Bridging Learners From Instructivism to Connectivism

One of the more interesting challenges of the Dual Layer MOOC project (at least from a design standpoint) is the learner autonomy goal. The instructors don’t want to force learners to be open (or closed, for that matter). If learners want to be completely guided by the instructor (instructivsm), then there will be that option. If learners want to use completely networked learning (connectivism), then there is that option. Designing two layers based on those two ideas is fairly straight forward (as long as you do it well). If learners that are on the networked learning path want to dip into the guided path, that usually is not a problem, because that has always been part of being an autonomous, self-directed, networked learner: find some content and consume it as needed and then go back to your network. However, for those on the guided path that want to transition into networked learning, the path is not as easy. Many may not even try it because they are used to being guided. You can blame the system or learners not wanting to take risks or many other factors and be correct, but the reality is that transitioning from guided objectives to self-directed competencies is a barrier for many learners. One possible solution is to scaffold the learner from instructivism to connectivism. This would go back to the deconstructing objectives idea I touched on earlier, but in this case you could guide learners through it. Remember, this is for the learners who are used to being guided, so you would have to also guide them through the process of learning how to learn (or heutagogy as some call it). Starting with a basic instructivist guided objective with conditions, behaviors, and criteria, you might have something like:

Given the EdX module resources (CN), the learner will analyze ethics in data analytics (B) by scoring at least 90% on the module quiz (CR).

But since that is what they are used to, you could stretch them a little bit by removing the criteria to get them to start thinking for themselves a bit:

Given the EdX module resources (CN), the learner will analyze ethics in data analytics (B) by __________________ (CR).

Learners would have to fill in the blank for themselves. What you have here is the beginnings of the idea behind the ds106 assignment bank, although not quite there yet. Once the learner has gotten this down a bit, you could then take it a step further by removing the condition:

Given _______________________ (CN), the learner will analyze ethics in data analytics (B) by __________________ (CR).

This is a lot closer to the ds106 assignment bank. And then you could even strip everything away from the behavior except the topic and move that to the condition:

Given the topic of ethics in data analytics (CN), the learner will ______________________ (B) by __________________ (CR).

At this point, learners are practically writing their own competencies – they just need to make sure to create something applicable to their situation and they are there. Along with this, you might want to also scaffold them into group work. For example, with the first level of scaffold you might tell them to goto the group discussion board and get feedback on the criteria they are creating. Then on the next level, they could get in groups and swap their personal objectives with others to see if others can accomplish them. Finally, they are placed in groups with other that have similar objectives to find a common goal to work on. Hopefully they can then start working as an autonomous learner within a connectivist environment for the final step. However, there is the big issue of not forcing learners to take this path if they are not ready. There would be great value in creating a course that specifically teaches learners to move from instructivism to connectivism, but that would still be basically one path through the content. Even adding that path to the dual layer MOOC would essentially make it a single pathway course if it was forced on all at a certain point. But learners that are used to instructivism need that path – that guidance – to start the process of stepping out. So the tricky part of the course design would be to create a system that allows learners to stick with the course layer they like, but also switch over as they like (and by default have a pathway for guided instructivist learners to switch over at any point they are ready). One possible solution is to lay out all possible steps each week in the weekly blast or announcement or blog post or whatever it may be. It could look something like this:

Welcome to Week 3 of Data Analytics! The topic for this week will be ethics in data analytics. For those of you in the networked path, you know what to do. Or maybe you don’t yet, but go to your groups and get working. Write your own competencies and get working with others on one of the weekly problems in the Problem Depot. Or create your own problem. Those of you that need a new group to join, go to the Random Group-o-Mizer and select “new networked group”. For those of you on the guided path, your content is in the EdX course. For this week:

  • Given the EdX week 3 resources, you will analyze ethics in data analytics by scoring at least 90% on the module quiz.

For those of you on the guided path that are ready to dip your toe into the networked path, this is your challenge:

  • Given the EdX week 3 resources, you will analyze ethics in data analytics by ____________________ (?)
  • Create your own criteria for determining that you know the content (i.e. fill in the blank above).
  • Go to the Random Group-o-Mizer and select “dipping my toes in”.
  • Share your personalized objective with the group you are assigned to and give feedback on the other group member’s criteria.

For those of you that have dipped your toe in and are ready to go deeper down the rabbit hole, this is your new challenge:

  • Given ________________ (?), you will analyze ethics in data analytics by ____________________ (?)
  • After creating your own criteria (first blank), go find some kind of resources to help you learn what you need to (second blank).
  • Go to the random Random Group-o-Mizer and select “Going deeper down the rabbit hole”
  • In your assigned group, switch your personalized objective with others and see if you can accomplish each other’s objectives.

For those that have taken more control and are almost ready to dive fully in to networked path, this is your final challenge:

  • Given the topic of ethics in data analytics, you will ______________________ (?)  by __________________ (?).
  • Figure out what you are going to do with the topic, how you are going to do that (first blank), and how you are going to prove you did it (second blank).
  • If you apply this objective to some situation in your life, you be pretty much writing your own competencies like a pro.
  • Go to to the Random Group-o-Mizer and select “My path to being a Jedi is almost complete”
  • This should match you up with a small group of people with similar competencies. Your goal as a group is to work together to solve one of the problems in the Problem Depot based on shared competencies.

If you think you are good with the final challenge and want to go through with the full transformation to networked learning, go back to the first part of this daily blast and jump in to the networked learning path.

Of course, there would need to be more guides in there for some of these steps, but hopefully this gives you an idea. The “Random Group-o-Mizer” would basically just be some profile system that allows learners to put in some basic interests, select a level of participation, input their objectives or competencies, and then be grouped according to some algorithms that puts them together by shared objectives/competencies. The “Problem Depot” is basically an assignment bank that is re-purposed for problem-based learning. Learners could even create their own problems and submit to this depot. The basic idea is that every week we give learners the steps to scaffold to connectivism and let them go at their own pace through the transformation. Of course, it won’t be this straight forward or easy in real life, but the struggle is part of connectivism, right?

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