The abundance of Information and the challenges of plenty

Kop, R., Fournier, H., & Mak, J. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance or a pedagogy to support human beings? Participant support on massive open online courses. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 12(7), 74-93. Retrieved from

“Weller (2011) highlights the changes involved in moving from a learning environment of scarcity, based around the lecture model and books, to a web-based environment of abundance and examines different models of pedagogy to deal with these changes.”

Liking Kop’s writing. Clear, crisp, and to the point. Here. the point regarding the abundance of information is made. Must read Weller.

“They disrupt the notion that learning should be controlled by educators and educational institutions as information and “knowledgeable others” are readily available on online networks through the press of a button for anyone interested in expanding his or her horizon.”

I’m wondering if there is an argumnent to be made with this pooiint. Laurillard, in Rethinking University education, amnd elsewhere, argues that in p[ractical, (and not ideL) TERMS, THE TEACHER IS TYPICALLY THE PERSON WHO MOST IMPACTS ON THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. tHEY DESIGN, CREATE AND culture this environment, and through this have a massive impact on the student. There are also the ideas of having to impart digital literacies and citizenship, and the experience of many which seems to indoicate that some filtering is necessary. Also, internet based MKO’s encountered by students may not actually be MKO’s, and is this lateral or networked knowledge in it’s open form more or less suited to particular disciplines. Finally, the quality of instruction, and of the institutioon based MKO, and their focus may be of a higher calibre than those found on the net.

The paper engages with these, and other concerns (the burden and requirements of learner wutinomy, digital literacy, distilling signal from noise and sifting material)

Quotinmg others, the paper argues that contemporary learning is characterised by the need for resilience, and agiulity in the face of change, as well as an acceptance of the uncertainty at the heart of learning – an uncerstainty, resilience and agility mnad eveen more pressing by the stuiate of informational change. The paper also acknowledges that this is difficult – and a common complaint amongst practitioners is a concern, or fear, when thinking about the demands of the pace of change on them.

“In short, what would be the important factors in the design of a learning environment to support learner self-direction on online networks, and what should be the place and role of the educator?” this ius of huge interest to me, and is coucehed amidst a rft of concerns inb the paper – how to motivate people to engage with the changing face of tech and learning, where to best position oneself to receive information, how best to use tools…

“Shedroff (2009) argued that in current design practice, the main focus should be on creating environments that encourage relationships with individuals, experiences that connect on an emotional and value level. It is not enough to introduce some tools to create an effective working environment; one should also design for the building of connections, collaborations between resources and people.” This seems  key, and is a key compnent of connectivism too – but is also a facet oof cop, task based learning, ollaborative learning and project work.

Kop once again argues that trust and a feeliojg of safety are key ( here she mirrors Jordan and Carlile talking about reatib=vity, also mirroring them in her take on agility and persistence – both requirement s for creativity, and also challenge or uncertainty).

“Research by Garrison and Anderson (2003) and Jézégou (2010) emphasized the importance of presence in online learning environments. Presence is mostly defined in the literature as the “illusion of non-mediation” (Lombard & Ditton, 1997). In other words, there is a high level of presence when a participant in an online activity experiences the activity as if it were taking place in real life, without the mediation of the computer. Garrison and Anderson (2003), in their research on communities of inquiry, identified three interlinked forms of presence that heighten the engagement of online learners: social, cognitive, and teaching presence. Social presence is characterized by affective engagement, open communication, and a high level of personal address by and between participants. Wenger, Trayner, and de Laat (2011, p.10) highlight that “the social fabric of learning” is supported in important ways through collaboration both in a “community” and on the “network.”

POresence, that idea again. Look up the quoted papers and read them. There’s an additional aspect to presence coming through here – the sense of the experience not being mediatyed. i NEED TO D SOME MORE WORK OJN THIS.

“Cognitive presence is characterized by a triggering event, an exploration of ideas and points of view, a consensus on the points of view (reached by communication with and feedback from others), and then a testing and discussion of the found solution. Teaching presence involves the design and organization of the course, the facilitation of the course, and direct instruction.”

” Researchers of learning on online networks can see new roles emerging for educators, such as those of curator, learner, facilitator, supporter of “repurposing” and “remixing” of information, coach, moderator, provider of technical support, lecturer, and “sharer” of resources (Siemens, 2008; Downes, 2010). In this context, the MOOC acts as an environment in which new forms of distribution, storage, archiving, and retrieval offer the potential for the development of shared knowledge and forms of distributed cognition.”

iN eRTMOOC, THE seminar framweork proved key, with some seminar givers following up on people’s blogs. Additionally, the task setting, and weekly blog posts about the weeks ideas, with resources, background and summaries may have been key. And the organisers constant tweeting of resources.

“Characteristics of learning based on a conversational framework emphasize tutor–student dialogue and actions based on dialogue and reflection (Laurillard, 1993). In this sense, the MOOC allows a new model of learning based on adaptive responses to both discursive and active feedback from facilitators and participants, with the potential for engagement in a continual flow of dialogue and exchange and for reflective action on the part of the learner.”]]So, Laurillard’s framweork as a MOOC description. It’s a hard fit, because the Convcersational framweork demands flexibility on the feedback, and occassionally necessitates, as a function of this, a close relationship. Teachers are supposed to monitor conversations and base feedback and further tasks on what they glean from them.

This feels like, at best, a loose fit.

“The courses included several tools. Elluminate is an online synchronous collaboration system for hosting live weekly sessions. Archived recordings were accessed 10 times more than participation in the live sessions.” This is an interesting stat….womnder what the amount was for etmooc?


” Some learners preferred the Moodle forum over FB as they expressed that they were able to learn more about the background, ideas, and beliefs of other participants than in FB. The CCK11 MOOC did not have a Moodle environment, and an excerpt from a blog post of a participant of CCK11 highlights some relevant issues:”


Choice of tool use is key. Choose ypur platforms carefully, as users may value the ability to determine their own levels of sharing and proivacy. – “This highlights the need of participants for social presence, but in a self-determined way.”


“and interacting with PLENKers. A further survey in CCK11 revealed that participants ranked Twitter as the most important tool for interaction and communication in the MOOC. The feedback from some participants, however, suggests that Twitter was still too new and foreign to them in PLENK2010, and a significant number of participants were hesitant to use it in public:

Twitter still seems too much another big distraction construction site for me yet . . . I merely use it to either retweet great tweets I stumbled upon, or to tweet valuable links via shareaholic, so “from outside,” but I often follow #streams for events or topics, sometimes multiple, via tweet tabs though.

Observations of the use of Twitter, however, showed that it supported coherence and connections between different tools during PLENK2010 and CCK11, including back channels to synchronous sessions, updates of news and events, and links to recordings.” Twitter seemd largely to be considered useful, helpful and workablke, though some preferred not to use it – support users, bith in terms of learning to sue tech, but also in providing experiences which let them see the benefits.


“It is clear, however, that there were deficiencies in the support structures of the MOOCs. The small number of facilitators (only four for PLENK2010 against 1,641 participants and two for CCK11 against 700+ participants) available to support learners in the MOOCs raised concerns about their level of interaction, participation, and engagement:  “Too little participation and interaction by the facilitators. Be sure to provide a higher level of participation by facilitators.” I”


So, have a team, who can be and are inviolved, engaged, present and public, and have enough of them (and speakers) SO DOING that it seems supported, and theacher presence os high. Also, Banduran modelling.


The lack of a coherent and centralized structure and a lack of summary around learning in the MOOCs also presented challenges for some participants, in particular the novice learners. The choice of tools allowed learner autonomy, but was at the same time seen as a reason for a fragmentation of the conversation: “too much freedom in choice of tools unnecessarily fragments the conversation unless other tools are used to recombine the process.” gRSShopper was used as a central tool for aggregation in CCK11 but was still not perceived as drawing resources enough into a meaningful conversation.

The difficulties in evaluating the course and its objectives were highlighted by some participants as they found it hard to assess learning outcomes. The objectives were not set by facilitators, but were personal goals set by individual participants, so they were different for each person. Other barriers to learning were time zone differences, language differences, difficulties in connecting with others in different spaces, lack of skills in the use of tools, difficulties in making connections with facilitators and/or learners, and power relations. Furthermore, a high number of participants mentioned personal reasons, such as lack of time to participate, as explanations for why they took on more of a consuming role in the course rather than an active, participative one.

Some support structures were perceived as positive by participants, who indicated that course resources such as The Daily newsletter, the Moodle, and the wiki (for PLENK2010), and gRSShopper (for CCK11) were enough to feel comfortable in the course (Fournier, Kop, & Sitlia, 2011). Some new MOOC participants enjoyed the open structure: “This was my first course of this kind, and I enjoyed the open structure. It would not be suitable for just any content, but for this subject it seemed well suited.””


Participants also highlighted positive aspects related to support received. Respondents to the PLENK2010 survey were appreciative of how the facilitators led without directing and also of the work and engagement provided by the facilitators. Thus, teaching presence, especially exemplified through course design and the type of facilitation, turned out to have a powerful effect on student perceptions of support, inclusiveness, and overall satisfaction with the course. The participants valued greatly the autonomy on connections and participation in networks: “We were given free choice and allowed autonomy about our ways to connect and participate in the network. I greatly value this approach to learning and working together.”

Many participants realized the importance of connections with other learners and of relationship building to advance learning. However, in a MOOC, they found these things extremely hard. Some learners did manage to be connected with a few others and interact in small groups:”


“The type of support structure that would engage learners in critical learning on an open network should be based on the creation of a place or community where people feel comfortable, trusted, and valued, and where people can access and interact with resources and each other. The new roles that the teacher as facilitator needs to adopt in networked learning environments include aggregating, curating, amplifying, modelling, and persistently being present in coaching or mentoring. The facilitator also needs to be dynamic and change throughout the course. Scaling up to the majority in networked learning requires facilitators to adopt a multifaceted role so as to guide or influence the learners and communities to get involved and embrace social media practices. The significant role of the knowledgeable others or other learners is to share part or all of the roles of the facilitator and support other learners by taking an active, participative, and critical role in connectivist learning by communicating, sharing, cooperating, and collaborating with and providing feedback to each other in the communities or networks.”


Find power users and contributors, and encourage them.


“Novices can best be supported through a series of activities that are structured on connectivist learning principles with a goal to enhance autonomy and the building of personal learning networks. Such scaffolding is necessary to build confidence and self-efficacy and to ensure novices will feel confident and competent in using technologies and are supported throughout the course.”


Nive to see novices getting as look-in. Structure actiuvities to foster their competence and confidence, that are aligned with the ultimate aims.

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