Week 2: Exploring technology, networks and communities in the service of learning

In the video

Time: 6:30 mins.
A few thoughts as we head into week 2 of the 6-week open section of #msloc430 (video recorded Feb. 1, 2015).

  • Where we are on the #msloc430 roadmap
  • A suggestion: Continue exploring – but let’s add a wee-bit of convergence.
  • An example: What are the unique features of Community of Inquiry? What makes it distinct from a cMOOC?
  • How we might approach building out the shared Google document for weeks 1 – 2.

(And for those of you not familiar with Chicago winter weather – yes, that was a joke about today’s blizzard being a “surprise.”)

Twitter Chat Feb. 5

A reminder that we’ll have our first Twitter chat (hashtag #msloc430) from 8:00 PM Central Time U.S. until 9:00 PM Central Time.

Graduate students in the Master’s Program in Learning & Organizational Change class (MSLOC 430) will join in and help facilitate the discussion. New to Twitter chats? So are many of us. You’ll be in good company. An expert? Join in and help everyone find a little gem of an idea or new resource.

Highlights from Week 1

We introduced ourselves. (Who wouldn’t want to hang out with this community? Really.)

We have a Tagboard as well as a Storify that captures much of the discussion of week 1 (thanks to my colleague and constant source of inspiration, Keeley Sorokti).

Nona Gormley created a shared Google document table to help define distinctions among concepts we’re covering. Maureen Crawford dissected the term “MOOC;” Mitra Emad debunked the MOOC monster under the bed; Sahana Chattopadhyay made an argument for “cognitive diversity” in our personal learning networks; and Jennifer Rainey contributed to the diverse-voices theme by sharing Ethan Zuckerman’s Ted Talk “Listening to Global Voices.”

And criss-crossing all this were many threads and bread crumbs (as Tanya Lau might say) laid down across blogs and discussion threads. You all know who you are. Thank you for providing the sparks that light the community.

Week 2: One path to follow

A suggestion on how we might move toward a wee bit of convergence as we close out our 2-week exploration of technology, networks and communities in the service of learning:

Perhaps 2 or 3 or 4 of you might want to co-write one small section of the shared Google document that is designed to capture definitions of the concepts we’re exploring as well as additional resources and readings. We’ll set up a discussion thread in MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking so you can find out who might be interested in collaborating on particular topics.

Let’s say we’d like to get a first version of the document completed by sometime on Tuesday, Feb. 10. The document can serve as a footprint in the sand (or snow, if you live in Chicago). It’ll show where we’ve been, at least up to this point.

Week 2: Lurking and following your own path

It’s still ok to just lurk. And explore. And don’t feel bad if you feel “behind.” There is no “behind.” There are just footprints and paths.

Week 1: Exploring technology, networks and communities in the service of learning

Time to start. This is the opening post for the full open section of #msloc430 as well as for the two-week exploration of networked learning innovations. Let’s cover a few things:

  • How we’ll organize throughout the six weeks
  • Some tips for success
  • An introduction to Weeks 1-2
  • Readings and resources for Weeks 1-2

These same items (except readings and resources) are addressed in the video in a bit more detail.

How we’ll organize during #msloc430

How to Participate and Topics and Schedule offer an overview. But keep in mind that we are generally organizing around a few tools and spaces – both for course updates and to help guide our learning.

Updates and general organizing

We’ll use this blog, the MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking Google+ Community and Twitter for course logistics, updates, suggesting recommended readings and topics for discussion.

On Monday (U.S.) at the start of each week we’ll post an update on this blog with guidance, suggested activities, updated schedules and references. The blog post will be cross-posted to MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking and shared on Twitter using the #msloc40 hashtag.

During the week we’ll use both Twitter and MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking to share resources and discussions.

The basic tools for participating

We’re starting out by focusing on four tools: Your own blog, MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking, a shared, open Google document and Twitter.

Use your own blog (assuming you have one) to explore the topics of #msloc430. We’ll post questions at the start of each week to help prompt some writing ideas.

Please also share your blog posts in MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking (simply sharing a link to your post is fine) and/or by sharing a link on Twitter (use #msloc430 hashtag).

If you do not have a blog you may wish to contribute to discussions via MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking.

We’re also asking participants to collaborate to create two shared Google documents – one summarizing what we’ll learn after weeks 1-2 and one summarizing weeks 2-4. Anyone may contribute to the document.

Twitter will be used throughout the week for on-going conversation and sharing. We currently have two planned Twitter chats. The first is on Thursday, Feb. 5. (8-9 pm Central Time). More chat dates and times may be added.

Tips for success

These tips apply for the entire six weeks.

Find your own path through the six weeks. And be comfortable with it. It’s ok to jump in and jump out. Or lurk for awhile. Come to the whole event with a key question or two in mind and let those questions guide you to a path.

Make one commitment: Comment on someone’s blog or discussion post. And make that someone a someone you do not currently know. This is one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned in doing events like this. It all starts by igniting new conversations and relationships.

Try something new. Even a small something.

Introduction to Weeks 1-2

In the first two weeks, we’ll explore different models of learning in networked environments. By “models” we mean something that has a clear enough definition to provide us with an example that we might replicate or follow.

Our starting point is by no means comprehensive. We’ve chosen a few models that will help us compare and contrast defining features and thereby understand each model more clearly. The models include:

  • Networked learning
  • Personal learning networks
  • MOOCs
  • Communities of inquiry

By the end of this two-week segment – Feb. 7 – our goal is to have created our first collaborative Google document. The document will include a brief description of each model and its key defining features as well as a list of references and resources to help all of us dive deeper into each model.

Where to begin

Begin by scanning the topics and our starter kit of readings and resources (listed below) to see what might be new territory for you and what might be more familiar territory. Note: You do not need to read all of the recommendations. None are compulsory. These are recommendations to help you get started along one of two options for blogging and discussion.

Option 1: Explore a model that is new to you. Write a post or start a discussion about what you see as the defining features of that model. For example: What makes a MOOC a MOOC? A personal learning network a personal learning network?

Option 2: This is for participants who have experience with one or more of these models. Based on your experience, what are the subtleties that novices overlook or under appreciate about any one (or more) of these models? For example: What is the magic behind a great cMOOC? Or – where are there blindspots in cMOOCs? The subtleties might deal with either positive or negative aspects of the model.

Post your thoughts on either option during the next 7-10 days on your blog and/or MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking and/or via Twitter.

Contribute to the shared Google Document

You may contribute to creating the shared document at any time. Starting Feb. 5, we’ll start to put more energy into completing a good first version by Feb. 10.

Join the Twitter chat

Thursday, 8-9 pm Central Time (U.S.) at hashtag #msloc430

Schedule Summary

For weeks 1-2:

  • Jan. 25 – Feb. 5 – Blogging and discussion to explore models of learning in networked environments. What are the defining features of each? What subtleties might novices miss?
  • Feb. 2 – Next weekly update (via this blog)
  • Feb 5 – Twitter chat 8-9 pm Central Time (U.S.) Hashtag #msloc430
  • Feb. 5 – Feb. 10 – Final effort to complete the shared document.

References and resources

The references and resources listed here are not compulsory readings. They are a starter kit. Browse through and find something that helps you get started on your own preferred path. Let it lead you someplace.

You may know of other great references or resources. Add them to the shared document covering the topics for weeks 1-2. We sincerely hope to build out an open list of resources that have helped all of us wrap our minds around these topics.

(Many thanks to Ess Garland and Maureen Crawford for their significant contributions to this list)

Networked learning

Downes, S. (2014, Sept 5. The Challenges and Future of Networked Learning (Slideshare). Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/2014-09-05-the-challenges-and-future-of-networked
Synopsis: Useful overview of meaning and how Networked Learning works with further references (a few don’t link) as well as challenges ahead and useful questions for reflection at the end.

Gorbis, M. (2013, March). The future of education eliminates the classroom, because the world is your class.

Connected learning: Reimagining the experience of education in the information age. http://connectedlearning.tv/connected-learning-principles

International Conference on Networked Learning – Conference Proceedings 2014 http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/info/confpapers.htm
Synopsis: The International Conference on Networked Learning is a gathering of academic researchers that began in 1998. The link is to the latest conference proceedings. The site also includes past proceedings. This is shared more as a general resource than as a specific “reading” for #msloc430.

Personal learning networks

Howard Rheingold interview with Shelly Terrell re: PLNs: http://dmlcentral.net/blog/howard-rheingold/shelly-terrell-global-netweaver-curator-pln-builder
LaLonde, C. (2009, October).
Synopsis: Both of these articles provide history of usage of the term, basic definitions, and examples.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120177/ebook/06_Veletsianos_2010-Emerging_Technologies_in_Distance_Education.pdf
Synopsis: Illustration from the author’s experience of a PLN in a learning environment, definitions and history of PLN’s from a theoretical perspective and practical pointers to establishing your own.

Rajagopal, K., Brinke, D. J., Bruggen, J. V., & Sloep, P. B. (2011). Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them. First Monday, 17(1). http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3559/3131
Synopsis: Provides an overview of research into PLNs and proposes a model to define personal learning networks.

Seaman, A. (2013). Knowledge sharing as a democracy. Hybrid Pedagogy. (Blog). Retrieved from http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/journal/personal-learning-networks-knowledge-sharing-democracy/
Synopsis: Makes a case for PLN’s, defines them with a brief history and describes them ending with a useful way to start to build one.


Bates, T. (2014, October 12). What is a MOOC? http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/10/12/what-is-a-mooc/
Bates, T. (2014, October 12). Comparing xMOOCs and cMOOCs: Philosophy and Practice. http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/10/13/comparing-xmoocs-and-cmoocs-philosophy-and-practice/
Bates, T. (2014, November 21). A ‘starter’ bibliography on MOOC’s. Retrieved from http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/11/21/a-starter-bibliography-on-moocs/
Synopsis: Each of these blog posts is a chapter-in-progress for Bates’ open book “Teaching in a Digital Age” http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/

Cormier (2010) Success in a MOOC video. http://youtu.be/r8avYQ5ZqM0
Synopsis: Short video outlining how to participate in a MOOC by one of the originators of the model.

Jacoby, J. (2014). The disruptive potential of Massive Open Online Courses: A literature review. Retrieved from http://journals.akoaotearoa.ac.nz/index.php/JOFDL/article/viewFile/214/168
Synopsis: Interesting from a higher education perspective. Particularly helpful from “Key Issues” in identifying further emergent classifications of MOOCs and history.

Seimens, G. (2012, June 3). What is the theory that underpins our MOOCs. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2012/06/03/what-is-the-theory-that-underpins-our-moocs/
Synopsis: Developer of first MOOCs discusses differences between Connectivist MOOCs and MOOC’s promoted by learning platforms such as Coursera. Outlines theory underpinning Connectivist MOOC’s,.

Vetting Wolf, T. (2014, April). The growing potential of MOOCs. http://traceevettingwolf.weebly.com/blog/the-growing-potential-of-moocs
Synopsis: Some thoughts on the design of a cMOOC.

Community of Inquiry

Anderson, A. , Butler, R., Kyle, N., & Wess, Y. (2014). Community of Inquiry (Video file). Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7MHPxIU27E
Synopsis: Simple presentation based upon referenced research outlines Community of Inquiry model and how it works in a learning environment. (Cartoon in the middle was bit jumpy for me?)

Community of Inquiry: https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/
Synopsis: Website providing a reference point for description and research on the model.

Swan, K., Garrison, D & Richardson J. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: The community of inquiry framework. In Payne, C. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/398997/A_Constructivist_Approach_to_Online_Learning_The_Community_of_Inquiry_Framework
Synopsis: Downloadable chapter presents the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework of online learning as the interaction between and amongst three presences: social, cognitive and teaching.

Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Open seminar begins October 7, 2013

So what is this all about?

We’re scholar-practitioners who are immersed in the topics of learning and organizational change. And this is our base camp for an open, online seminar designed to explore a question for which there is no single right answer: How might it be possible for organizations and individuals alike to benefit if individuals develop personal learning networks within and outside the enterprise–namely, their employers?

This question and the design of this seminar are intentionally constructed to take a walk through ambiguity. We will provide structure (a schedule, activities, resources) but our philosophy is that we are all learners who are eager to explore the complex world in which we live and work. This is a new topic. There are no real best practices, nor a sure-fire formula for success–exactly the type of challenge we, as organizational leaders, face every day.

“Open” means this seminar is free and offered purely for your professional interest and development. There will be activities we ask you to complete, and we will offer and encourage feedback, but you may participate as much or as little as you wish. We estimate the time commitment to be 3-4 hours/week if you fully participate in all events and activities. But we’ve designed this seminar to allow moving in and out as your schedule permits.

Open also means we will use tools that are readily available via the web: Blogs, Google Plus Communities, Google Hangouts (for video broadcast) and Twitter. We encourage participants to collaborate using all of these tools – but it is not a requirement. We do know from past experiences, however, that the most interesting learning happens when you take advantage of connecting and sharing across these web-based tools. See How to Participate for more details on what to expect in this course experience.

The backdrop: In a connected world, where are the new opportunities for the growth of organizational talent?

Let’s examine two things we hear about, a lot.

Growth and development of organizational talent is difficult and organizational leaders feel uneasy about their capability to meet this challenge. Recent surveys conducted by The Conference Board (.pdf of key tables here), for example, show that for CEOs and human capital executives alike, the growth and development of organizational talent is cited as the top challenge their companies face in 2013. Yet they also report a lack of confidence in meeting future human capital needs (Mitchell, Ray & van Ark, 2013; Ray, Mitchell, Abel, Philips, Lawson, Hancock, Watson & Weddle, 2012).

At the same time, business investments in social technologies appear to be paying off in both internal and external networking. Two of the top 5 reported measurable benefits noted by executives responding to McKinsey’s 6th annual global survey on the use of social technologies relate to knowledge sharing: increasing speed to access knowledge (#1 overall benefit reported by 71% of survey respondents) and increasing speed to access internal experts (#4 at 48%). The same survey reports that “fully networked” enterprises – those reaping significant benefits by using social technologies to interact internally and externally – grew from 3% in 2011 to 10% in 2012. (“Evolution of the networked enterprise: McKinsey Global Survey Results,” 2012). A Deloitte study reported similar insights: Enterprises that have moved out of first gear with social business technologies are using them to great advantage to “identify internal talent and key contributors,” to stay on top of market shifts and to improve strategic planning processes.

We see these dynamics intersecting. A talent development strategy of course requires multiple components and approaches. In a highly connected world where the lines between internal and external digital networks blur, is there an opportunity to entirely reframe how we think about growth and development of talent?

Talent development, meet Personal Learning Networks

One potential avenue to address this opportunity is to explore Personal Learning Networks as part of a strategy for individual and organizational development.

Personal Learning Networks (PLN) are the connections and relationships you create specifically to learn more about something of professional or personal interest. It is first and foremost personal to you and designed for your benefit. You own it. In a connected digital world, your network can extend anywhere and include people you know only online. (For more background on PLNs, see our Introducing PLNs in the Resources section).

By supporting the development of PLNs we help individuals become continuous learners – a plus for organizations. We also help individuals build productive, digital collaboration and knowledge-sharing muscles – again a plus for organizations.

At the same time we need to be comfortable with the tension this potentially creates between individual and organizational interests. Individuals own their PLN relationships. And these relationships extend anywhere – inside and outside the organization.

Are organizations really ready for this truly skilled, networked professional?

This issue is at the heart of our open learning event. Is it possible for PLNs to be fostered within organizations for mutual benefit – for both the individual and the organization?

We have designed this five-week open online learning event to invite learners who are new to PLNs to explore what PLNs are and to examine whether PLNs can legitimately play a part in a strategy to help organizations achieve their objectives. By the end of this seminar, participants will create a set of questions they can ask about their organizations to determine whether they might be ready to experiment with PLNs as a part of their learning and development strategies.

We also have designed this open learning event to help participants identify and enhance their own PLNs. By adopting elements of a cMOOC (connectivist MOOC) course design, we hope to encourage network connections and sharing among participants. Learners will have the option of collaborating or working independently to examine the practical challenges of leveraging PLNs for organizational development. Building upon our experiences using problem-based learning, we will offer a series of questionnaires and self-directed learning tools that participants can use to get the most from this learning experience.

Sample Learning Questions for Participants

We will encourage you to create specific goals for your participation in this seminar. Here are some examples you can consider:

  1. What are the different points of view about PLNs and their role in organizational development?
  2. What are the pros and cons of investing in PLN development, from an organization’s point of view?
  3. How are PLNs similar to (and different from) other organizational learning and knowledge-sharing interventions?
  4. What are the organizational barriers and facilitators for using PLNs as a “win-win” learning strategy for individuals and organizations?
  5. What questions should I consider to gauge my organization’s readiness for strategic support of PLNs? To pursue a vision of harmony emerging from individual and organizational networking interests?
  6. How do PLNs fit within an organizational landscape? What does that look like?
  7. What is it like to participate in an open learning course designed to foster connections and learning?
  8. What do learners need to do (and what skills do they need to apply) to get the most out of this type of learning experience?
  9. How well does a problem-based learning approach work when embedded within an open learning event format?

Interested in participating?

Register by October 1 to participate in the guided personal learning exercises that can help you prepare for this session.

The learning event begins the week of October 7 and ends by November 8. See our schedule and visit our home page regularly for more details.

— Jeff Merrell and Kimberly Scott