#PLENK2010 Research on MOOC & PLENK

Based on blog posted so far:including this one by Nicola

Some of the emerging themes include:

Time and information management:  Some participants found it ok in managing their time in the course whilst others often found it hard, due to personal reasons and often feelings of overwhelming amount of information to be covered, and didn’t feel comfortable in the “selection” and filtering of resources or artifacts.  Facilitators did attempt to “intervene” or instruct by convincing or influencing participants the importance of focus and clustering. Also, a “survey” type of collective inquiry was initiated in the forum to gain a deeper understanding of the major challenges and issues in such management of time AND learning in the course PLENK.

Connections: Participants often wondered how their voices would be heard in such a MOOC PLENK, whether it be in the blogs and or forums.  Stephen responded with explanation on how to be heard. Often there seemed to be a lack of responses or comments even after the participants have made repeated attempts and extra efforts in trying to connect through their blogs or posting in forums.  The trend in the forums did show a decrease in the number of postings, whereas the number of blog postings did show some increase throughout the past weeks.  The facilitators did attempt to convince and influence the participants to move the discussion to blogs, so as to reduce the impact of overwhelming of information or “information overload due to discussion in the forum”.  Some discussion on having concise posting was raised, but there were some divided opinions in the forums.  Some connections in the forum seem to have focussed on more in-depth discussion of the pedagogical aspects of PLE/N, that could foster conceptual connections.  However, the connections were again rather diverse and “weak” and that left with some evidences of critical thinking and evaluation.  More evidences of research support may be necessary to substantiate those claims.  The facilitators (Rita in particular) did attempt to cultivate the connections through more facilitation with research findings, coupled with personal insights.  This reinforces some of the more emergent concepts arising from the MOOC – (a) learner autonomy, (b) power issues, and (c) critical literacies.  Besides, the notion of openness in MOOC (PLENK) were raised by various bloggers Jenny Mackness, David Wiley, Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, Rita Kop, and participants, which all relate to how openness would have impacted on the social/personal connections that would be made, the implications arising from the use of Open education resources (OER) or open resources would have influenced education and the associated connections (i.e. how people connect with artifacts (is it freely and openly, or people have to pay or subscribe to access the resources), and the connections with facilitators, other participants through tagging, curating etc.

Personal Learning – This relates back to how individuals learn in PLENK.  At this stage of the course, many participants still thought that they might have managed their learning to certain extent, through the use of PLE (as tools, platforms of learning, and certain connections with facilitators, some other participants, and artifacts through the LMS (forums), Daily, Elluminate, and Twitter etc.  However, it seems that many participants are still not yet able to fully connect with others as “clusters”, or groups as yet, as reported by various bloggers and forum posters.  May be this is a plateau period of interaction, where participants are spending more time in reflecting on what they have learnt so far (as shared by Jenny here), and are more hesitant in further connections unless they perceive further values added to their learning with posting in forums, in particular.  There is also a plausible explanation: some participants who have learnt about critical thinking would like to practise the critical thinking as a personal development process.  As critical thinkers, such participants would likely withhold judgment, think more critically by analysing information, evaluating evidences and making judgment more cautiously, before expressing their views or comments in forums or blogs.  Such reflective thinking also means a higher level of personal learning with cognitions and thus may be a demonstration of critical literacy as espoused by Stephen Downes (refer to elements of critical literacy: syntax, semantics, pragmatics, context, change and cognition).  George also highlights the importance of critical literacies here and managing information in learning through PLENK.  Further evidences are required from this research to substantiate such claims on personal learning and critical literacies capacity development.

Power and influence: The power and influence exercised by the facilitators and participants has been nuanced, but have surfaced in the forum postings in numerous settings, where certain opinions or beliefs have been challenged by both facilitators and participants in exchange, and in blog postings, here facilitators tried to convince participants the primacy of connections and importance of managing chaos, filtering or selection of information, curating of information,  and the tolerance needed in face of ambiguity, chaos, complexity and abundance of information.  There have been warm welcome of such instructions and influence by some participants, as evidenced in the Elluminate and blog postings.

Initial analysis by George did show the trend of postings and the emergent nature of the course, in terms of course design, delivery and connections. Refer to this Siemens, G. Learning in Open Courses


Downes, S. A world to change

More learning analytics and further research findings are required to substantiate such claims.


7 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 Research on MOOC & PLENK

  1. Thanks John for your overview and insights. I’m only lurking occasionally due to new work commitments but I’d love the chance to follow up
    readings and postings post the course at my inclination. That’s an intention and this course enables that in my view which possibly suits me because I feel connected? Critlit being small was a core group for me tho I know I stuck with the English speakers because I lack bilingualism.
    And being a beginner I keep it simple just stick to what grabs me I’m that week moment etc.
    Having said that i have several unfinished posts from that course!

  2. Hi Ruth,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Great to see you back. Like to hear more on your views on PLENK. You were stuck with the English speakers because you lack biligualism in CritLIt…. so what languages are you referring to – English and …..? I didn’t understand any other languages apart from English and Chinese, and so when there were discussion about some foreign languages (like French or European languages), I didn’t understand any syntax or semantics at all. All I know is Google Translator, and I would just use it if necessary 🙂

    I am taking a more “lay back” stance in PLENK, hopefully as a researcher (on top of a learner) this time, in order to reduce the bias that may be introduced in the action research. I hope to maintain an “objective” view so as to avoid being blurred by the interpretation of evidences collected.

    I hope to get more feedback from others in the course on how such researcher role would be perceived, but it seems that there weren’t many feedback so far. Here is a forum discussion on research on PLENK.

    Chris has already mentioned that he wouldn’t like to be “observed” in an experiment in PLENK where theory might be “constructed” or developed based on such white coat observations, and which seems to be a great concern to him.
    If that is the case, how would PLENK be implemented in school setting if our students might perceive our “recommendation to use PLENK” in schools as being an experiment on them too? I also realised that many professors and lecturers have been conducting surveys after surveys at the end of the courses, in order to write up research papers to fulfill the research or tenure requirements. So, I am not sure if the students would strongly oppose the research that would be done on them, though responses to such researches should be set on a voluntary basis. This is already happening in many courses that I am aware of, where research surveys by educators are mandatory.
    I am also fully aware of the research implications of MOOC, as revealed in our previous research on CCK08, and the ethical issues mentioned by Jenny, Roy and I are still relevant when studying human behaviour in a course like MOOC. So we are not only basing upon the learning analytics, but also observing the course network dynamics (via SNA) and complex adaptive behaviour (CAB) of all participants (facilitators and learners, experts (guest speakers), and other experts related to the course), and the learning that emerged from the PLENKER CAB through course interactions and connections. It seems that without such multi-prong research work (4-5 researches here in PLENK), we wouldn’t be able to understand the emerging themes out of the introduction of PLENK or Web2.0 in open online higher education on a global basis.
    Your comments on the above are welcome.

  3. Hi I was aware that there were many Spanish speakers too and I just never crossed into their sphere much. My best friend is Chilian.
    It was a case of keep it simple for me and it really was only one aspect only a bit of the elephant but it suited me to just take it in sliced bites!

    On fine with research myself I’m an educator and as a student of a demonstration school in Sydney (North Sydney Dem) I was often a guinea pig for new edu toys etc

    It was all stimulating. The way I see it is we are being monitored by more than researchers online!!!

  4. Hi Ruth,
    Me too. Sorry that I haven’t been able to connect to many of those speakers too. I have little connection to those who wrote their postings in languages in Spanish or French, or any languages other than English. I don’t know what language translator that should be used, and also doubted if I could leave comments on their blogs in English, which sounds odd. This greatly limit my understanding of their cultures and beliefs of some of the participants, and to me would be a great barrier to connections in MOOC. I also hesitated in joining SL in PLENK, mainly because of the huge bandwidth and time required.
    So glad to learn that “we” are all guinea pigs for new edu toys 🙂
    I think we are all being monitored by more than researchers online too. Who are they? 🙂

  5. Interesting post John. It occurred to me whilst reading it that learners in MOOCs probably need to find a balance between action (making and sustaining connections) and reflection on their own learning and everything that that might entail. I think the gap between where people like Stephen and George are (who have been doing this for years) and where people new to learning in MOOCs is, I suspect, very much greater than the course convenors realise – hence some of the difficulties that you raise.

  6. Hi Jenny,
    I resonate with your views. I think you have already identified that gap in your previous posts, and also raised the need of scaffolding in the Elluminate session, where zone of proximal development and scaffolding would play a part in MOOC. I think your suggested balancing actions and reflection would benefit the learners.
    Construction and traversing of networks requires great art and literacies amongst learners, and this also requires mutual support from the conveners and peer learners.
    Great to learn your insights, and thanks for comments.
    Like to hear and learn our conveners’ views and responses too.

  7. Pingback: CCK11 Research into Connectivism, MOOC and PLENK | Learner Weblog

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