Swarm Intelligence – its use in Networked Learning and MOOC

Swarm Intelligence has been introduced for more than a decade.  Here is my reflection of its use in networked learning and MOOC

What is Swarm Intelligence?

The emergent collective intelligence of groups of simple agents (Bonabeau et al, 1999)

What are the examples of Swarm Intelligence?

- Group foraging of social insects

- Cooperative transportation

- Division of labor

- Nest-building of social insects

- Collective sorting and clustering

How about examples of Swarm Intelligence in human beings? (My addition)

- Network, groups and collectives – foraging of human beings

- Cooperative logistics

- Division of labor

- Networks, community and society building of human beings – basis of eco-system

- Collective idea creation and generation, information sharing, distribution and aggregation, knowledge creation and building

What is self organisation?

A set of dynamical mechanism whereby structures appear at the global level of a system from interactions of its lower-level components (Bonabeau et al, in Swarm Intelligence, 1999).

This seems to be the case for cMOOC and xMOOC, whereby the MOOC movement was based on a butterfly effect (with small initial stimulus from individuals who sparked the changes), followed by interactions of the various components and networks.

I suppose the first few MOOCs – David Wiley and Alec Courus open up of their online course to the world, followed by George Siemen and Stephen Downes fully opening up their Connectivism and Connective Knowledge CCK08 for free, has led to the first wave of MOOC.  This was then followed by the second wave of various cMOOCs – including the DS106, eduMOOC, Pedagogy First MOOC, and the third wave of xMOOCs AI and Machine Learning, Udacity, Coursera and Udacity, with the fourth wave morphing towards a hybrid form of c and x MOOCs, yet to be formally identified and recognised.

What are the basis of self organisation?

- Positive feedback (amplification)

- Negative feedback (for counter-balance and stabilization)

- Amplification fluctuations (randomness, errors, random walks)

- Multiple interactions

To what extent are the above basis characteristics of MOOCs?

Positive feedback (amplification): Participants in MOOCs and interested networkers often amplify their or other ideas, opinions, artifacts and links through re-posting on blogs, re-tweeting, and curation through Paper.li or Scoop.it, or emailing them to the news, or commenting them in various spaces.

Negative feedback: Participants and networkers often defend “destructive criticisms or flamed arguments” by diffusion, re-direction to experts for comments, or by raising critical questions to challenge the “fallacy” or inappropriate behavior – like trolling, flaming, bullying, or spamming, by discussing and establishing “ground rules” or reference to social media policy.

Amplification fluctuations: Participants and networkers often have feelings of chaos, making mistakes, trying to do too much things (failures due to multi-tasking) or information overload.  Here experimentation and exploration seems to be the key towards self-organisation, where serendipitous learning would emerge.

Multiple interactions: One of the critical success factors in MOOCs lies with the capability and capacity to interact on multiple levels, the “diversity of networking and opinions” where one solicited and tried.  This opens up opportunities to new and emerging ideas and concepts, and a transformational learning by shifting the frame of reference – based on creative thinking, critical reflection and challenging the assumptions of ones’ beliefs and knowledge held.

Human foraging

Cooperation search by “pheromone trails” – This is the basis of collective resource repository with social bookmarking, and course blog as a reflection and discussion space in various cMOOCs.  Here Curation would be done using various tools such as Delicious, Paper.ly, Scoop.it, RSS, and blogs etc.

Stigmergy in termite nest building

This is analogous to the knowledge creation and building in social networks building.  Social networking are fused in MOOCs to extend classroom interaction.  This would also enable individuals to build their own PLN and PLE, which also contribute to the Social Learning Networks (SLN) and Social Learning Environment (SLE) under a Learning eco-system.

Aren’t there common practices and philosophy between ants and human in the building of nest (networks)?

How would Connectivism and Swarm Theory provide framework on the pedagogy in cMOOCs?

In order to transfer the learning obtained from Connectivism to an institutional education and learning environment, it seems vital to shift the frame of reference and adopt those learning principles of Connectivism which are more applicable and adaptable from informal learning, social networking.  This would prevent the adoption of one size suits all sort of industrialist models of teaching and pedagogy where the only acceptable model of instructions is based on behavioral/cognitivist approach.

How could such a course design be used in those online courses (MOOC)? 

Here are some useful guidelines from the paper (Baran, 2013):

Several pedagogical decisions should be considered to create pedagogically sound practices. Instructors who intend to integrate social media tools into their educational settings may follow the recommendations that grew out of this study:

• – Analyze the affordances and limitations of each social media tool with pedagogical methods, content, and the context of the instruction.

- • Spend considerable time on planning and design of learning experiences before the course starts.

-• Allow flexibility for change and revisions as the course progresses.

•- Consider students’ levels, interests, backgrounds, and knowledge on the use of social media tools in their everyday life and educational settings.

-• Rather than using each social media tool in isolation, follow an integrated approach.

-• Communicate clearly the purpose and the usage of each social media tool with the students.

•- Review the institution’s policies on social media use, and create social media guidelines (eg. privacy, security) for the specific course. Allow student input in preparing these guidelines.

• – Integrate authentic assessment activities with social media tools into the courses.

•-  Take advantage of social media as a way of connecting the class to the experts around the world.

-• Conduct formative evaluation of the course and frequently receive feedback from the students.

•- Explore the opportunities for creating an open content with and for the students. Be familiar with the Creative Commons licenses.

-• Encourage students’ participation in creating and contributing to course content.

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