Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Clear challenge in learning: match or mis match between learner needs and educator support

In 1991 Gerald Grow drew up his matrix of matches and mis-matches between learner stages and teacher styles and the first few days on #PLENK have confirmed to me that in any learning situation there is a need for a certain level of support to learners, also to participants in a course such as PLENK so they do not to feel that they are drowning in an overwhelming sea of information. I think that all four of us  facilitators are providing support in one way or another, in addition to several of MOOC old-timers and it is interesting to see that participants in the course have their own strategies to find support. Some posted comments on the course blog containing technical questions, while others used the Moodle discussion board or email, while I have also seen questions on Twitter and participant's blogs.

To me the level of autonomy that learners have and can handle is one of the major challenges for successful learning in a Personal Learning Environment as it is clear from a body of literature that not all learners are able to fully direct their learning them selves. This can be because of age and level of maturity, but there are also factors influencing the successful self-directed learning of adults. Paul Bouchard from Concordia University in Montreal distinguished four major groups of influencing factors: 1. Related to issues of motivation, confidence and self-efficacy of learners; 2. related to organizing and sequencing resources and information and time; 3. related to language and increasingly other media used in learning; and the fourth related to economy, as people make a cost and benefit analysis about what type of learning they will get involved in, which could be in a formal course where they receive a qualification if positive learning outcomes are achieved, or informal related to interest for instance.

It is my current job with our PLE group here in Moncton to research, think about and find out what kind of support learners need in a PLE and then to translate this into a pedagogical platform and technical support structure that will enhance the learning experience.  We will tell you more about our research throughout the course, but I was hoping that you would be willing to engage in this thinking process and tell us what would have helped you in this first week to find your feet, to get into the swing of things that wee bit easier. What scaffolds or climbing frames of support might help you in this process of self-directed learning?


  1. Thanks for the great links. The "teacher" roles that Grow describes are important and I'm looking forward to seeing how these will evolve as our students create and expand their own PLNs. There is still a need for direction even if it is just a nudge or a suggestion or a link to another resource or subject matter expert. Is this a separate class of "teacher"? Are there new and different skills that I need to develop to be effective as an agent / curator / cross-pollinator?

  2. Thanks for the interesting thoughts above Rita.

    Curating the discussions and also providing scaffolding into the course content seem to be particular challenges in a MOOC. Dave Cormier in the live elluminate session earlier suggested synthesising (for example) blog posts/conversations. That would be useful, but time consuming to do.

    I'm finding that following blogs (via the Daily), and the (still small) twitter stream are working for me to keep up, but the Moodle forums aren't (and this from someone who spends 90% of her professional life working in Moodle!). The number of contributions is simply impossible to weed through (and of varying usefulness), whereas one can quickly establish which blogs to follow - ones that add to one's own personal learning conversation (as it were). Not sure this answers your question above, but knowing the options from day 1 was certainly useful.

  3. I think that organization of ideas, and some kind of ranking, sorting of ideas would be supremely helpful. In the #PLENK2010 daily e-mails i feel they are huge and full of all kinds of information that i do not feel is advancing my understanding of "course material" just a bunch of people tweeting and retweeting and blogging and reblogging very similar (or identical) things.

    How can we expose course-goers to the widest and deepest amount of information through educator mediation?

  4. Hi Offie, Thanks for your thoughts on ranking. This is what we are actually developing for our PLE, ranking and information recommender systems related to people's earlier learning projects and personal profile, to ensure that the level of relevance on information grows. I personally find the presence of people helpful and wouldn't want to be solely dependent on technological means to filter the data and resources that come my way.