  So my exploration is turning to learning more about “transformative learning”.

In a Journal of Environmental Education piece, D’Amato and Krasny (2011) write:

Transformative learning is often precipitated by a “disorienting dilemma,” which is followed by critical self-re?ection, social interactions, planning for action, and building competence and self-con?dence in new roles and relationships as a result of taking action (Mezirow, 2000). Such learning could result in personal growth as well as in questioning and changing one’s behaviors toward the environment (instrumental learning). (p.239)

Kucukaydin and Cranton (Adult EducationQuarterly, 2013) also reference Mezirow as four distinct types of transformative learning:

  •  developmental (Daloz, 1999)
  • emancipatory (Freire, 1972)
  • extrarational (Boyd,1989)
  • rational (Mezirow, 1991)

Keegan (Asian Social Science, 2011) also speaks to four processes in transformative learning (critical reflection or feedback,  reflective discourse or evaluation, and action related to learning and teaching quality).  that resonate with the 4 Rs  and Probe-Create-Change-Reflect modes that Peter Taylor talks about as well as the experience I had during the EDCMOOC offered Coursera by U of Edinburgh.

Let’s see where this creative exploration path takes me.

 

 

Civics, digital badges and alternative assessment: Preparing students to be engaged citizens

I have a new working paper on digital badge and civics released today as part of CIRCLE’s working paper series.  The paper explores digital badges and alternative assessments for civic skills, knowledge, and dispositions and is entitled “New and Alternative Assessments, Digital Badges, and Civics: An Overview of Emerging Themes and Promising Directions.” It also considers digital badges as well as ePortfolios, rubrics, games, simulations, and other assessment and learning tools that might expand options for those committed to improving civic education. The working paper is also summarized in an online presentation.

 

Self-Organization in the #EDCMOOC

Keeley Sorokti just wrote up some really excellent thinking on the ideas of scaffolding as it relates to the recent eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC offered up by the University of Edinburgh on Coursera.  Given that my background isn’t in education, I tend to think of these things in relation to engagement, participation and community building.  Opportunities, access, motivation, connection, belonging and collective action are often the terms that guide my thinking about how environments, both virtual and real, make for a successful public sphere.

For a couple of years I’ve been thinking about self-organizing systems as they apply to community-based organizations.  Recently ideas such as connectivism and networked learning environments have entered into my thinking.  So, I thought it might help for me to pull out the features of self-organizing projects and map them against the EDCMOOC.

Feature Description / Importance / Role
Plateaus / Frameworks / Boundaries Organizing spaces or defined scope that shapes the problem space.   Can be a physical, virtual or conceptual space or goal.  Keeps the actors in a focused area.

The EDCMOOC did this through the construct of a class with defined content blocks and activities.  The MOOC was the container for this system.

Heterogeneity / Differentiation Variance in the systems of actors, ideas, roles.  Too much similarity will not create the tension or conflict necessary to move the system forward.

The EDCMOOC provided multiple platforms for communication and engagement (e.g. Coursera forums, Google G+ community, Twitter, Facebook) and presented content in a broad and open enough manner to appeal to a variety of interests.  By reaching a global community and engaging thousands of individuals there was more diversity than in a traditional class, although there were gaps or lack of certain perspectives (e.g. those without access, those in more disenfranchised settings, etc).

Ambiguity Some amount of non-definition that leaves room for questions, exploration and introduction of new ideas or pathways that were not planned for or expected.

Content in the EDCMOOC was presented in thematic blocks.  There were choices and avenues for exploration.  The main assignment was intentionally vague to invite a myriad of interpretations.

Boundary Objects A set of tools or concepts that are “plastic” enough to be bent and used by different actors in different ways, but still can act as a “glue” of sorts.

The EDCMOOC boundary objects were the electronic communications — emails, tweets, fb posts,  blog entries and collection of additional creative tools that allowed for a range of expressions.

Connections / Mulit-level / Polycentric Importance of many connections between actors both vertical and horizontal as well as multiple actions and centers of activity.  Lends to robustness and resilience.

The EDCMOOC probably succeeded most in this arena.  By de-centering the instructors, creating relatively open thematic blocks and proposing multiple communication blocks, the MOOC was able to allow for leaders and passionate users to emerge and connect across multiple platforms.  Many of the participants mapped these interactions to demonstrate the broad network.

Feedback / Learning / Adaptation The system should allow for new information and lessons learned to move throughout the system and adapt accordingly.

The EDCMOOC had enough structured interactions (e.g. Google Hangout, Twitter Chats, defined meeting spaces) that individuals interested in engaging could collective share and discuss.  The open, self-directed nature of the environment also allowed for individuals to find new pathways and thinking on new resources in relation to the proposed themes and ongoing discussion of participatns.

Coordination / Influence / Control Not a command and control style, but rather will maintain the system by which information gets integrated and moved throughout the system.  May play a categorization or prioritization role or facilitate such processes happening.

Clearly the instructional team for the EDCMOOC at the University of Edinburgh played a critical role in defining the  the content, orchestrating the release of that content, and providing top level information and communication.  Addiitonally, multiple node of coordination emerged throughout from participants themselves from the core group who created resources prior to the start of class, to organizers of the Twitter chats, to folks like Keeley who scheduled real-time gatherings and interactions.

New Additions to My Learning Ecosystem

Keeley Sokoti has been engaging in a number of conversations with myself and others in the MOOC about ways to support and extend learning within MOOCs and other online environments.  A number of these folks have been engaged in an asynchronous VoiceThread discussion over the last couple of weeks.   Keeley orchestrated the convening of a group of us in a Google+ Hangout earlier today and now these individuals are part of my learning ecosystem in an even stronger way.  Most of them have blogs where they capture their thoughts.  Check them out:

Keeley’s Blog: http://gatherwithpurpose.wordpress.com/ 
Rick’s Blog: http://drrbb2nd.blogspot.com/
Beth D.’s Blog: http://selfdirection.blogspot.com/
Fran’s Blog: https://elearningmoocedinburgh.wordpress.com/
Henry’s Blog – http://henryjburnett.wordpress.com

Virginia, I am sure, will in the not too distant future be publishing her thoughts on line as well.