Making Sense of Complexity – Engaging Others in #change11

I just attended an interesting webinar that George Siemens facilitated during an Open Access Week session at Athabasca, Making Sense of Complexity in Open Information Environments. While his work got increasingly theoretical, there is one thing he mentioned that caused me to stop and think about my current involvement in #change11, the MOOC that I have been discussing for a few weeks now.

In this iteration of a massive open online course, there is not an established form of scaffolding for participant focus (there is not a central Moodle platform, or course home where we all come to gather around). Instead, we blog or Tweet or whatever as we work through the course, and we are encouraged (invited? forced?) to devise our own mechanisms for processing and engaging with our content. I have decided to use my blog and Twitter to process this experience and what I learn in it, and while this generally works for me, it also relates to some ideas that Dave Cormier mentioned in his post earlier this week, and which we developed a little more in George’s webinar today. All this freedom comes at a cost — I am continually struggling to address my 3rd course goal, Revise my network to be wider and more inclusive. Without a central focus or location, it can be quite a challenge to develop a sense of community, or networked learning perspective. Yes, I am begining to comment on more blogs of other participants, as well as increase my Tweeting, though I am still struggling to be able to connect with others in more than a passing way.

While I prefer online communication as a mode of social connection, I am increasingly disoriented by the sheer scope of participation in the MOOC, and thus am really struggling to find a small (or any!) social connections of more than a passing or very focused interest. I know, this certainly does not happen naturally in a centralized course location, though it is an Internet-sized challenge to find this in the wider Web. Yes, it is relatively easy to locate Tweets and blogs and such through the use of the #change11 tag, but even with all that information, it is still a challenge to navigate through everything.

As networked learning is something that is increasingly important in my thinking, I am hoping that some of my efforts in this area will begin to develop in some way. I am reminded of what Dave said:

I’ve also had a difficult time trying to track the responses to the given weeks

and this for me resonated.

I really like the openness and ability to process our thinking in our own ways, though echoing Dave’s comment, finding the information can be a challenge, and then engaging around it enough that community begins to develop, even in small ways (once again, as George hinted at in the webinar today). Somehow, I have not located any of this yet, and while I will put more effort into my processes, I am increasingly recognizing that my goal #3 is very important for my sustained involvement.

I wonder if a sense of community or belonging or valuing plays a role in any online endeavor, especially a 35 week one where we develop and monitor and work toward our own goals?

12 thoughts on “Making Sense of Complexity – Engaging Others in #change11

  1. I agree strongly with your idea to have a week for reflection on our learning goals and expectations. Secondly I too, am taking time to comment on more blogs, FB and Twitter however the connections seem to me to be very fleeting- a bit like ships passing in the night. Whilst I really value the vast array of presentations and diverse topics I am not experiencing a sense of belonging to any community,other than a gigantic MOOC. I think a sense of community is critical otherwise it’s going to be a long 35 week journey.

    1. @Liz-
      I wonder how common this experience is, and to what extent it has to do without having a central location, with the number of participants, with a new topic every week, and with other factors? To this point, I also wonder how this compares to the sense of community or network in other courses; I tend to prefer online communities and interaction, with F2F presence from time to time. However, I also know that I have attended online courses where I never feel a sense of community, or an “us” while other times it is a stronger shared sense.
      How does this compare to your own experiences?

  2. I experience that is mostly are blogs from the same bloggers that catch my attention duing the daily newsletter. So perhaps that is the way the social relations are build? During common interests?

    1. @Lone-
      In this way, it may seem that even though this is a course loosely connected around issues of education + technology / networked learning, perhaps these sorts of connections form in the same ways that any connections online form, namely different things work for different people?
      If this is the case, what may that mean for the sense of shared experience then?
      Just musing about this a bit . . .

  3. Jeffrey, you raise some very interesting and valid points about engagement in a MOOC. MOOCs do not provide the usual markers by which students can identify and connect to a course of study. I think that this is what disorients so many people.

    Change 11 is my fourth MOOC, and I have learned that I do best when I can anchor myself at one or two points in the MOOC and then view the rest of the MOOC from that vantage point. Usually, the presentations are an anchor, but I truly gain more value from latching on to someone’s blog (yours could be the blog for me in Change 11), but this mostly because I like blogs, or good blogs, anyway. Twitter seems to work better for others, but it just hasn’t grabbed me.

    However, this is one of the wonderful things about MOOCs: I don’t have to experience it the way a Twitterphile does. I experience more as a blogger. It seems more thoughtful and paced to me, and I like that. Twitter is too ephemeral, for my way of relating, but not for others. That’s nice.

    Of course, this means that I don’t get all of the MOOC. I miss much. So? I miss much of life; however, I understand that most really good students are troubled by the fact of not getting it all. That really bothers high academic achievers, such as myself and, I suspect, you. Well, if the MOOC is done right, then we aren’t going to get it all. No one does. Cool.

    1. @Keith-

      Goodness, I wish I could be as reasoned and clear in my posts (or Tweets) as you are here! Thank you for your kind comment. You summarized so nicely why and how we should try to deal with the double fire hydrant of information and content that comes at us with a MOOC in general, and #change11 in particular. You also said quite a bit about learning styles — there is not a single right (or wrong) way to learn online, and certainly not with the structural challenges in courses.

      Tell me, after you think about and engage yourself with reading and processing, (how) do you integrate this into research or practice?


  4. Thanks for asking how I integrate rhizomatic thinking into my research and practice. As for research, I am working on a rhizomatic/connectivist rhetoric. As for practice, I’ve decided to write a few posts about that in response to this question and a few others. Please allow me to refer you to my blog Communications & Society.

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