Below is part of the comments left here in response to Mary’s questions.
Thanks for your good questions. May I share them here?
1. Do you experience a difference between institutional and personal learning? Under an institutional learning environment, mandatory grading (i.e. part of the outcome of learning) in most educational systems diminishes the prospect of a risk free environment (Anderson, 2008). Thus a student would likely learn through the teachers’ recommended resources and information provided through the lectures or tutorials, as it is likely that any assessments are derived from such sources of information. Thus, when the teacher provides information, the teacher will then be exercising power and control over the student. The premise, then, that education can be neutral and non-value laden with a knowledgeable teacher, becomes a paradox. Personal learning, on the other hand could mean that the learner now is empowered to assume part of the role of the educator, where s/he takes up all the responsibility of learning, using PLE/N to sensemake and wayfind independently or interdependently with others in networks. I had experienced such journey after finishing formal university education, where I conceptualised that “authentic and pragmatic education” started with the social university (i.e. the community and networks) that I am immersed in, supported with numerous artifacts and resources that is all under my control, enabling me to become a truly autonomous learner. I developed my own learning action plans – with goals, objectives, strategies and activities for each year, and my own assessment rubrics on gauging my learning throughout the years. Some of these have now been documented in my blog here (as a form of eportfolio).
2 a. How does one define social presence?
I would define social presence as one’s involvement and engagement with others at a social level – as actors, nodes of the network. The notion that one is not merely interacting with a technology, but that warmth of human contact exists at the other end is vital for the success of most remote learners (Wallace, 1999). To me, social presence reflects my (as a learner) perception that I am communicating with people in this course or community through the technology (Short et al., 1976). Achieving an effect of social presence is important in distance education (like this MOOC/CCK), for without it, students (or me) can feel isolated.
Personal communication, immediacy of response from instructor and peer group, and a common sense of purpose within a community of learning are all features that contribute significantly towards strong perception of social presence (Wheeler, 2006). To this end, the social web has the potential to deliver these features.
This also stimulates me further to reflect on the question:
2 b. Is social presence important for independent learner?
I reckon this is a hard one for me to answer as I think learning has always been social in some respect, except for those learning on specialized domain which deals mainly with facts, without any human elements. However, I reckon that I could sometimes prefer to learn in solitude, especially when that involves a deep reflection about values of life and faith etc., which are not easily shared in public, as they are simply too personal.
3. What brings people together?
This could be the most challenging of all. I think we have attempted to answer this question in our research papers in MOOC – on the motivation behind learning in the course, as networks, groups and collectives – i.e. need to connect with people, ideas, to learn the technology and tools (technology affordance), to learn about connectivism, to learn and share our common interests, to advance our skills individually and collectively (through cooperation and collaboration), to participate in networks and communities, and most important of all, I think would be to satisfy our curiosity, and to communicate – our needs, our passion, and expertise that would lead us in becoming a better learner.
I will continue to share my views on research in my next comment.
3. What are the preferences of forum versus blogging amongst participants?
Relating to the preference of forum (posters, dwellers or readers) versus blogging, our research with CCK08 indicated a higher preference of blogging to forum, with some preferring to use both. Your preference seems to be with the forum. As you shared, you preferred forum rather than the creation of blog.
For me, I prefer both. I must admit that it is extremely time consuming to work on blogs, as sometimes it could take me a few hours just to identify, aggregate and filter information, before I could think and reflect on what I could write in my post, by referring to others. I am still slow in blogging
4. What should researchers report?
“I am struck by a tendency for researchers to base their findings on negative evidence. In other words, if I don’t see something, then it does not exist.” I am unsure if I have fully understood your message here. Would you mind elaborating on what you mean by “if I don’t see something, then it does not exist”?
Researchers should report their findings based on evidence – both positive and negative ones, in order to prevent and reduce biasing. There are implications if researchers are simply basing their findings on positive evidence and not the negative, as they could be perceived as being unprofessional and unfair to the respondents who had provided those responses and evidences. That’s also why a communal approach towards research might be an alternative way to scrutinize the research process and findings. However, such an approach was seldom adopted due to the constraints on the researchers, and possibly conflict with the research policy of the institution relating to the privacy and confidentiality of research, which are bound by “grants” and the governing of committee supervision.
I am still learning if community research (on top of the peer review) could resolve some of the issues relating to the “biasing and confidentiality” of research. There are always “yin and yang” with each approach of research, and what we could do is to minimize the risks and biasing of such research.
What do you think?
5. What is learning in a complex world?
We are all learning together, progressively in our life long journey.
May I share this post on learning in a complex world with you?
6. What does awareness, social presence and connectedness mean?
This is another post where I have shared on social presence:https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/what-does-awareness-social-presence-and-connectedness-mean/
So this leaves me to ponder on Wisdom….