Thursday, October 13, 2011

Online Self-Organizing Social Systems

This morning while commuting to work I had the opportunity to the last of this week's reading from David Wiley and Erin Edwards (Change MOOC) on Online Self-Organizing Social Systems. I have to say that this really piqued my interested. While reading the document I was transported back to my MBA days when I first started learning more about the topic of Knowledge Management and the work of Etienne Wenger. I am a big fan of communities of practice and I have attempted to get an instructional design community of practice going with mixed results (mixed results are just my opinion, other's opinions may vary- more in article form here).

I have realized for a while now that instructional design and knowledge management go hand in hand however I had never bothered to actually put anything to formally bind them.  At times instructional design can seem very rigid, after all it is a systems view of learning, and there is a process to getting things done (also known as "a method to the madness" ;-)  ).

What Wiley & Edwards posit in this paper is  that the collective knowledge one find in forums (fora), or places like slashdot are good examples of Learning Objects. Now, from a 30,000 foot view, I do agree, that these nuggets of information (and a helpful community that will disambiguate and augment what's there) are examples of Learning Objects. Even thought I am a big fan of Let Me Google That For You (where's my tongue-in-cheek smiley when I need it?) and teaching people how to be self-sufficient in troubleshooting their own problems (or at least trying to find the solution online first before they talk to someone else) I am still having a hard time calling stored knowledge somewhere a Learning Object.  By that rubric, are libraries not containers of learning objects?

I think my main sticky point is one of semantics - what does one mean when using the terms following terms?

  • Open Educational Resources (OER)
  • Learning Objects (LO)
  • Open Content (OC)
Are all these terms synonyms? Are they in the same super-class of "thing" but different instantiations? Are they different but similar?  What sort of intent is there when you create one type of object versus another? Do you make it with the intent that it will be reused? do you make it with an "one off" intent but if it's reused it's OK? What sort of agency goes into the creation, storing, use and reuse of each type?  Am I thinking about this too hard? ;-)
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