I have followed the research which aims to understand learning during open online courses. This time I’ll tell about Rita Kop’s and Fiona Carroll’s research about participants’ creativity during PLENK2010. I’ve blogged many posts about my learning and feelings in PLENK (autumn 2010). It was fine to notice that we have this open journal in Europe, I have to follow it.
The objective of this research was to explore the level of importance of creativity for learning and then to closely investigate how this creativity might be fostered in such a ‘vast’ educational setting and what factors might be of importance to enhance creativity in open networked learning. Through the participants’ experiences, we discuss the various dynamics and profiles of the participants as they move from being consumers on the environment to becoming ‘producers’ and take creative steps in their learning. More importantly, we identify the elements of the course that need to be in place to encourage and support this move towards more effective creativity and learning.
It was not easy to make choices about the methods with which to find the appropriate knowledge. The Moodle forums were used and some blogs (mine was one of these I suppose). Very few were active producers: between 40 and 60 were active producers, the other 1580 were not active in this way. In the end survey there were ‘Active producers’ survey (N= 31) and ‘Lurkers’ survey (N=74). It is obvious that active participation in open online courses is not easy and it must be learned and wanted. It is a journey, though participants assessed themselves to be self-directive learners already at the beginning of the PLENK studies.
What helped this journey of becoming a producer? What would tempt people into creating something during studies?
In the active participant survey it became clear that different people have different ideas on this. 64% of respondents indicated that the content of a discussion post by someone else and 56% a blog post from someone else were triggers for people to produce something themselves. It would also spur people into action when others would connect different concepts (52%), or shared a particular tool (40%) . In addition respondents highlighted issues such as the need for self reflection on what was being learnt from the various sources, inspiration from the connections the individual was making and the urge to share what was being learnt, in additional to examples of creative work by others.
Researchers give some examples about participants’ products.I remember the duck image and I remember that Chris Jobling was very active in the Moodle forums and he used the Pearl Trees. I met him once in the web and helped him to prove Pearl Tree – so I felt myself to be skillful even I am not. Great feeling anyway.
The majority chose to be involved in aggregating, ‘remixing’ and sharing of information, without getting involved in the creative production. It seems that to bring out the creative potential in people and to inspire them into the production of digital artifacts, they must feel comfortable in their learning environment and have a certain level of trust in fellow-participants and feel comfortable and confident in using the new tools that are available. There should be an atmosphere that nurtures an inner confidence in the learner to engage in playful activities, to experiment with new and different ways of articulating their thoughts, feelings and ideas, to push boundaries for creative expression and then share these with others. It takes time for people to build confidence and to experience the spark that drives people towards taking that creative production step.
I can agree with this interpretation of the main results. But I’ve some questions in my mind: is there any “new networking” , new connections between people and/or knowledge. Confidence and trust are still important and take time to develop, it is an old and well-known truth. People are same people still, they do not change in digital world, perhaps become more flexible? My next question deals with the role of facilitators. It was clear that they were excellent role models, they shared openly many artifacts and supported participants’ learning:
Creating: participants would then be encouraged to create something of their own. In the PLENK2010 MOOC the facilitators suggested and described tools that participants could use to create their own content. The job of the participants was to use the tools and just practice with them. Facilitators demonstrated, gave examples, used the tools themselves, and talked about them in depth. It was envisaged that with practice participants would become accomplished creators and critics of ideas and knowledge
If Rita says so, it must be true 🙂 I often have this feeling of being a humble pupil in a traditional teacher-lead course in all these Moocs. Perhaps it is because there is a group of real university students, too and they must be supported. I have been working with adult students in Finnish culture and used to be equal and sometimes I miss this feeling in Moocs. Principles are fine, but not easy to implement…