What is most important when conversing online?

Jenny Mackness provides an excellent review on what she has learnt from the course OldGlobeMOOC “Update-on-oldglobemooc-and-peer-assessment.”

I would like to share some of her points and responses to my questions here.

She says:

The OldGlobeMOOC is a great experience in terms of the diversity of participants. Unfortunately the younger participants, in their teens, who signed up, seem to have fallen out of the discussion forums. This does not mean that they are no longer participating through observation and reading – it’s difficult to know. But I have wondered how an 11 year old might review the assignment of an academic Professor, or how an academic Professor might respond to a learner with special needs, or a very young participant, or someone whose first language is not English, and so on. The assignment submission is anonymous. Do these differences have implications for the equity of the peer review process?

I ask:

Thanks Jenny for your insightful responses. It is interesting to have peer assessment on such topics. I am wondering if the peer assessment by peers are assessing based on whether the stories are resonating to their personal perceptions. Assessment may also relate to the degree of relatedness to ageing. After reading through those peer reviews, I have a few questions in mind. 1. Since the experience relates to the writer’s story and opinions, would the assessment relate more on how the story and opinions on ageing (emotional response) or the story structure and written expression (clarity and coherence)? 2. How to ensure a fair assessment under such blind assessment arrangement? As you mentioned, it may likely that a novice (11 old teenager) assessing an academic professor, or a veteran or geek. 3. How would one appeal to any “inappropriate assessment or review”? Are there any appeal mechanism or procedures in place? Should there be one, as you mentioned that you have been penalized though you have submitted all five reviews on time. I ask these for the sake of discourse, not as a challenge to the authority, or a “complaint”. I think it is important to ensure any assessment be viewed as open, transparent, and are based on the honest feedback, rather than hasty response. Though there might be good reasons why some people just give others a “2″, I just wonder if this would be “acceptable” in a peer assessment system. What do you think would be a better way to ensure a fairer assessment with xMOOC? John

Jenny elaborates:

Hi John – thanks for all these questions. I don’t think OldGlobe is typical of xMOOCs. In fact Sarah Kagan has called it a cMOOC and it does have a lot of the characteristics of a cMOOC – it is being run mostly on the Coursera platform, but there is also a Facebook group and Twitter, but I’m not aware of other bloggers. It is open in the sense that access is open, the assessment is open and there is very little course content, e.g. there are weekly videos, but no readings, and discussion can follow any path the participants would like. The course has great diversity of participation and discussion, and participants do have a lot of autonomy if they are not bothered about assessment. So a lot more like a cMOOC than an xMOOC. And judging from comments in the forums, the assessment in OldGlobe has been different.

The nature of the assessment questions does lead to storytelling and for me this is a strength because it means that anyone from any background can engage with the assessment – but as I have described it does lead to some difficulties with the peer review system. I think it’s possible for reviewers to take a number of approaches to the peer assessment – but this is how peer reviewers are asked to respond:

Please type your 100-250 word peer assessment below.

What do you think about this participant’s portfolio item choice to answer this question of the week?
How does this participant’s perspective differ from your point of view?
How is your point of view similar?

So in OldGlobe the criteria for peer assessment are quite loose and non-academic. So I don’t think it’s possible to think in terms of fairness, as we normally understand it in academic assessment, but rather in terms of empathy, kindness and respect. Reviewers are told:

An assignment only receives a zero if it is incomplete or did not follow the guidelines set for this week. Don’t be afraid to be generous!

And yes it is possible to appeal, by putting a question in the Help Forum – but participants have to have a genuine cause for appeal. It’s no good saying ‘I didn’t have time to do the peer reviews this week’ – hence the peer review I got which said

peer 2 → I’m headed for an airplane so don’t have time to review, and I won’t be back until after evaluation time ends so I’m just giving everyone a 2.

Based on what Jenny says above, the course does have a lot of characteristics of a cMOOC.  Also the nature of assessment questions does lead to story telling.  Indeed, one of the most attractive nature of online conversation is story telling and sharing, where bloggers share their anecdotes or learning scenarios, and reflect on those experiences that they have learnt.

The assessment criteria of this MOOC thus focuses on the reflection of similarities and differences in views and perceptions, and possibility the resonance or dissonance that one experiences in life upon reading the writings, especially when the author and reader relates to their perception or feelings of old age.  This could also be a powerful lesson for any one to imagine what it means to undergo the various stages of old age, physically, mentally and spiritually.

This sounds quite an interesting way to assessment for the participants too, as it could lead both the learner and the reviewer (who could also be a blogger or another learner) to assess based on his/her affections (feelings, emotions) towards what the learner think about old age, and thus provide a point of view which is distinct from the learner.

Would this assessment be designed to measure certain attitudes, and to a certain degree the emotional awareness, control and responses, and empathy- which are related to emotional and social intelligence?  See my posts here, here, and here.  This seems not to be explicit in the assessment, though I haven’t enrolled into the course, and thus not be aware of how the assessment is related to emotional intelligence.

Another dimension that I reckon such assessment would lead to is clarity and brevity in expressing one’s thoughts in writing (as there is a 250 words limit).  It seems that this is based on writing in English, and that grammar, use and choice of words, and structure of the writing would need to be taken into consideration in the assessment.  Would this be more about assessment on written English, based on the context and content?  How would the length of writing (i.e. 100 -250 words) affect the overall “quality” of the writing?  Are there any penalty if the writing exceeds the limit?  May be not, with such form of assessment.

Finally I could sense that such assessment may help the author and the reviewer to understand and apply the following basic principles in blogging and online conversation, based on writings:

1. Be concise and clear in writing

2. Be empathetic – understand others’ points of view, and empathize

3. Be kind, generous and sincere in comments and feedback – don’t patronize

4. Be open to others’ views and comments, even if we don’t agree with our readers’ points of views

5.  Be patient and listen to the reader’s comments and feedback

6. Be thankful to our commentators and readers

7. Be ourselves – in stating our views

8. Be supportive to each others’ learning, through such sharing of views and experiences

9. Be tolerant even if others are harsh on us, though at times, we need to be assertive

10. Be responsive to others, and be responsible for our own work

Does it also mean that sometimes it is the MacGuffin (as suggested by Stephen Downes) that sets off a good online conversation?  It is the emotional attenuation that would help people relate to our story, so they could also share their stories with us.  

What else have I missed?

Again, I think Jenny has been an master (and exemplary) blogger who role models how to write comprehensive blog posts and how to respond to comments in blogging and assessment.

You would find lots of master pieces in her blog posts.  I would encourage you to read her blog posts, where you would surely find lots of words of wisdom.

Thanks Jenny for her wonderful insights.

Is blogging on the decline in 2013?

Corporate blogging is on the decline as reported here: Study blogging in decline as social media takes over.  Here is a post relating to the decline of blogs.

Here is an update in 2012.

Blogging declines for the first time among the Inc. 500.  Fifty percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 had a corporate blog, up from 45% in 2009 and 39% in 2008.  In this new 2011 study, the use of blogging dropped to 37%.  Companies in the Advertising/Marketing industry are most likely to blog while companies in Government Services and Construction make very little use of this tool. This decline mirrors a trend in other sectors as this mature tool evolves into other forms or is replaced by communication through Facebook or Twitter.

New tools replace older ones.Facebook and LinkedIn lead the way. The platform most utilized by the 2011 Inc. 500 is Facebook with 74% of companies using it.  Virtually tied at 73% is the adoption of the professional network, LinkedIn.  Twenty-five and 24% respectively report that Facebook or LinkedIn is the single most effective social networking platform they use. Texting, downloadable mobile applications, and Foursquare are being utilized by 13%-15% of the 2011 Inc. 500.

Of those tools and platforms studied last year, there is clearly a shift in how these nimble companies are communicating.  Fewer of them are using blogging, message/bulletin boards, online video, podcasting and MySpace.  More companies are using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, downloadable mobile apps, texting and Foursquare.

I think 2013 would see further decline in blogging, as I have shared my findings in 2011.  It seems that what was once reported is still true:

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

My observation was that many bloggers in the past few years have slowed down in blogging, and have shifted to Twitter, Facebook and Google + in the posting of links.  Besides the number of blogs posted have decreased significantly as bloggers found it hard to keep their blogs updated with posts, and that not too many readers were willing to provide comments as part of the conversation.

I think this decline of blogging would continue in 2013, and such practice would likely be replaced by the posting using Twitter and Facebook, rather than the creation of long and thoughtful blog posts.

For me, I have blogged fairly regularly, as you could see from my blogroll. However, I am also finding it pretty hard to create new posts with exciting and emerging topics , as most of the topics have already been covered by others in the past few years.  We may really need another renaissance or revolution to revive blogging.

Would this also account for the difficulties in using PLE (blogging) in the cMOOCs?

I could see the emergence of xMOOCs being well taken by the learners (of HE and those interested in HE), and as the courses wouldn’t expect them to use blogging as tools, this seems to fit perfectly well to the “consumption” of knowledge and information that have been popular in Higher Education.   This might also account for the decrease in blogging, as such blogging takes up lots of time, and would hardly be counted towards the credit or assessment in those xMOOCs.

On the other hand, cMOOCs would only be well taken by those learners who are more motivated towards deep and reflective learning, likely using blogs or other social media such as Twitter, as the creation of reflective blog posts demand a substantive amount of time.  This also requires the blogger to curate and evaluate various artifacts, information web sources and blog posts, before one could re-mix and re-purpose a comprehensive blog post.

Would HE institutions still be expecting the students to compose reflective blog posts if that is the case?  How about those HE institutions conducting xMOOCs?  Would blogging still be high on their curriculum?

I think many people including once upon bloggers, educators, HE or life-long learners are morphing into various social media and networks, with micro-blogs and artifacts shared using various tools, rather than the reflective blogs.

So, would that draw the near end of the life cycle of Blogging?

What do you think would be the future of blogging?

Photo credit: Google

blogging images (3)

#Change11 #CCK12 On research into MOOC

Here is my response to David Wiley’s post on Thoughts on conducting research into MOOC

Yes, David, we (and I) have done some researches into MOOC with the past 2 researches, and so please see the papers under publication for details of the researches.

You will find my research posts here, here and here.

There is a research group with MOOC Change11 where “we” have discussed all the options that you mentioned in your post.  I reckon that it would be worthwhile to explore the learners’ experience.  However, when it comes to participants’ satisfaction, it is a rather subjective measure and would not necessarily be a valid and reliable way to measure the “learning outcomes” of the course, as George and Stephen have stated clearly what are to be achieved in MOOC.  Such measure of satisfaction tends also to relate strongly to peoples’ attitudes towards certain ways of learning (the learning habits), or their preferred learning styles (again this is a controversial topics, where Roy, Jenny and I had tried to dig into in CCK08), and though I think there was a pattern emerging out of the research, it could be difficult to generalize on how people learn (most effectively, or purposely).
The emotional aspects and critical thinking (reasoning) of participants would also significantly impact on how participants value the course, based on their experience.  This is especially profound when people new to the course have difficulties in making sense of the learning, with a sense of isolation, due to the abundance of information at the beginning of the course, or when they didn’t feel their voices being heard, and so could withdraw from the connections or posting of blogs or comments on forum.  These would naturally lead them to become lurkers, remain as lurkers, throughout the course, or dropouts, if they didn’t find enough interests in the course.  This seems to relate to the participants’ needs and expectations, motivation and autonomy.
My past experience with research was: you could get very positive responses from a small sample of the participants (who were active participants, and would likely participate in your research).  However, those who were lurkers might not be too interested in responding.  Those who responded provided us with a range of “perceptions” and “experiences” from very positive to the not that positive (though these were always a few).  We still need to conduct research to understand all these learning experiences in a better way.
There are many others who have conducted researches into MOOC, with George, Stephen, Roy, Jenny, Frances, Rita, Helene, Wendy, and Antonio.
I have a few questions though:
1. Aren’t we all seem to be conducting researches in an “island of researches” mode?    On one hand, we are supporting and encouraging open learning, open research, but on the other hand, we all seem to be afraid of sharing our researches in fear that others would get ahead in researching and publishing them first in academia.  That seems to be at odds to the Open research golden paradigm.  But is that the reality?
2. What could be done to make researches on MOOC more collaborative, or cooperative?  Is networked MOOC research feasible?  What are the pros and cons of conducting research in an open, transparent manner?
3. Finally, I understand that PhD candidates have to conduct researches more independently, as they have to publish their papers to get their qualification.  Would that limit the possibility of doing research in a cooperative manner with other researchers, especially in an institutional environment?
4. Is open researchers (similar to open scholar) the way to go in future research?
More sharing in forthcoming posts.
Picture: Google picture

#Change11 #CCK12 Autonomy in Networked Learning and Connectivism

After reading Jenny and Carmen’s paper on Connectivism and Dimensions on Individual experience and now Heli’s post, I would like to reflect on what those three theories mean under Networked Learning and Connectivism, with a particular focus on the five factors and Autonomy.  Heli has wonderfully posted the juxtaposition of the three theories in her post.

Here Carmen and Jenny provides a wonderful framework upon which Connectivism could be expanded – to include the psychological elements, superimposed on autonomy, connectedness, diversity, and openness as the key components of connectivism conducive to (or required for) learning in networks  (Stephen Downes).

They discuss:

“While there have been calls for more or different efforts on the part of MOOC facilitators (Dron, 2011), the psychological insight brought by contemporary personality theory and self-determination theory suggests that the manipulation or envisioned refinement of MOOC environments and processes may be moot, or certainly less effective than it is typically assumed to be in the promotion of learning and curriculum design. Indeed, in their exploration of self-direction and personality in college students, Kirwan, Loundsbury, and Gibson (2010) conclude with a parallel consideration: “It may be that personality traits, not academic and personal experiences, are the major determinants of college student self-direction in learning.”

If the idea that learning experiences (and, by association, perhaps their facilitation) are less influential for learning than personality traits, there may be benefits to increased attention to the role of self-determination and personality.”

I reckon the basic structure of MOOC with the facilitation has now become the necessary condition for networked learning, whereas the sufficient condition would be determined by (a) the prior experience and intrinsic motivation of the MOOC participants, (b) the renewal of new or novel interests of MOOC, based on its application in different domains, and (c) how the participants personal experience as an individual would be valued as an important part of the network, creating a personal and shared identity and developing as a growth agent rather than a mere node sending and receiving information, in a vast network configuration.  Here the values of learning experience would be based on the cognitive gains and social relationship build-ups, from a weak tie to a gradually strong tie, in order to become an active participant.

When I reflected on the 5 big personality factors here relating to blogging:

Why would people blog?  Why would people (bloggers) switch to other social media like Facebook and Twitter?

Why blogs: Personality prediction of blogging provides an interesting account on personality factors and how these factors could be used as a prediction of the likelihood  of being a blogger.

I asked:

1. Is blogging and openness related? Are bloggers more open as compare to others who do not blog?  What happens when bloggers shift their choice of expression from blogging to other social media such as Facebook and Twitter? Will such people maintain their openness in those media?

2.  Are the 5 major personality factors able to predict people’s involvement, participation and interaction in social media like Blogging, Facebook and Twitter?

3. What are the critical factors in determining whether people would use social media and Web 2.0 (apart from the personality factors)?

Relating to self-determination theory, I have commented here in George’s post:

Why can’t learners be self-directed? Self-directed learners could rely on networks to learn, however, they must also need to make their own decisions on learning, based on critical thinking and reflection. In other words, self-directed learners could also be network directed learners. I would argue that both network directed learning and self-directed learning are equally important, in order to learn effectively. This also ensures a balance between networked learning and personal autonomy, so the learner could grow and develop, in a networked learning environment and global learning ecology. Based on Self-determination theory, autonomy, relatedness and competency will be important factors in motivation. Options and choice is important for individuals in networked learning. Professionals could learn and network effectively in networks and teams as they have already possessed the adequate literacy and skills needed, and are motivated to share because that is part of their profession. John

Relating to Learner Autonomy, I have reflected here and the importance of autonomy as a blogger.

I have conceived that autonomy is at the heart of learning in a networked learning environment, in order to have active engagement, participation and dialogue.

Comparing the factors between bloggers and forum poster based on the research  by Mak, Williams & Mackness (2010) here

Motivation factors:


1. Space to develop my own ideas

2. Ownership

3. Self expression

Forum posting:

1. Familiarity with forum

2. Faster pace

3. More lively debates

Here blogging strongly correlates well with the personality factors, and to a great extent relates to the autonomy under self-determination theory.  This tends to suggest a growth model of individuals based on personal goals and learning pathway centred around the learners, for the learner, by  the learner, under a connectivist learning ecology.

The recent MOOCs have all tended towards the development of blogging and Twittering as a way to connect with others, rather than the use of forum postings (on Daily or FB), suggesting that the facilitation elements could only be “scaled” if participants are clustered around a central forum (like the Blackboard synchronous Elluminate session).  There are also clusters of networkers with interests interacting using different platforms over distributed spaces.  However, it seems that forum posting and sharing have never again been grounded as that in CCK08, probably due to the lack of novelty elements to reboot the debates and discourses- such as new and innovative ground breaking topics of interests geared to the mass participants’ interests.  This further led to relatively small groups of participants having some active conversation and engagement, and a high proportion of participants either lurking or loosely participating in the recent MOOCs.  Other factors included the introduction of other MOOCs like the DS106, eduMOOC, LAK12, Stanford AI and Machine Learning, and various MOOC initiatives, which might have attracted the veterans to attend, thus further de-centralising, diluting and fragmenting the conversation.

What might be the future MOOC like?  How would Connectivism’s growth model emerge?  Have you got the crystal ball?

Picture: George’s post

Slide: from suifaijohnmak

#Change11 A response on the attack of the killer rhizomes

Here is my response to the post of attack of the killer rhizomes by Martin Weller.

Hi Martin,
Very interesting post. Relating to expertise in chess, I think it really requires lots and lots of practice to become experts, not just having a good memory, or recognising the patterns. I played Chinese chess instead, and I challenged university students even when I was in high school. I don’t claim to be expert, but I do think chess is a mind game where you plan ahead, and recognize the good and bad moves through repeated games, and learn to win once you picked up the “right moves”. I found this concept equally applicable to the learning and up-skilling in other sports, or even driving. However, when it comes to blogging, I think it involves another sets of intellectual capacity. I don’t know if the rules relating to blogging really helps or not, but I do find that I am more creative and productive by not following those rigid rules or guidelines in blogging. Once I had attended formal course on blogging and Web 2.0. However, it was until I actually found a need in engagement with others that I fully appreciated the use of blogs as a tool in learning and communication. This prompted me to further research in the blogs and forums in learning and communication in MOOC. Back to the rhizomatic learning, I am not sure if it is based on the social constructivism, but I do think it has its roots based on social interaction. So, when Dave mentioned that:” A rhizomatic plant has no center and no defined boundary; rather, it is made up of a number of semi-independent nodes, each of which is capable of growing and spreading on its own, bounded only by the limits of its habitat (Cormier 2008).” May be that is where learning on the networks would show up as described. Whether this would lead to fruitful outcomes would really be dependent on how one would value the sporadic growth. To me, I think the learning takes its roots when I understand the patterns that arise with the interaction and engagement, rather than the prescriptive or normative rules. Does it help in creating artificial game rules? I think we have already created rules about these “blogging”: There are no set rules, and learning goes beyond those rigid rules. What do you think?

#Change11 No Blog is an island – MOOC as a Blogoland of Explorers & Patterners

Here are my takeaways from this Three Metaphors and a Community:

No blog is an island.

Google image

Here is my previous post that relates to Blogging with the link to our research paper on Blogging and Forum as Communication and Learning Tools in MOOC.

MOOC as a digital network (a course with its elements, a Complex Adaptive System) on a global scale reaches out to the blogosphere, an ecology of education and learning that feeds itself with the knowledge and wisdom, based on Wisdom of Crowds, and Community Sensemaking and Wayfinding.  It has been emerging, evolving and transfiguring its shape, leading to an in search of

Identity – Personal and network Identity – Visitors and Residents.

Affiliation – Personal Affiliation with networks and communities.

Interests – Personal Interests and Network interest, goals, vision etc.

all co-evolving within blogs and outstretching to Facebook, Change11 Course site and Twitter -#Change11 and beyond.

See this using blogs paper too.

Useful References here.

#Change11 Slow Learning through story telling

I quite enjoy story telling.

Here are some stories that well illustrate the importance of patience and perseverance in learning.

The Chinese Bamboo Story

“This story is very much true in rearing our beautiful children. As parents, we have to patiently exert efforts in teaching and disciplining our children for them to develop right values and to adopt strong character while at the same time defeat many difficulties and different challenges.

If that Chinese bamboo farmer dug up his little bamboo seeds each year just because he is curious or wants to make sure it was growing or what, he could effectively stopped the tree’s growth. There are times when we demand our little children to sit still and behave and be patient but big lessons can be deeply taught once they are demonstrated in actions and not just in words.”

Father Son Conversation

Moral: It’s just a short reminder to all of you working so hard in life! We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts. If we die tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of days. But the family & friends we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives. And come to think of it, we pour ourselves more into work than to our family.

Turning an iron rod into a needle (Due to the copyright, please read it through the link). There are many interesting stories there.

More stories here:

Most significant change stories

What are the morals of these stories? How would these stories impact on your learning?

I reckon story telling has always been part of apprenticeship learning.  This is especially important in slow learning, through reciprocal teaching, or cognitive apprenticeship as highlighted by Clark Quinn.