Reflections and Next Steps: August 23-31, 2010

SCoPE & The Pedagogy of Online Communities

Formal recognition of informal learning?

by Nick Kearney -
Number of replies: 0
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).