In this Transparency in cooperative online education, Christian and Morten argue the importance of transparency and awareness in online learning, with particular emphasis on cooperative learning in the networks.
They conclude that:
From the perspective of the theory of cooperative freedom, however, the special kind of communication and interaction afforded by social networking sites is interesting and has pedagogical potential. From this point of view, social networking should be considered as a supplement to other tools. The potential of social networking lies within transparency and the ability to create awareness among students.
I agree in principle to what Christian and Morten have found.
There are, however, a few challenges which remained unresolved in online education, when social networking is used as a supplement to other tools:
1. It is acknowledged that some learners would prefer or wish to become independent learners, despite their setting up of blogs as a personal learning network. Such learners often would prefer to use blogs as a personal space for reflection, thinking aloud, and a repository of resources that they could easily refer to or retrieve for later use. So, the contribution of such bloggers to social networks could be significant as their artifacts could add value to the social capital. However, their intention is based on conceptual connections with other bloggers’ thoughts or the ideas or findings of those artifacts rather than the mere personal connections. Learning is still perceived by the learner as a solitary experience, especially if such independent learners value more highly on “reading” the artifacts, posts and reflect by himself.
(a) Does this fit nicely with the social constructivist principles of learning? Or would this be a novel example of “connectivist” principle of learning where connection is more important than the content itself?
(b) Would this mode of learning be classified as cooperative learning? May be, but would this also be based on a cognitive approach towards learning by the learner, merely leveraging the social networks as an affordance rather than “participating” in the conversations or interaction?
(c) Would learning be confined to the needs of the learners, rather than the needs of the “networks” or “community”? Are the needs of networks or community (i.e. other co-learners or group) important ?
(d) How would learners be motivated to join and participate in the “networks” and “community” when their perceived personal needs are different from that of the “networks” or “community”?
2. The asymmetrical nature of blogging could however lead to pontificating and echo chamber effect, as the blogger could moderate the comments and thus limit any criticism which may come from other learning partners or networkers. So, such learners may often miss in identifying their blind spots in their blog posts, as they might have missed out the feedback from their tutors or co-learners, or other readers and networkers. Ideally, cooperative learning would provide maximum individual flexibility and greater affinity to learning community, in reality, learners who value more highly on individual and independent learning would prefer leveraging the tools and community to affinity to community, as “community” to them may be affordance rather than a permanent “node”. There would therefore be a lack of sense of community as perceived by many independent bloggers.
From paper Transparency in cooperative online education
3. The use of an infrastructure has been used and proposed to bolster the personal connections with the system, course, course materials, teacher, and learning partner systems, so as to enhance learning in a networked learning environment.
It seems that majority of students under the survey were satisfied to very satisfied with such a system, except the learning partner system, where only slightly more than half (53.1%) of the participants were satisfied to very satisfied.
(a) Did participants value highly with the learning partner system?
(b) Why was learning partner system so difficult to establish and sustain?
(c) How would such learning partner system help in students’ learning?
(d) What are the implications in having such learning partner system in place in an online social networking environment?
4. Many learners would still wish to protect their own work as they view their work as “intellectual property”, and this is still evident when students don’t like their work to be assessed openly and publicly. This is especially important in an institutional environment where students have a right to choose between having work only available to their class group or open to public.
(a) Could cooperative learning be assessed and measured in an online education environment?
(b) How would e-portfolio (blogs and personal artifacts or social tagging) be used in such cooperative learning?