How to measure the success of learning in rhizo14?

This time I’ll discuss a small but interesting  part of the autoethnography gathered after rhizo14. This was the introduction for the participants:

“Share your personal story of rhizo14 in your own voice. You could freewrite, link to some of your blog posts, quote things you said in Twitter/Facebook or if you prefer a loose structure you might like to consider some of the questions below.”  The last question was: “measures and perceptions of success??” and it was connected to an article of Bentley et al 2014 “measures of success and perceptions of the success of their learning (OLDSMOOC, many cases) .

I’ll only deal with the answers given to this last question for rhizo14 participants. Half of the 31 participants had answered this question (15). I’ll summarise  their results and leave  away the other half: more individualistic solutions (images, zeega, numerous links) or very short answers without a clear comment on learning. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that eleven answers to the given question were given by men and only four of women, while the total distribution was 15/16. How to interpret this difference? Does it matter?

First I read all the answers (>2000 words) and then I combined similar answers together and the story diminished to a half. I am not sure if it is wise to separate answers to parts but it was easy/ possible. The answers had a lot in common. I’ll describe the results using the raw material. I do not mention the names of the participants. I try to write down one idea per paragraph. Here come the answers, let’s listen to the raw material:

Each individual participant has to define their own goals and measure the success in relation to them.
Although we had the option of presenting a personal project .. we didn’t use it. Dave Cormier has given his guide how to participate successfully in a mooc: only one used his concepts (declare or focus).
Success = meaningful connections for own learning /new friends/names to recognise. As my intent was to work at building a personal learning community, I’d say the success of that is ongoing.  I am successful when I strengthen the useful connections I already have, make some new useful connections, and identify some potential connections that might be useful. Making connections with individuals who have a passion for connection (and education) is priceless.  That, much more than content, was the largest part of what I define as success.
There was only one comment referring to learning theories:
From my own teaching and research experiences, the building of learning communities is the key. James Paul Gee talks about affinity spaces and Etienne Wenger-Trayner writes about communities of practice. Learning with others. That’s what rhizo14 has been.
I really wanted to improve and increase the diversity of my learning network. This is a very selfish reason and measure of success. MOOCs that are open are a fertile ground for cultivating your learning network. This course , more than any other that I have done before, have caused me to grow. My network is much larger and much stronger and I feel very much more connected.
Success = having participated. Learning and practicing the range of digital literacies needed to participate, even marginally in some areas, is valuable. I made some progress in the “I can’t read everything” department.
It may be an illusion of enthusiasm that I’ve “learned” these things but it feels like I have a better grasp on how to know them or reconstruct a more viable approach. I’ve gained a tool of understanding that clarifies things that I didn’t have before. Success = People having a serious conversation or, very often, people having fun together. That’s enough. This has been a good experience and I feel that I passed through something. I want to return to some of the potential paths I spotted over the past weeks and make sense in terms of this rhizomatic learning.
Success = I come out with a different perspective on my own network? Do I have at least one or two new nodes (people or ideas) that have altered the landscape or perspective I went in with? Rhizo14 was a rousing success for me and I look forward to ongoing conversation, engagement. / I measure success by my perceptions of the amount of consolidation and change in my thinking and doing. / have stretched me to think outside of the box. I am thinking and engaged in the higher levels./ helped me to think over the questions I had on learning together. I’m grateful for all the people that helped me in my thinking.
Success = I was able to take the ideas from the conversations into interactions with colleagues and was excited by their excitement.
Success = Yes, for me it was success. There was much beauty, I loved the occasional poem and other artistic expressions. I for myself can say I learned a lot.
Success= means also to have some new devices to use (Zeega Diigo Pinterest Unhangout)
Success number one = a working understanding and ways of thinking about rhizomatic learning
  • case 1. I thought that new ideas and ways of thinking about rhizomatic learning would be one measure of success. In fact this could be said to be aligned with the main reason why I joined. I was not entirely convinced that I know what rhizomatic learning is all about. I have to admit that it is not much clearer but I have a working understanding of the idea.
  • case 2.  As for content, I finally got motivated to read some of the insanely convoluted writings of the revered Messrs. Deleuze and Guattari. I understand much more clearly how to articulate, “Continued participation in a community like this allows me to be able to do things I did not consciously set out to learn how to do.” I am still grappling with the rhizome metaphor – trying to see positive points in Knotweed.
  • case 3.  On characteristic of rhizomatic learning lifted from Dave Cormier is to “…participate with and among those people who are resident in a particular field…” This I have done and will continue to do. In each community I will leave behind my rhizomatic project idea with a rootlet (URL) back hoping the connections might strengthen the meme. I clarified and strengthened my own ideas about rhizomatic education, gained many new ideas to test and work with, and outlined some future ideas that I need to know more about. Win-win-win.
Now I have listed all the factors which I separated in the stories. At last I give a copy of a story, which combines all of them:
I did this MOOC to explore and experience new pedagogies and ways of learning online, discover new people to inspire me and introduce me to new ideas and ways of thinking and it’s certainly been a success from that perspective. It’s been fairly pervasive and made me realise that almost every aspect of life involves some form of learning – life is rhizomatic, and thus rhizomatic learning is about learning about life and living it better. I found myself reflecting on it all the time, and it’s evolved my thinking on a range of things, and introduced me to some new people some of whom will develop with closer ties over time.
Here comes another story about the learning journey:
Yes, I learned new things, I met new people, I found new rabbits to chase. But the idea of success implies a stop, to reify the process. If I need to reify the experience, or get it certified, I can do so, and the generation of this text is a case in point, but for me rhizo14 was a participatory journey. Not a place but a movement. And the criterion for success may be only that this movement continues. Dave Cormier described the course at one point as a beacon, an attractor. I think he got that right, and many. We came together, or crossed paths, each in our trajectory, and new fires developed, and around them conversations. Now we move on…
So? Have I learned anything new?  Bentley et al spoke in their article about their reflective exercise. I think it was a suitable concept.  This is learning by writing. The descriptions found here are similar to earlier given in so called connectivist principles. The participants belong to that bigger community as I said in my previous post. The theme rhizomatic learning was weakly understood although it was the main content – or there were huge differences in understanding it? The participants didn’t copy Dave’s sayings about how to mooc well, which fact can be considered as  positive? The connections to learning theories are weak or hidden, because attitudes against educational sciences are mostly negative? I am only asking  comments.
If you have read this you may be interested in Tanya’s blog post and article about inclusion and exclusion in rhizo. It was one of those questions in the autoethnography.

4 thoughts on “How to measure the success of learning in rhizo14?

  1. Hi Heli, I’ve enjoyed revisiting your blog (prompted by the link to mine – thanks!) and exploring your ongoing questions and research on the rhizo14 experience. It’s always interesting to hear perspectives on it. I find it interesting to consider the building of a sustainable and self sustaining learning community (particularly in light of the ‘curriculum is the community’ theme) via an experience like rhizo14. I think although the rhizo14 focus has dissipated somewhat now, there is still a strong sense of community and closeness around some members of the group – and in particular the rhizo14 facebook group continues to be central for evolving conversations on all sorts of learning questions with still, a strong sense of community amongst those who actively participate (I don’t go there often – I’m not on facebook much so never really developed an affinity with the community on there. Sometimes this seems a shame as there are a lot of interesting conversations happening there, but I do continue to collaborate with some Rhizo participants via other projects…).

    So perhaps in rhizo, success could be considered not only in the building of a learning community during the course, but the building of a learning community that has sustained and continues to evolve – as well as connections amongst some participants that have developed around new projects and collaborations (e.g. edcontexts being one but I’m sure there are many others…).

    Thanks for the thoughtful posts, I’ve enjoyed contemplating these aspects too!

  2. Hi Tanya and thanks for commenting

    I agree with you that a criterion of success of rhizo14 studies could be the self-sustainable community. For some people rhizo14 was the best, for some the community already existed (many came from edcmooc or ds106 etc).

    Yes, the FB group is still active but I don’t see many activists there, less than ten participants sharing everything they read or think or … I shared my blog posts there but it is not easy to get feedback. Or perhaps my summary is so clear or well-known that they have nothing to say… thanks to u, feedback is appreciated

  3. Hey Heli, thanks for sharing your analysis, it’s very useful. I was slightly confused while reading it, until I realiZed you were mainly quoting participants, not putting your own views until the very end.
    I think for that particular question there may be ‘nothing new’ vis a vis other cMOOCs, but since rhizo14 i have done a lot of cMOOCs and none have been like it (for me anyway)… So i was hoping the autoethnog would shed some light on that. Still not there yet in my own anaysis of it. I think you have another blog post that I need to look up soon and respond to. Thanks again for doing and sharing 🙂

  4. Hi Maha and thanks for commenting

    I used the raw material as such, only combined similar content and chose the key concepts.
    I used only the answers given to the question about success of our learning and there was only 15 participants who wrote directly to this question.
    This is the way I explore the phenomenon “learning” in this raw material.

    Half of the material leaves outside. I am not sure if this solution is reasonable or sensible .. but I tried this because success of learning is really important to understand.
    As to the autoethnography as a method, the results should be interpreted like case studies: one participant as the entity. We remember for instance Clarissa’s post about “finding her own voice”, she connected the rhizo period to her own personal history.
    I could make another analysis about findings of real autoethnography but then I’ll meet ethical questions soon. I do not interpret living people and if I use the raw material only…. I don’t know if it works.
    I should write a blog post about epistemology and methodological questions.

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