Many Students Loosely Joined: Social Software to Support Distance Education Learners

Terry Anderson, EDUCAUSE Connect, Mar 03, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The reason Terry Anderson and I take very similar approaches to online learning, I thinking, is that we start with similar values. What values? As stated in this presentation, they include student control and freedom, and education for everybody (not just the elites). This presentation touches familiar themes, including the ideas of abundant content (note the sales versus free downloads of his books) and abundant communications. Ironically, the website says some materials are for ELI members only - in direct contradiction to the message Anderson carries - though I was able to access everything. I think ELI should reconsider - proprietary content is so 90s, and posting 'member access only' just makes it look like you don't understand new media.

Anderson also discusses and links to a post by Jon Dron on the topic of collective intelligence. Dron cautions people on the use of Wikipedia as an example of collective intelligence. "Wikipedia is only partially a collective venture and, from most perspectives, this is not the main part." Quite so - though, what should be said is that it started out as a very uncontrolled and genuinely collective venture, but as it began succumbing to the demand for 'respectability' it has become more and more authoritarian (with an oddly publisher-centric view of authority). Anderson offers some interesting remarks on taxonomy. I'll just note that (a) my own usage of terminology is rarely 'loose' and never based on popular memes, and (b) when I classify entities, it is always by virtue of some significant underlying structure.
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