Open and Social Learning according to Alec Couros:
An open course entitled Education, Curriculum, and Instruction: Open, Connected, Social using Free Ope Source Software through the University of Regina, was implemented in 2008. (Couros, 2010, p. 109). It was based on personal learning networks, and participants quickly realised the value of sustainable knowledge networks. This led to a context built around a series of events which quickly absorbed participants in an engaged community of participation (Couros, 2010, p. 110).
The theoretical foundations of the course were
The open movement (Couros, 2010, p. 111).
Complementary learning theories – social cognitive, social constructivism, andragogy, connectivism, and open teaching (Couros, 2010, pp. 112-115).
The primary learning environment was established collaboratively in the weeks preceding the course. The tools considered were:
Web CT (now Blackboard) – pros: familiar to students and the university had a strong infrastructure of support; cons: proprietary (modifications needed vendor support); directed learning favoured over constructivist; expensive licensing fees.
Moodle – pros: free; open source; modifiable, strong community support; touts a constructivist and social constructivist approach; available. Cons: needs PHP server infrastructure; requires technical expertise leading to hidden costs; software not as available as hoped; course-centric not student-centric; top-down instructivist approach.
Ning – pros: ease of use; freely available in 2008; familiar functionality similar to Facebook; community and individual privacy levels; user-centric spaces; content aggregation; communication tools. Cons: no wiki feature; awkward to add core content material.
Wikispaces – pros: senior, best-known and most stable of wiki providers; solid technical support; theme modification options; simple user interface – see http://eci831.ca/ (Couros, 2010, pp. 117 – 119).
The course required the establishment of a PLN, and it was mandatory that participants developed a personal blog/digital portfolio, participated in a collaborative wiki resource ( no longer active but was located at http://t4tl.wikispaces.com; this is what happens when such a site is not paid for!) and completed a major digital project (sound like INF 530!) (Couros, 2010, pp. 119 -120).
The course was based on the following tools and interactions:
Synchronous activities: two events per week of between 1.5 and 2 hours in length; the first based on content knowledge (like our INF 537 colloquiums); the second on teaching skills (Couros, 2010, pp. 120-121).
Asynchronous activities: researching and blogging; shared bookmarking; artefact creation; participation in open professional development opportunities; creating content and uploading it to sites such as YouTube; microblogging; collaborative lesson design and contribution to the course wiki (Couros, 2010, pp. 121-122).
Knowledge networks and digital innovation’s forerunner?? Just like INF 530 and INF 536, students developed authentic, dynamic and fluid interactions both within the designated course spaces and in spaces they chose and shared themselves.
Defining Personal Learning Environments, and comparing them to Personal Learning Networks was an exercise undertaken by Couros through Twitter and recorded at http://educationaltechnology.ca/couros/1156. Key agreement indicated that PLEs are the tools, artefacts, processes, and physical connections that allow learners to control and manage their learning (Couros, 2010, p. 125). PLNs explicitly include the human connections that result in the advancement and enabling of a PLE (Couros, 2010, p. 125).
Couros makes the following recommendations for those wishing to use PLNs for teaching and learning:
- Immersion by participants
- Social media literacy
- Active contributions strengthen your PLN
- Know your “followers” or “friends”
- PLNs are central to learning for sustained and long-term growth in both facilitators and students(Couros, 2010, pp. 125 -126).
The participatory learning communities developed by courses such as the one Couros describes continue to exist because they are not based around courses per se, but around communal learning (Couros, 2010, p. 127). Those of us taking the Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation course can already attest to that in terms of the subjects we have already finished because for many of us the content continues to be shared and discussed. If Couros is correct, this course will never have to end – now there’s a challenge to my PLN!
Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. In Veletsianos, G. (Ed.), Emerging technologies in distance education (109–128). Athabasca University: AU Press.