#PLENK2010 Student Apathy or Enthusiasm?

In this Student Apathy: Public Enemy Jason says:

I am not one to just rant. I have painted a fairly negative view of the student body thus far, and admittedly there are some fantastic students in each classroom. Unfortunately, the influx of a large population of college students seeking anything but higher education (e.g the wage premium,The Five-Year Party, etc.) has contributed to a large amount of variance between the top and bottom student in the classroom. It’s common to hear gripes from professors of “if I graded students the way I really wanted, I’d fail most of my class.” In turn, the pressure to maintain respectable graduation rates leads educators to “teach to the middle,” which leaves the strongest students unchallenged and increasingly disengaged.

This raises the question: Is teaching to the middle leaving the strongest students unchallenged and increasingly disengaged?  I think strongest students prefer to be challenged but not necessarily “taught” in a traditional classroom setting.  Most of my strongest students like to learn, in a way that suits their needs.

When would students need to be taught by the professors, and when should they be encouraged to learn through peers, projects or collaborative problem solving?  It depends on the situation – the type of learners you have, the learners’ style of learning, the learning context, and the pedagogy employed.

How about contrasting these scenarios of traditional teaching with online teaching and learning? Would we be able to shed some light in tackling the problems associated with such student apathy in a traditional classroom teaching or lecturing?

In this Interactions, Student Enthusiasm and Perceived Learning in An Online Teacher Education Degree (in quick view format) by Bill Ussher

Interactions and feedback are critical to success in online learning.  All interactions and feedback must be purposeful.  In order to achieve this these interactions must be personalised.  Do this reflect why blog posts could be used a great learning tool as it could allow interactions amongst learners and instructors to be personalised?

“To make the learning significant these students required personal interactions such as those performed through the portfolios forums and on written assignments…”

Swan found in her research with students learning online, ” that all interactions with instructors mattered.” (2001, p309), not just feedback.  I would like to reflect on this finding, especially when relating to my own online learning in MOOC (CCK08, CCK09, CritLit2010, and PLENK).  Do interactions with instructors matter?  I think interactions with instructors may be important in the Elluminate Session, but not always the case in blogging or forum discussion in MOOC – PLENK.  Why?

Most of the interactions that I have in CCK08/CCK09/CritLit2010 were with peer learners, though on a few occasions, I did interact with Stephen Downes and George Siemens.  However, may be the main “interactions” with the teachers would be through the Daily, as perceived by many participants.

In this connection, I  think the quality of interaction would be more important than the quantity of interaction, especially when it comes to sharing of perspectives on Connectivism in the CCK08/CCK09.

Whilst students need opportunities to “share and compare [their] observations and understanding with others” (Kanuka & Anderson, 1998, p.72) in order to develop understanding, the role of the tutor in making such interactions purposeful cannot be underestimated.

So to what extent is this finding valid in MOOC (like PLENK)?  Would this depend on the needs of students, the skills and experience levels of students in the case of PLENK?  I could see that some handfuls of experienced educators have been interacting actively in the forum, but then there remained a large number of participants playing the role of “legitimate peripheral Learners”, who might be learning without too much interactions in the forum.  They might be interacting mainly through the Daily.  Would these participants be using other means of interaction?  Blogging? Twittering? Or other Social Networking platforms?  Past researches indicated that they did interact with a diverse range of tools as presented here by George.

Jason says: This again reinforces Swan’s finding: Students who had higher perceived levels of interaction with teachers had higher perceived levels of satisfaction with the course and reported higher levels of learning” (2001, p316), all pre-requisites to feelings of success.

Would interaction with teachers be that important in PLENK?  May be we need to hear the voices of the participants through research in design and delivery of MOOC…. where I hope we could again reveal the importance of INTERACTIONS (one of the network properties) in learning.

I would assert that interactions amongst peer learners seem to provide a more practical learning solution in MOOC, given that there are more than 1500 participants in the course, with only 4 facilitators to interact with.

So how to keep the students enthusiastic in their learning?  Would networked learning as discussed by George be the solution?

This case paper on Enthusiasm and Interaction reports on how group of students could learn through interviewing professionals.

Groups of students visited and interviewed accounting professionals in their offices. The students then prepared and presented written and oral reports. Benefits included exposing students to real-world environments and to successful professionals, and providing opportunities to practice team-building and oral and written communication skills.

Would this sort of assessment work with MOOC – PLENK?  How about projects or assignments based on “interview” with professionals (in various fields)?  This would allow students (say 9-12 grade, or HE students) to work together on WIKI and conduct such interviews using Elluminate, Skype or other Tools.   The students would then be able report back using blogs, WIKIS and forum sharing.

May be I would consider these techniques in the coming year.

So to what extent is the following important in MOOC – PLENK?

INTERACTION with teachers, peers

FEEDBACK from teachers, peers

ASSESSMENT assigned by teachers, and or designed by learners (like the above example)


8 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 Student Apathy or Enthusiasm?

  1. “…Students who had higher perceived levels of interaction with teachers had higher perceived levels of satisfaction with the course and reported higher levels of learning”

    That begs the causality/coincidence question: Were the students more satisfied and successful because they (or their teachers) did more interacting, or were the most engaged students also the ones who did the most interacting? The INTER in interactive makes it a truism that no one can participate in it unilaterally. Either a professor/facilitator/teacher, or a student can kill interaction by failure to participate.

    I have not been very active in PLENK for the last two weeks because of other commitments. It was a deliberate trade-off – PLENK was optional, my job was not. The choice was necessary. It came as a bit of a surprise though, how much I missed the interaction. With my decreased activity, feedback dropped accordingly. No comments on my few hurried blog posts – no back-and-forth when there’s only time to read a few discussions, and static backchannel in Elluminate recordings. I have certainly experienced reduced satisfaction because of reduced interaction, but I have to accept the responsibility as my own. Today, thankfuly, I’m back with the outlook of a lighter week ahead to enjoy the last of PLENK.

  2. Thanks Jim for your insights. I share your thoughts – on the importance of interaction, and how it might have led to increase or decrease in satisfaction. It’s a personal perception, as you mentioned “The INTER in interactive makes it a truism that no one can participate in it unilaterally. Either a professor/facilitator/teacher, or a student can kill interaction by failure to participate.”
    How that responsibility is perceived and accepted by the learners and shared by the teacher may also be of interest to both learners and teachers though, as that would determine the design and delivery of MOOC, and whether this could lead to higher levels of learning. Would this lead to the basic questions of roles and responsibilities of teachers and learners in online learning? To what extent should learners be expected to participate and interact in the course or network? What sorts of interaction would lead to higher levels of learning? With whom? And why are the interactions more valuable or important with participants (teachers, experts, more knowledgeable others, some or all peer learners)?
    Need to think more about it. 🙂

  3. Hi John,
    Good to hear from you again. A self-direced learner will search for and find data, information, expertise, and knowledgeable others in any situation, and it is likely to feel high levels of satisfaction in almost any situation. A self regulating learner is likely to thrive in an environment that is rich in substantive content and that provides opportunities for communication and for collaborative knowledge building. A learner who is responsible and socially-connected is likely to engage in inquiry and research in a network, simultaneously, making contributions to the community and observing interactions within the network. Interactions occur at many levels. Does anyone ever engage in network learning merely to comply with rules and regulations or to show deference to experts or authorities? It’s doubtful. The network learns whether or not there are rules, regulations, or so-called experts. A self-critical and socially-aware learner is likely to be cautious about making hasty generalizations. The MOOC provides opportunities for meeting, greeting, and sharing data and information. The MOOC seems to be bounded by time and space. The personal learning network and an environment for knowledge building goes well beyond the MOOC. Just thinking out loud. I have to get back to my other screen.

  4. Hi Mary,
    Well said, and I like how you have extended the concept of MOOC – The PLN/E goes well beyond the MOOC. I think it actually evolves into MOON (N- Network) or MOONE (with N – Network and E- Environment) after CCK08 & 09. I resonate with your reflection: A self-critical and socially-aware learner is likely to be cautious about making hasty generalizations. It requires deeper thoughts and reflection: “The network learns whether or not there are rules, regulations, or so-called experts.” Good food for thoughts 🙂


  5. Hi John,
    The survey you designed was thorough.
    Hope to stay in touch with the network beyond 2010.
    This has been an exciting and productive learning experience, and I thank you for keeping me in the loop of learning.

  6. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for your comments and great support. I hope to stay in touch with you and many in the network too in 2011.
    Will write up some posts as a summary this weekend.


  7. Pingback: CCK11 Connectivism – perspective and reflection | Suifaijohnmak's Weblog

  8. Pingback: CCK11 Connection with networks and communities | Suifaijohnmak's Weblog

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