SCoPE & The Pedagogy of Online Communities

SCoPE & The Pedagogy of Online Communities

by Nicholas Bowskill -
Number of replies: 5
I'm going to let the web 2.0 thread sit for a while to allow others to come in on that. I was essentially trying to draw out the distinctive nature of SCoPE as an open online community and this is an interesting opportunity to just consider this in more detail. I've taught in a number of online courses based on the model or principle of online communities. These were based upon a learner-constructed agenda but located within a closed online space with a set number of known participants who mostly travelled through the courses together.

SCoPE, as an example of an open online community has different features. Not least amongst these is that the audience is more generally defined and their location may very well be international. Participants may or may not post and there's no obligation for participation to take that particular form. Participants may come and go at any point along the planned journey. Participants may come from anywhere and from quite distinct practices and cultures.

Tutoring does not involve assessment of what are essentially informal learners in a semi-formal and open structure. Tutoring is about being supportive and understanding of different contributions but cannot exert pressure or offer rewards - or can it? Perhaps rather than filling up e-portfolios alone participation here might be recognised and certificated?

It is also interesting to think about the relationship between online communities as emerging and inter-cultural phenomenon. How should a community like SCoPE work with other similar communities (- if they should)? What would professional development look like for working in intercultural online communities if this is an emerging form of practice?

The underlying issue is the recognition of these open communities as inter-cultural with different pedagogical heritage and practices coming together here. Are we working to a particular - perhaps western model - of working online? How do we work together with difference in such open environments?

I'm evaluating SCoPE not in isolation but as an example of an emerging practice that highlights a huge new field of research to be explored - within and between online inter-cultural communities. Such communities support local institutional practices but at the same time constitute a unique form of practice themselves. From that perspective if I was to propose a what next topic I might go for 'the research and practice of online inter-cultural open communities.'

As an early contribution towards such thoughts it would be interesting to hear how tutoring is conceptualised within SCoPE and how this has changed since its inception. Also what do we as participants in SCoPE 'expect' in such contexts - from tutors, from each other and as learning outcomes?

In reply to Nicholas Bowskill

Re: SCoPE & The Pedagogy of Online Communities

by Sylvia Currie -
Lots to consider here but this question really popped out at me:

Perhaps rather than filling up e-portfolios alone participation here might be recognised and certificated?

The idea of formal recognition for informal learning has surfaced a few times in SCoPE, in conversations among my colleagues in British Columbia post-secondary, and peripheral conversations relating to emerging models of open learning, such as Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC).

Last year in the seminar Evaluation Practices for Informal/Self-Paced Adult Learning we succeeded in teasing out the main issues but of course in such a sort time we were unable to arrive at practical suggestions on what it might look like. Also, several years ago in the Informal Learning seminar we asked if designing informal learning is an oxymoron. In a related seminar in 2008 we explored the concepts around Viral Professional Development.

I'm sure I'm missing many examples but what are the next steps in this conversation? There are many ways to map out what recognition of informal learning might look like. A couple possible scenarios suggested by my colleague Scott Leslie via email are:
  1. Portfolio-based accreditation -- a program like CMALT
  2. Participation in a series of SCoPE seminars leading to credit in a formal program -- done in partnership with university graduate studies (M.Ed or diploma)
Are these ideas appealing to SCoPE members?

Recognition in other forms is also an important topic. Do we do enough to acknowledge the contributions of SCoPE members? For example, would more formal recognition for SCoPE facilitators (letters, certificate of appreciation, etc) help to enhance their portfolios at home institutions?

Lots of possibilities!
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: SCoPE & The Pedagogy of Online Communities

by Nicholas Bowskill -
Hi Sylvia, What an interesting idea about accreditation of participation in this kind of thing. I like the idea but it raises tensions as you say doesn't it? For instance I use this space(s) as a place to think and discuss things free of the constraints of meeting some external criteria. If they were in place would I feel it to be more performative? If we have started to assess and benchmark e-portfolios and then MOOCs (that was a new term to me) where are the spaces for free-thinking unjudged?

Setting aside such views I really like the idea. I guess institutions would also have some tensions because on the one hand they would bring new people into their fold but on the other hand can I do a free degree this way? If I participated my head off for 3-4 years would I get a degree from my informal but sustained participation? What becomes of institutional income then?

It would be nice to be able to participate and then bring it to the institution as accredited prior learning though. It does also raise tutoring and support issues unique to such contexts doesn't it?

The only other point I would mention right now is thinking about this in relationship to the work of Alan Tough and his colleagues/descendants at Toronto who surveyed informal learners and their personal projects. They found that rather than being a solitary pursuit this kind of activity was conducted across a variety of conversations and in different places such as libraries etc. Although SCoPE could function as an online space for informal learners and provide conversational opportunities for such people to develop their projects how do you cope (accredit) participation across multiple MOOCs? Can I bring my scattered stuff to you and ask you or another institution to accredit me? I guess I could be invited to make sense of it all in a coherent form and present it to someone for a fee but that changes the footing.

As you say lots of interesting points raised by all of this and interesting to hear the further thoughts of yourself and others too.

It's Friday afternoon here at 4pm so I'll be warming down soon but I'll be following this and thinking about it over the weekend. I wish everyone here a happy one.


In reply to Nicholas Bowskill

Re: SCoPE & The Pedagogy of Online Communities

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -

I find that Scope “tutors” do so “secretly” most of the time – perhaps not even knowing how much they are modeling or sharing. 

About giving recognition for Scope participation, I think if it would help some people, than sure I would support that. For myself, I don’t need it at this point in my life. My rewards come in the participation and the lurking. Some topics have really got me charged up; others I just hang out with, but don’t find them particularly useful to my life – although I could say that about a lot of general knowledge, so it is a matter of my honing in on what fits for me or contributing when I can.

In terms of our Scope Community's function and place in the virtual world, I find the members quite diverse and varied enough in their interests and backgrounds to offer different ideas and perspectives, but not so diverse that I might as well be on Web 2.0.

I have many professional communities that I belong to, but Scope is quite unique. The members of Scope, including the lurkers who occasionally contribute or let us know that they appreciate what is being discussed, are really very down to earth with their discussions and gifts. I find you all to be great models. I’m mentor for several people in other interest areas, but I find that Scope as a collective is a great mentor.

Jo Ann
In reply to Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers

Re: SCoPE & The Pedagogy of Online Communities

by Alice Macpherson -
"including the lurkers who occasionally contribute or let us know that they appreciate what is being discussed"
And that would be me ...

I appreciate all that is said and done. I read always (although I don't usually log in), and post little. Many are much more knowledgeable than I and I am happy to learn from them. Perhaps that makes me a bit parasitic, but I choose not to make posts just for the sake of posting.

Thanks to all who read and think.

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Formal recognition of informal learning?

by Nick Kearney -
I find the idea of formal recognition for informal learning problematic. It is like trying to measure smell with a ruler, or distance with a sponge.

Participation that is intrinsically motivated - you participate because your participation has some kind of value or meaning for itself - is fundamentally different from extrinsically motivated participation - where your activity is principally aimed at achieving some kind of ulterior target, but is not necessarily of itself important. There can be overlap, but the two should not be confused.

My perception of Scope up to now is that people contribute when they are interested in the discussion and feel they have something to contribute. The level of "noise" is therefore low; most posts are highly focused, relevant and bring something new to the discussion. That is why we keep returning.

In courses where participation is part of the assessment process, the noise level increases. People post because they have to. There can be a lot of thinly disguised repetition and circular debate.

Of course recognition would be nice, but I would hazard that up to now people have participated because Scope is valuable to them of itself. My own anecdotal experience is that those who know Scope tend to value references to participation in Scope but though valuable, this is informal relational recognition and therefore perhaps less "cast iron" than official accreditation (though often more effective).

I suspect that implementing some kind of official accreditation might devalue Scope. I see Scope as a kind of virtual staff room in many respects; especially because the kind of conversations that take place remind me of the discussions that can happen in staff rooms. In staff rooms, when the director, or school head, (or whoever is responsible for evaluating staff performance etc) walks in, there can be a lull in the conversation.

The evidence of the very interesting previous debates is that though the issues are clear enough, workable solutions are some way off (if they are feasible at all).