(Archive) New Connectivism “Course” in the making

 (Archived post, 2-26-2009)

(Global map of the connectivism & connective knowledge course. Flickr picture Fleep Tuque, Creative Commons License)

This year there will be once again a Connectivism Course, starting in September. Last year Connectivism and Connective Knowledge was a twelve week course that explored the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explored their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning.

George Siemens and Stephen Downes co-facilitated this innovative course.

I must admit that I just lurked around a bit last year. I was fascinated by the variety of communication and collaboration tools which were being used. As you still can see on the course site there was a blog, a wiki, Moodle, Elluminate sessions, video and in Second Life the Chilbo Community organized discussions and documentation.

It was a sometimes confusing experience, even for those who spent more time at the course than I did. There was a wrapup conversation about last year’s course (CCK08) which has been recorded.

One of the special characteristics of the course was that there seemed to be many many attendees. A small minority I guess attended the course in the context of some formal education, others just attended (for free) because they were interested.

I am not sure how many people actually went through the whole course. It is not very obvious either whether the two organizers got as much interaction between the participants as they wanted.

My impression was that the whole initiative was still presented very much as a course, which made people expect also a more classical approach with professors explaining in a rather linear way what connectivism is all about.

However, the course also wanted the participants to experience what it is to educate yourself in a networked world, and asking questions such as “what is the role of an expert in a networked world”.

There were more mundane issues as well, such as that it is rather essential to have a good microphone if one wants to communicate effectively in this networked environment.

A rather interesting question which popped up was that of “lurking”. Is it a failure when many people seem to be lurkers rather than active participants? Are they damaging the network by doing so? Or are they rather preparing themselves for the interaction, going through an important experience?

Anyway, one of the participants said: “At first it felt large but I seemed to be communicating with about 50 people.”

Fundamental issues

Discussion about words often are discussion about fundamental issues. Should we call the course a course, or rather workshops, or a series of events, regularly organized connections?  But how would an university based on a conversation model look like?

Stephen Downes talked during the wrapup about serialized courses that you can subscribe to whenever you want and that will be delivered to you through RSS in the days and weeks that follow. Course content is prepared by a designer and then arranged for delivery over a period of time – serialized – according to your schedule.

RSS feeds can include links to external resources, embedded photos and videos, and community features. Course content is therefore distributed across the web.

Participation is also distributed. To take a course, simply subscribe to an RSS feed – there’s no registration fee, no sign-up, no overhead. If you decide, you can submit your own blog address or RSS feed and contribute your comments and content to the course.


George Siemens shared some insights and ideas about assessment. Now it was already a case that participants in the course were not necessarily evaluated by the University of Manitoba, but eventually by other universities who looked at the learning experience form their perspective.

What can assessment be in a networked world? Maybe a service such as evaluating how much of the required knowledge and skills you have for a certain profession and indicating what you still have to do in order to acquire the total package of needed skills?

The wrapup was for me very similar to my experiences reading course material and sporadically following course discussions: almost no clear answers but lots of questions. But that is of course a philosopher’s paradise. Where journalists need to present complicated situations in a simpler and more understandable way, philosophers show the complexity behind seemingly simple situations.

Anyway, I look forward to the new edition of the course. I hope I’ll have some more time now to participate, instead of just lurking!

Roland Legrand

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