Looking back as a student coming into this subject, I was particularly naive of the way this subject would transform my thinking about being a student in a NETGL environment. It has opened my mind to different possibilities with learning online, learning in a different manner, and challenging previous held notions about what actually constitutes learning. However, there are aspects that I struggled with as evidenced in some of my blogs. Upon further reflection, I think the true nature of why I found being a student in NETGL so difficult is because psychologically, as a formal educational subject with assessment pieces, I needed information and direction that was clear on what was required to produce sufficient evidence of learning. Participating in this course as one of the last in my series of formal learning, threw a curve ball to my traditional thinking about formal learning and hence my progress was not as extensive as I would have liked in this subject to achieve true networked learning.
To begin, networked learning is distinct from online learning, as “learning in which information and communications technology (ICT) is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources”. (Goodyear, 2001, p.9). Bell, Zenios & Parchoma (2010) extended this definition by identifying it as a social form of learning with emphasis on the connections and relationships formed between users. Essentially this subject was attempting to build a ‘community of practice’ (Lave & Wegner, 1991), which is a ‘self-organising systems of informal learning’ (Gray, 2004, p.23). The difficulty in achieving that in this subject was the formal education requiring assessment component. In other formal study subjects I have collaborated with groups using technology such as Google Docs and Blackboard Collaborate, Skyped group conversations, developed YouTube videos to share resources, and although I can admit to absolutely loathing these processes in a group setting, I felt these forced more of a ‘community of practice’ onto the group than reflecting, commenting and sharing ideas through blogs and other programs such as Feedly, Diigo did. This is not to say that I criticise the use of these tools in networked learning in this subject, however perhaps the amount of time to form bonds properly between individual learners was not long enough, and the connections were not strengthened; “the strength of ties is a…combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal service which characterize the tie” (Granovetter, 1973 as cited in Gilbert & Karahalios, 2009).
The speed of the learning processes within the first few weeks I found personally phenomenal, and to be honest I don’t think I ever recovered fully from. Shirky (2008) talks about the collapse of filtering systems, to be able to deal with the volume of information, and ultimately it is system failure in relation to social systems and interactions. I can relate to this, and in addition I was definitely within the parameters of Kligyte (2009)’s ‘troublesome’ concept, with some aspects feeling alien and counter-intuitive. I felt a constant pressure to be ‘connected’ and I felt a massive failure as a student as I was struggling to keep up to date with the subject. This was magnified when I did manage to check Feedly and see how far behind everyone else in the course I was. I think perhaps I could not shrug the psychological mindset of requiring a central anchor point to drive my learning. As Jarche (2006) comments “formal education has been shown to foster dependent learners who have difficulty in the disorienting contexts that often accompany informal learning. If we truly want to foster lifelong learning, we need to create more informal learning opportunities in our entire educational system”. Although I had previous experience in writing a personal blog and networking with other blogs, as discussed previously my posts, studying this subject through my blog felt completely different and stressful compared to exploring topics of interests through my blog. In essence though, both were very similar in approach. I think because of the pressures of a ‘formal’ study approach, I was more worried about keeping up with the material, making comments on others blogs, and attempting to know all the material and readings, rather than blogging more , interacting and creating that ‘community of practice’ (Lave & Wegner, 1991). Perhaps as Jarche (2006) described, I am a classic by-product of the formal education system. As Kligyte (2009, p. 541) highlights “learners need to find their own unique pathway to transformative understanding of networked learning. There’s no simple and straightforward way to mastery that can be taught” I think I required longer (and less personal background noise) to be able to mastery this different type of learning. It was hard to shake the mindset and so easy to revert back to that which is comfortable when I am under stress, basically wanting to revert back to an “industrialist consumption-based model of learning” (Downes, 2011).
Reflecting back on this experience as a student, I would have far preferred to have studied this subject like this towards the beginning of my studies as it gives a completely different viewpoint to how learning in a networked online capacity can be. This would have implications for aspects of learner, teacher and student. It would then put pressure on other subjects to do more than just be a textbook online in which to work through.
Bell, A., Zenios, M., & Parchoma, G. (2010). Undergraduate experiences of coping with networked learning: Difficulties now, possibilities for the future. In L. Dirckinck‐Holmfeld, V. Hodgson, C. Jones, M. de Laat, D. McConnell, & T. Ryberg (Eds.), 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010 (pp. 904–911).
Bonzo, J., & Parchoma, G. (2010). The Paradox of Social Media and Higher Education Institutions. In Networked Learning: Seventh International Conference (pp. 912–918).
Downes, S. (2011). Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-downes/connectivism-and-connecti_b_804653.html?ir=Australia
Gilbert, E. & Karahalios, K. (2009, April). Predicting tie strength with social media. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 211-220). ACM. Retrieved from http://leonidzhukov.net/hse/2011/seminar/papers/chi09-tie-gilbert.pdf
Goodyear, P. (2001, January). Networked learning in Higher Education Project (JCALT). Centre for Studies in Advanced Learning Technology [ebook] http://csalt.lancs.ac.uk/jisc/
Gray, B. (2004). Informal learning in an online community of practice. Journal of Distance Education, 19 (1), 20-35.
Jarche, P. (2006). Formal education needs more informal learning [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://jarche.com/2006/10/formal-education-needs-more-informal-learning/
Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Proceedings of the Ascilite 2009 Conference (pp. 540–542). Auckland, NZ.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Shirky, C. (2008). Web 2.0 Expo NY: It’s not information overload. Its filter failure [video file]. Video posted to https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=1&v=LabqeJEOQyI