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Connectivism: new ways of learning through connections #CCK11

January 25, 2011

screenshot of the class whiteboard and students in the chat room

There’s a new kind of educational phenomenon and a good example is the “Connectivism and Connected Knowledge 2011” course, “an open online course that over 12 weeks explores the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge . . . as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. . . . open to everyone and there are no fees or subscriptions required.”   The course is based on an idea called a MOOC – a kind of networked learning.    MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course.    I’m not sure how many people are in our course, which is the third iteration of the curricula, but it’s perhaps 1000.    Everyone communicates through tweets, blog postings, connections made through an RSS feed, a site facilitated by the instructors and good old emails.    Recently a bunch of the students created a facebook site as well.    Weekly there are a couple of online events using “whiteboard” technology – essentially a lecture delivered online to students who sit together in a chat room and are able to make comments, ask questions, vote, etc..    The course is taught by George Siemens and Stephen Downes – both of them brilliant thinkers so even just the opportunity to access them in this way, for free, is kind of amazing.

The idea is that there’s this flow of information around the world (students in Australia, the U.S. and Canada, Poland, South America, etc.) that’s kind of linked together by the hashtag #CCK11 (anything with this label gets picked up and delivered in various ways to participants) – there’s too much information about how education and learning may be facilitated online but as it flows past one, one will be attracted to some things and not to others, and then begin to make connections with some of those peers by commenting on their blogs and emailing them.    Given how many people make friends in classroom situations this means there’s lots of opportunities to get to know people in various ways, and perhaps meet some people that one can connect with.    Prof Siemens theory is that learning happens through connection – which makes for a nice intersection with our own work around personal support networks.

People in the class are patient and helpful, and come from all kinds of backgrounds.   Some of them are professional online educators honing their skills – but these folks, so ahead of someone like me, have been great to talk to about things that weren’t clear.    And, on the other hand, when I was able to figure out how to create my own RSS feed I was able to share that and several people tweeted me to say how much they appreciated it.    That their blogs then began to show up on the feed and mine never did is beside the point 🙂   I must go try it again…

There are at least several variations of the MOOC educational strategy – I’ve seen a couple in New York City, a couple from Europe and there are some from Canada’s University of Manitoba and Alberta’s Athabasca University.   You really have to experience the flow to understand what it is like, but it’s a fascinating concept in connection.

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