Activities 15 and 16: Let’s connect – but for business or pleasure?

Personal learning networks

A Google search reveals plenty of resources on PLNs. On the webpages and blog posts I came across, a few words and even sentences were spent on defining the concept of a PLN, but most of the space was used to argue why building a PLN is a great thing and to present a multitude of social media tools that could be used for creating a PLN. So activities 15 and 16 are good ways to discuss thoughts and ideas on this particular concept. It’s been very helpful to read the many interesting blog posts that have already been written by my fellow moocers on H817open 🙂  Thanks for the inspiration.

The shortest definition of PLN that I came across is probably this one: “Your Personal Learning Network (PLN) is the group of people who feed your learning head” (P2PU). However, the text continues “In a true network, you’re a contributor, not just a consumer.” I think this is a very important aspect which is also stressed by Bozarth who claims that “you get back what you put in” (Bozarth, 2011). So reciprocity seems to play an important role in a PLN.

From colourbox.com

From colourbox.com

I found a somewhat longer definition on the Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website:

“A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a way, a process, a network of interrelated connections you make for the purposes of discovering, collaborating and sharing ideas and resources. These connections are created based on your learning needs and can be made with like-minded people from all around the world” (Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website).

I think the definition above captures the reciprocity but also manages to stress that it takes effort to build and maintain a PLN. I was very intrigued by the “based on your learning needs” in the quotation above. The P2PU also stresses the “intentional” aspect and state that “[m]eaningful participation in this network is an integral part of your personal learning plan”. I was a bit surprised at discovering this link to what might be called personal learning objectives. My first impression of PLNs was that these were networks based on mutual interest and that you would more leisurely share ideas, thoughts and resources to explore a certain topic to keep up to date. I hadn’t quite thought of a PLN as such a very targeted getting down to business (learning) approach. But I do see the benefit of more purposefully building a PLN and now consider whether I myself should set more specific learning objectives than “just” finding out what MOOCs are all about, exploring new tools or keeping up to date.

But now I think it’s time to venture into my own attempt at a definition of PLN, so here goes:

A personal learning network consists of peers with whom you connect to explore topics of mutual interest by sharing ideas, thoughts and resources.

Now the question is whether PLN is a useful term or not. As such, it’s not a new phenomenon which has already been stressed in many posts. However, the many social media tools available today certainly expand your range when attempting to build a PLN and the possibilities for connecting, sharing and collaborating online. I’m thinking that PLN becomes a very important element in open education, especially when talking MOOCs. I can see how the formulation of a personal learning plan and the focused effort to build a PLN, can help learners get valuable learning experiences when it comes to informal learning. This is my first MOOC, and I have experienced myself how important it is to reach out and connect to other participants to be able to explore, share and collaborate. It took some effort initially to do the reaching out, but now I’m enjoying every minute of it 🙂

References:

Bozarth, J. (2011). Nuts and Bolts: Building a Personal Learning Network (PLN). http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/659/.

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning website. A Simple Comprehensive Guide on the Use of Personal Learning Networks in Education. http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/06/simple-comprehensive-guide-on-use-of.html.

P2PU – The Peer 2 Peer University. Build a Personal Learning Network. https://p2pu.org/en/groups/diy-u/content/build-a-personal-learning-network-2/.

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Activity 12: MOOCs and faculty development

Background to MOOCs

Adapted from colourbox.com

Adapted from colourbox.com

In activity 12, we are asked to briefly consider if the MOOC approach could be adopted in our own area of education or training. My area of education/training is faculty development within the field of e-learning. I do courses and also provide help and guidance to teachers in relation to the design and delivery of blended learning and distance learning. How does each of the elements in the MOOC acronym relate to my context?

The COURSE element

Today, I deliver courses face-2-face. It’s a great way to inspire faculty and give them insight into e-learning. But it’s not quite enough. Teachers need to experiment with e-learning themselves, so right now the most important part of my job is to support teachers in the design and delivery of e-learning activities. The course element is necessary, though, to showcase different approaches to e-learning.

The ONLINE element

I don’t do any online courses yet. But it’s certainly an area that I would like to explore. It would make a lot of sense to start offering online courses since the activities at my university are distributed on 6 campus cities across the southern part of Denmark. I know that teachers struggle to get the time to attend courses. With online courses, they wouldn’t have to worry about time spent on travelling. And if a major part of activities are asynchronous, participation would be as flexible as possible. Being an online student themselves would give a lot of added value to the learning experience of teachers. They would get practical knowledge of both online learning processes and tools to support these.

The OPEN and MASSIVE elements

I think the open element would appeal to the teachers at my university and to university teachers in general. They would benefit from networking with teachers from other parts of the world and may find connections with similar interests. I find that the most rewarding learning comes from the exchange of ideas and experiences between teachers. Specific examples help illustrate important points.

Also the innovative pedagogical approaches associated with the “original” type of MOOCs would, I hope, inspire teachers to rethink their own teaching. I have been especially intrigued and drawn to the creative activities of MOOCs in which one has to visualise thoughts and ideas. Quite a challenging but also very rewarding type of learning activity that I would like to promote.

Finally, there’s the open as in use and reuse of OER. Introducing MOOCs in the context of faculty development would also mean exposing teachers to OER which again might inspire teachers to explore the use of OER themselves.

I’m a bit worried about the massive element. Teachers often tell me that any course or training that they engage in must be very specific and on target with respects to their particular context, otherwise they will not spend the time needed. However, in a MOOC, it’s very much up to the learner to set personal learning goals and pursue these by engaging in the proposed learning activities and by cultivating a personal learning network. So I think, there would have to be a lot of initial scaffolding and support of teachers, so that they can participate comfortably and meaningfully.