Canada Research Chair in Innovative Learning and Technology & Associate Professor at Royal Roads University

Success, personal learning plans, and multiple pathways in open courses

Posted on August 17th, by George Veletsianos in courses, learner experience, moocs, sharing. 26 comments

While designing my open course focusing on networked scholars, I’ll be posting updates here pertaining to pedagogical and design decisions that I’m making. [Aug 20, 2014 update: Course registration is open]

The course is intended to help doctoral students, academics, and other knowledge workers on how social media and networked technologies may support/extend/question their scholarship. The course will also be “wrapped” by a colleague in real-time and colleagues who teach research methods courses will be sharing it with their students. In short, the audience is diverse, their background knowledge varies, and their needs/desires will vary. So, the question becomes, how do you support all learners to achieve what they aspire to achieve?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about success in open courses. I’m intrigued by discussions of multiple pathways (or dual layer) through open courses and I’ve been reflecting on how to support the different groups of people that might visit (and use) my course. In the GoNorth projects, we had thousands of teachers annually use our digital learning environment and curriculum. To accommodate their needs the curriculum consisted of 3 levels: (experience, explore, expand). This design encompassed varying levels of difficulty and involvement and allowed teachers to adjust the curriculum to local needs. In the edX course Data, Analytics, and Learning that George, Carolyn, Dragan, and Ryan are teaching in the Fall, the learner is given more of that control. The instructors write: ”This course will experiment with multiple learning pathways. It has been structured to allow learners to take various pathways through learning content – either in the existing edX format or in a social competency-based and self-directed format. Learners will have access to pathways that support both beginners, and more advanced students, with pointers to additional advanced resources. In addition to interactions within the edX platform, learners will be encouraged to engage in distributed conversations on social media such as blogs and Twitter.” I like this because of the recognition that learners come to courses with varying needs/wants and that recognition influenced the design of the course.

In thinking about the different needs that students in my course will have, a group of instructional designers and I at Royal Roads have created a scaffold to help individuals define what they want to achieve in the course. This tool will be helpful for self-directed learners and those with enough background knowledge on the topic, but, depending on how it is implemented, it can help novices as well. The scaffold is a Personal Learning Plan (.rtf). I think this might be helpful to others, so I’m tagging it with an open license so that others can use it as they see fit in their own courses. Here’s how it works:

I assume that individuals will enrol in this course to pursue a personal need/ambition (e.g., “I want to learn how education researchers use social media for research and I am at a loss as to where to start”). To support learners in this, I will be asking them to develop a personal learning plan (PLP) as a way to define, verbalize, and be mindful about their goals. A PLP will allow learners to define what they want to achieve by enrolling in the course and reflect on their successes and accomplishments. 

Once participants create a PLP they can either keep it private, share it with the instructor, or share it on a discussion board. Sharing it on a discussion board might allow them to be more accountable to the goals they have set and to connect with colleagues that have similar goals. There is one problem here: Let’s assume that the course will be of interest to a couple of hundred people and a hundred of them post their PLPs on a discussion board. That will quickly become overwhelming for everyone. How do we reduce the information available to help learners find each other based on common interests? If learners could tag their post, and the tags became available at the top of the discussion thread, that could help, but alas, that’s not an option available on the platform that I am using. If any of you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Below are two fictitious learning plans as examples. These only have 1 row each, but learners could include as many rows as they need.

The first one is relevant to PhD students

Goal Action(s) to achieve goal Measure of success (i.e. How will I know that I was successful?) How much time do I anticipate spending to achieve this goal?
Decide whether of not to start blogging about my dissertation - Read assigned material- Participate in discussions - Make a decision by the end of the course 2 hours per week for the next 4 weeks

The second one applies to an early-career academic (e.g., a lecturer, a professor, a researcher, etc).

Goal Action(s) to achieve goal Measure of success (i.e. How will I know that I was successful?) How much time do I anticipate spending to achieve this goal?
My social media activity is gaining global following. I want to understand the tensions that I might face. - Read everything associated with week 2.- Participate in as many relevant discussions as possible in week 2.- Join the live panel discussion during week 2. - I will write a 200-word journal entry describing potential tensions and challenges that I might face. 7 hours during week 2

Of course, it is entirely possible, and research has shown, that learners don’t know what they don’t know. A personal learning plan isn’t a panacea, which is why every course needs to include a diverse range of scaffolds and supports. But this is turning out to be a long post, so I’ll save those thoughts for a future update.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. How does this sound? What might be some problems with it? How could it be improved?

 

Networks of tension and conflict

Posted on August 7th, by George Veletsianos in sharing. 7 comments

One of the chapters in my upcoming book, Networked Scholars, and one of the modules in my open online course on Networked Scholars, focuses on describing social media as networks of tension and conflict.  In participating online, academics face and experience a wide range of tensions and conflicts that have to do with values, beliefs, academic freedom, institutional oversight, and societal expectations. These tensions aren’t just experienced by academics. Teachers face similar tensions as well.

The developing story regarding Dr. Salaita’s revoked job offer is an example of this, and, as numerous others have pointed out, of so much more. The area around academic freedom, social media, and public intellectuals is one that educational institutions need to seriously address. It’s also an area that we need to introduce to our PhD students… not just to show them examples of messy situations, but to help them investigate and understand the role and significance of digital and networked technologies in academics’ day to day lives (hence the reason for the free online class linked above!).

 

Webinar Recording: Building a Research Agenda using Design-Based Research (DBR)

Posted on July 30th, by George Veletsianos in work. 8 comments

Thank you to everyone who joined the Building a Research Agenda using Design-Based Research (DBR) webinar with Dr. Susan McKenney and Dr. Tom Reeves. We had a wonderful session filled with insightful suggestions and examples. The recording of the session is now available.

Screenshot 2014-07-30 09.21.59

Teacher professionalization in the age of social networking sites

Posted on July 28th, by George Veletsianos in my research, NPS, open, papers, sharing, work. 15 comments

Tensions.

The more we study social media and online networks, the more evidence we find that these spaces are replete with tensions.

tensions_social_media

Tensions. Image by floridjohn

In our latest published study (citation below) with my colleague Royce Kimmons, we found that expectations of professionalization in online social networks cut deeply into pre-service teachers self-concept. We found that participants generally had difficulty articulating what professionalism in online social networks actually looks like and what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate action online. As participants were exposed to a better understanding of what professionalism means online, participants recognized that they were not completely aware that their behavior might be watched and scrutinized by others, and this realization surprised them. Many pre-service teachers were also surprised at the severity of professional requirements and how the public might scrutinize seemingly innocuous behaviors on social media.

Numerous participants explained that as teachers they will need to be careful to not offend any community members, and the topics of politics and religion featured significantly in these conversations.

Though participants seemed to feel that a plurality of political opinion was a good thing and that they should have a right to political opinions, they nonetheless seemed to feel that teachers should take care in voicing those opinions.

Religion, on the other hand, seemed to be a different issue altogether, as participants seemed to feel that it was appropriate for them to express religious beliefs online even if others might happen to take offense or to disagree with them.

It’s important here to pause and consider the following: Participants’ preference of religion over politics likely reflects sociocultural values of the geographic region where the study took place (i.e. at a University in the South), and may not be generalizable.

These findings suggest that teacher education students might be willing to adjust the way that they participate in some ways to fit in with professional expectations (e.g., political opinions), but that there are some cases where what they feel might be expected of them cuts so acutely into their self-concept that they are afraid of losing their sense of identity (e.g., religious beliefs).

The implications of this study are the following:

First, teachers must consider how participating in SNS or altering their participation in them (e.g., content, connections, etc.) may impact their identity and sense of who they are.

Second, if teachers do not clearly understand how moral turpitude is defined in a given community, then how can they be sure that their behavior (online or offline) is beyond reproach?

The dilemma facing teachers in SNS is the following: As teachers present themselves in SNS in a way that is reflective of their complex and ever-developing identities, they may find it difficult to maintain meaningful social connections in online spaces as they pass through new phases of life and are simultaneously judged in an historical manner.

Kimmons, R., & Veletsianos, G. (in press). Teacher Professionalization in the Age of Social Networking Sites: Identifying Major Tensions and DilemmasLearning, Media, and Technology.