OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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February 1, 2012

An Open Educational Resource Supports a Diversity of Inquiry-Based Learning
Catherine Anne Schmidt-Jones, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, February 1, 2012.

Today I bring to you links to four of the articles in the latest edition of the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. This first paper examines how people are using open educational resources (OERs). "Most reported accessing individual modules on their own initiative, as part of a specific, immediate inquiry, rather than responding to institutional directives or following entire online courses." Part nway through the paper we read an interesting and important question: were learners self-directing out of choice or need? As the author notes, "over half of the self-directed learners reported that they had not received as much formal music education as they would have liked. Money or cost was the most common reason given." So self-directed learning becomes not the preferred alternative, but for many, the only alternative. Not that this is necessarily bad - self-directed learning has a long history. As the author concludes, "Dewey (1938) has stated: There is, I think, no point in the philosophy of progressive education which is sounder than its emphasis upon the importance of the participation of the learner in the formation of the purposes which direct his activities in the learning process."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Open Educational Resources, Traditional and Online Courses, Online Learning]

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Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning
Lisa Marie Blaschke , International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, February 1, 2012.

One thing I've learned over the years in education and social science generally: for anything you can think of, someone has created a 'theory' of that thing. Thus we have heutagogy, which is "a form of self-determined learning with practices and principles rooted in andragogy." A key concept in heutagogy is 'double-loop learning' "In double-loop learning, learners consider the problem and the resulting action and outcomes, in addition to reflecting upon the problem-solving process and how it influences the learner’s own beliefs and actions." Or as I would say (without the academic mantra), "practice and reflection".

That said, the discussion around heutagogy is important. It is an explicit recognition of the importance of self-directed learning, and explicitly described the move from competences to capabilities. As such, it explains much of the appeal of web 2.0, e-learning 2.0, informal learning (as described volumously by people like Jay Cross) and (dare I say) connectivism. Indeed, most of the work cited in this paper comes only a couple of years after e-learning 2.0 - from 2007-2010. The work from Kenyon and Hase stands on its own, but the rest of it, I think, really ought to be read in this wider context.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Connectivism, Adult Learning, E-Learning 2.0, Online Learning, Academia]

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Online Social Networks as Formal Learning Environments: Learner Experiences and Activities
George Veletsianos and Cesar C. Navarrete, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, February 1, 2012.

This article presents "a case study of learners’ perspectives and experiences in an online course taught using the Elgg online social network." We haven't heard a lot about Elgg recently but it remains an important model for online learning. One weakness of the case study is that it takes place in a traditional institution. "Results also indicate that students limited their participation to course-related and graded activities, exhibiting little use of social networking and sharing." Then again, this might just be a feature of the (very) small group studied. I think the discussion of Elgg is valuable, but would place the case study as just one out of (we would hope) many data points.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Networks, Experience, Online Learning]

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Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual Experience
Carmen Tschofen and Jenny Mackness, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, February 1, 2012.

The authors explore "the dimensions of individual experience in connective environments and to further explore the meaning of autonomy, connectedness, diversity, and openness." According to the authors, the "definitions of all four principles can be expanded to recognize individual and psychological diversity within connective environments." I can understand the authors' concern: "It is easy to see that attention to the perspective of the individual may perhaps be viewed as ultimately moot within the cumulative mass of network connections." This is the same point being made by Adam Curtis and it bears consideration. It is from this perspective that each of the four major principles is explored (and for me it is definitely an interesting exploration - though each one, I think, could stand to be a separate paper on its own).

There's always going to be a pull in two separate directions. On the one hand, the four principles are (in my mind) computational principles: they describe in a relatively objective way the conditions necessary to support effetcive networks. On the other hand, they have a human dimension: "we hope to see a recognition of network capabilities and possibilities intertwined with the recognition of human concerns and potential in a networked and connectivist world." It's like saying gravity weighs on us all. It is both objectively true, but also reflects an understanding of the human condition.

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Connectivism]

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Three Passions of Bertrand Russell (and a Collection of Free Texts)
Mike Springer, Open Cultutre, February 1, 2012.

Bertrand Russel was, I think, among other things a fundamentally good man. "Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life," wrote Bertrand Russell in the prologue to his autobiography: "the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind."

[Link] [Comment][Tags: none]

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Big Data's Arrival
Paul Fain , Inside Higher Ed, February 1, 2012.

According to this report, "Researchers have created a database that measures 33 variables for the online coursework of 640,000 students – a whopping 3 million course-level records." Actually, 3 million records isn't a lot - wait until we start dealing with 3 billion records, or 3 trillion records. These are already the case in other fields (such as medicine) and are just around the corner in e-learning. But more - this case describes records created by students in a single system, which is really inadequate for the purpose of research or analytics. What you want is to be able to collect records from everywhere, and amalgamate them. Ah - but who will be the first to start sharing big data?

[Link] [Comment][Tags: Traditional and Online Courses, Research, Online Learning]

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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