In online learning, asynchronous interaction and participation is important in MOOC. Sharing and contribution via blogging, forum posting could ensure that participants learn through social networking and personal reflection and practice. However, there are challenges for those who are more comfortable with the face-to-face learning, where such sharing and contribution are confined to the classes behind closed walls.
I think Galileo’s Grandmother is sharing with and contributing to the networks while blogging, only that it is a matter of interpretation in differentiating between sharing and contribution. Normally, people share in networks, and this may or may not contribute to a group (like a class or community), especially when those sharing of ideas are geared to the interests of the network, but not necessarily focusing on the shared and agreed goals of the group. She says:”I think about joining the scholarly conversation around areas that are of interest to my research. In order to be a part of those conversations, one must publish. The teacher’s mandate that his students should post/publish on each others’ blogs may be a way of preparing the students for that scholarly world in the same way as class papers or dissertations”. Would this depend on what the intention and goals are? If one intends to be part of the conversation, what does one want to achieve? Is it to satisfy the requirements of the professor or the teacher? May be in a course, one needs to post on blogs, forums or tweet to share, due to the teacher’s and course requirements, in participation. Or would you like to engage with others, and learn with them (professors, knowledgeable others, and peers)? So, it is interesting to learn that some professors or teachers would mandate students (as a group) to blog and tweet, and post comments. This would depend on the needs and readiness of the students.
For HE students, that might be fine, but for Vocational Education and Training (VET) students, I would be cautious in adopting such an approach in online learning. Why? Students who are new to this new and emerging way of learning and learning environment may not feel secure and comfortable in sharing with their group members in public space. Besides, there are privacy issues that need to be addressed. Unless students have understood how such sharing and contribution would significantly add value to their learning, they may not opt for the open sharing using blog or twitters, or Facebook. There are also other factors which might hinder their participation and engagement in the blogosphere, and social media, including the “lack” of skills and literacy, in creating and writing of blog posts, or artifacts.
In the vocational training sectors, many students are still accustomed to the face-to-face teaching, though there is a trend towards blended learning. Tony elaborated in his post in the comparison of online to face to face learning:
So, coming back to the Smith Jaggers and Bailey conclusion: can online learning widen access to disadvantaged groups? Well, first, this may be a bit of a straw man. I don’t recall much of the rationale for online learning in the literature being that it can recruit students from high school who can’t get into college – or don’t want to go. This is a tough market to reach, by any means, and often these students do not have the confidence or independent learning skills to study wholly online. The main justification from my perspective for fully online learning (apart from the skills it develops) is that it suits best adult and lifelong learners who cannot otherwise access college, but have pretty good learning skills already (and may well already have a conventional community college or university education). Online learning may be used to help some kinds of high school drop-outs, but it would need to be combined with a whole range of other strategies, such as personal counselling and one-on-one learner support.
I agree with Tony’s arguments here.
However, it is a changing learning environment, and if we are focusing on the development of motor skills in vocational training, or the demonstration or practice of dancing, videos production, or digital story writing and creation, presentations, then I reckon online learning using media and technology could be pretty useful, in both HE and VET. To this end, I would be thinking about the incorporation of more practical elements in online teaching and learning, in order to enhance the learning experience of students and learners.
How would these be incorporated in MOOC? In DS106, there are Digital Story creation and sharing. In our Change11, blogs and forums (Daily Discussion and Facebook) are used, with the production of artifacts – pictures, posts, slides, videos by instructors and participants.
In Stanford courses on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, a more instructor-centered but technology mediated approach to online education is adopted. The introduction to AI class is included here. Here a Reddit group is formed with the AI class. I am still exploring how engagement and sharing is achieved through those courses.