Networks versus Groups: which is better?
I do see Stephen’s point, and would fully applaud on what Stephen has elaborated and yes, networks could be “far better” in networked learning, under those open, diverse, autonomous and interactive network ecology. As shared and well illustrated with examples, there has been many successful networks emerged from education, business and even government institutions based on the networking principles.
The challenge that most educators are facing is: most businesses settings are structured around groups and teams, and an emphasis of team working in recruitment, training and development, and a focus on shared, common goals in each team that one is associated with. As an educator who is also working within a team, though one could also be interacting with networks, one is expected to support and achieve goals and vision set out in a “business setting” and to meet the customers’ needs and expectations in teams. An educator is also expected to role modelling in the team working with other colleagues, students, so that students (and learners) would continue to collaborate and cooperate with their employer at work. How would an educator set out a balance between the needs and expectations of employers, fellow colleagues and learners – in the use of networks and groups, and still achieve the goals and visions set forth?
I think there is a triumph of network over groups, only that in the real world, we would still be under the constraints and “power” to get back to groups, and that groups is triumph over network, in case of institutions and organisations. Is it the ideal versus reality? I don’t know.
Stephen, I think that is what we have also found in our previous researches, that some people really wish to push the boundaries towards networks, as there has been such a long lasting decade (or even century) of group learning. The giant (networks and network learning) has awaken, but that groups still rule.
Thanks Stephen for your insights.
Good arguments for networked learning cannot be based on the argumentation that all other learning propositions are wrong or bad. It’s non-exclusive.
I have posted my views on Networked Learning based on networks here and how that could be differed from Group Learning, with ideas of Stephen included.
There are many instances of successful networked learning (in institutions, business, and informal social and personal learning), and also instances of successful group learning, especially within institutions, business and formal networks and communities. There are however some critical value points which may distinguish the two, as Stephen has elaborated, and that are worthy of deeper investigation and evaluation.
It may depend on a number of factors:
1. Value derived for individuals versus networks/community members versus organisation
2. Democracy (democratic rights, freedom of speech) and opportunities of participation & contribution exercised by individuals – which may be a result from openness, diversity and autonomy. In open networks – these values are encouraged and supported, when openness and diversity is celebrated. In groups – these values could be “constrained” or “dampened” if the voices are not unified, or in dissonance to the vision or mission of the community or institutions.
3. Accountability and responsibility – Networkers would not necessarily be responsible for the outcomes of the networks, as there are no central vision or goals, but community members (in a COP) or institution are likely responsible for what they are held accountable for
4. Sustainability – Networks could be more sustainable in general, as it is flexible and without boundary, whereas groups would only exist if there are goals to achieve
5. Power – This is the critical factor, as this would be the “power” to drive the particular type of network – “network”, “group – a special network with unity of purpose”, or a “collective”. This factor would also impact on 1-4.
Would these factors be interacting with each other in the case of networks and groups?
I think we could both theorize and validate the above factors in a network-group model, like what Stephen has done, and see how these work out in a network, such as this Change 11 MOOC.