I appreciate Michelle Pacansky-Brock from Mt. San Jacinto College for sharing her Community Ground Rules – direct link – (under a CC-BY license) for a still photography history class she’s involved with. The document will certainly be of some use as is while others may tweak it to their liking. But upon reading it, I immediately felt compelled to share my thoughts on how the term network is being used within a formal educational context. A notion that all stakeholders should consider when participating in a MOOC or any blended course.
At the top, left-hand corner of the document is a picture of Alexander Rodchenko who claimed,
One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again.
The first eight points of the community ground rules document are what I would consider basic netiquette terms or simply ways in which individuals should act when interacting with others. The list is fairly straightforward and I certainly think is applicable regardless to whether we are discussing groups or networks.
However, there are two other sections of the document that made me question whether the objective was to create a group or network. For example, it reads “…to ensure we maintain a safe, trustworthy discussion environment”, students must be enrolled in the course in order to be an eligible community member. This sounds more like a group than a network to me. And I would argue that in some educational contexts, learners would benefit from discourse that is less than safe, or more diverse than what they are accustomed to since this is what they will likely face as members of a global society.
In another instance the term network was used in reference to more group-like behavior: What happens to this network after our class is over? The question is in relation to content and how all the content is to be deleted once the course has be completed. This seems to indicate almost a pruning of one’s network back to what it was at the beginning of the course, perhaps shifting back the spaces as they once were.
Growing a network among learners within a class requires taking several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round. Forming a group among learners within a class means looking through the same key-hole again and again. As educators, I think it is to our advantage to take an honest look at how our students are learning collectively (as in a group) and connectively (as in a network) in order to find the right mix based on particular educational contexts. We can meet course objectives while still forming long-lasting networks that will continue transforming well after the course has been completed.