Explore PLN (failure/success)

Technically I am a MOOC failure. One more data point for those who are tallying the high drop out rate for MOOCs in news stories across all media these days. A disappointment to Jeff Merrell and Kimberly Scott who facilitated Exploring Personal Learning Networks (#xplrPLN.)

I was very interested in the topic but right from the start I was never able to give it my full participation. I attended the first few weekly synchronous sessions with Jeff and Kim, did many of the initial readings, and contributed to the #xplrPLN Twitter feed throughout but my participation dropped off in the third week and by the end of the course I was no longer actively participating.

By most conventional educational measures I am a MOOC failure. At Concordia University, my first Alma Matter, my transcript would have said DNF – did not finish (the font would have been courier, and it would have been printed on multi-coloured paper with each colour destined for a different person.)

But I don’t consider my participation in #xplrPLN to be a failure. I got a lot out of the community connections, readings and conversations that I did take part in. I meet new people and reconnected with several others that I had initially connected with during Etmooc. At the same time that #xplrPLN was taking place my PLN supported me as I built and maintained online and blended communities. Not only did I believe in the value of PLNs, I was encouraging others to strengthen theirs so my connection to the course content was not theoretical, it had immediate practical value. I didn’t need to be convinced of the value of PLNs, I benefit from the knowledge, support, ideas, encouragement and play that I get from my PLN almost every day.

Dave Cormier taught me that I could label Explore PLN a node in my rhizomatic learning journey, since it will lead to new experiences and new learning. I know from experience that not all MOOCs are designed along the xMOOC one size fits all model of participation. I actively seek out connectivist learning experiences where I am the author of my learning experience, making my own connections to the course materials, actively participating in the emerging community, so I consider my participation in #xplrPLN a success. I gained a lot from my participation, even though it was more limited than it could have been.

Jeff Merrell is one of the reasons that I joined #xplrPLN. We met in Etmooc, and have connected sporadically ever since. Jeff explores project based learning (PBL) in his university classes, as I do in grades 5 – 9 so I was looking forward to seeing how he would structure a MOOC, and pleased to see that Explore PLN had a PBL-style final project or artifact.

My friend Maureen Crawford was also participating in #xplrPLN and I was looking forward to being able to discuss the course face to face with her, which is a rare luxury, as I connect with my PLN mostly online. In her work in leadership development for the Edmonton Public School Board Maureen is a PLN mentor so the course was a perfect fit for her. Maureen was a much more active participant than I was, and my connection to the course lasted longer than it would have because she actively shared her learning with me in face to face and online conversations. Maureen and I are talking about co-facilitating a MOOC about PLNs in the new year.

At the same time that #xplrPLN was starting up I learned about several interesting MOOCs which were about to start, some facilitated by people would love to learn with. I was deeply disappointed, but realistic enough to know that I was already too busy and there was no way that I was going to be able to take advantage of all of the learning opportunities. A discussion on Twitter about this led to the development of MetaMOOC a Google + community hub for sharing (mostly c)Mooc learning experiences. The community is still in early development, and I am experimenting with taking a less active role in early community development to allow it to be shaped by the community itself. But the community members that I know are as busy as I am, so it will be interesting to see how/if the community evolves.

At the same time that my participation in #xplrPLNs was dropping off I helped host a Scaling Up Workshop for the new CTF Curriculum that I am working on for Alberta Education. The growing community needed to start building face to face connections that we hope will continue to grow now that people have returned home to different parts of the province. I built them a Yammer Network, and tried to steer them there to finish the conversations that have started, encouraging them to develop or strengthen their PLNs.

I leaned heavily on my PLN as I planed Digital Citizenship activities for the month of November for the Open Learning Experience (#OOE13.) We explored this topic in Etmooc, which OOE is based on, so I scheduled Digital Citizenship as the topic in The Post Etmooc Blog Reading Group and planned activities which would interest both communities. We launched Digital Citizenship month as Explore PLN participants were handing in their final case artifacts. I hosted a Twitter Chat about Digital Citizenship at the same time as the final Twitter chat for #xplrPLN, Maureen was able to participate in both chats, but hosting the #OOE13 chat took my full attention so I wasn’t able to participate in the final chat.

Although I didn’t participate as fully in Explore PLN as I wanted to, I got a lot out of the experience that I was able to immediately use. However, I stopped participating and I didn’t hand in a final case artifact.

Mooc failure or successful transfer of learning – I’ll let you decide. I know how I feel about my participation.

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