Turning to the community: my open learning journey

Image attribution: CC0 James Sutton via www.unsplash.com

This blog details my learning journey for the Education and Digital Cultures module 2017, as part of the Digital Education MSc at the University of Edinburgh. As the final assignment for the module I am going to put this open learning journey on trial* to examine the benefits and drawbacks of being open. The link has been submitted officially via the institution VLE and I am turning it over to you, the open community for critique and comment. In some ways I am putting ‘community’ on trial as much as ‘open’.

This assignment was inspired by OER17 The Politics of Open. Despite being unable to attend the conference I read all of the blogs posts arising from and found it really resonated with me being able to look through the lens of an open learner, rather than previously through the lens of a ‘frustrated’ open practitioner.

I have presented my case with supporting evidence, witness contributions and expert opinions. Considering all of this I have made a verdict and am now opening it for comments. Therefore, your comments:

WILL NOT affect my judgement that was submitted for assignment purposes

MIGHT affect the final mark or the feedback from my tutors, that decision is entirely theirs

WILL potentially have greatest impact on my future professional practice as an educational technologist and may even open new conversations/connections.

Of course, the absence of any engagement with the assignment will in itself be evidence in the trial of open learning.

Before going to the trial I want to provide a short background to provide context. I primarily chose this module to push me outside my comfort zone. The three blocks of Cyberculture, Community Culture and Algorithmic Culture were each structured around readings and group/individual tasks and the majority of the content was totally new to me. However, the bulk of the content and learning was to be built entirely by each of us in a personal blog area. This content was ‘fed’ into our blog daily via IFTTT. All information about the module is available openly on the website, including the handbook, assessment details, tutors and links to each student blog.

* Disclaimer: any errors surrounding the courtroom metaphor are entirely mine and poetic licence abounds

Go to trial >

Week 8 summary

Another week has flown past before I feel I have truly got to grips with it. I am a bit stuck in a ‘catch up one week at the start of the next‘ loop. I really enjoyed looking at and commenting on quite a few ethnographies, but made myself move on mid-week. However, I did add Pocket to IFTTT!

Trying to make sense of algorithms was worrying as I am definitely out of my comfort zone with numbers never mind big numbers. I began by watching some instructive talks and videos.

Despite my focus on my YouTube algorithm exercise the main element that has come through my week is yet again online community. On Twitter I spotted a good article about Google and education and this started a conversation about community and sharing and it turned out to be very circular indeed.

The Tweet from Amanda Taylor re article in the Conversation, author, Ibrar Bhatt brought algorithms and/vs serendipity to life: Amanda in Lancaster University, worked in Queen’s previously, Ibrar wrote article whilst at Lancaster University, now works at Queen’s in a different department from me. When I first retweeted the article I had no idea where Amanda was located or anything about the author so discovering such close network nodes showed me how algorithms are at play without me even realising, as I have no recollection of how I came to follow Amanda in the first place.

Lastly, as the week closes I am again thinking on the paradox of Higher Education’s continual resistance to change whilst simultaneously lauding technological innovations as potentially disruptive. Each time change is slow and minimal with a focus on administrative benefits rather than the learning experience. The virtual learning environment, VLE, is an ever present piece of evidence of this.

There you go Jeremy, proof I act on your feedback – word count under 300!

Week 7 summary

My stream is unusually skewed this week, light at the start and heavy near the end. There were several reasons for this, I was at a conference on Tuesday, my MOOC analysis was ongoing and I think my frustrations at IFTTT were beginning to drag me down a bit. My initial response to my feedback was that it was exactly what I had been expecting, however, as the week went on I think it did over shadow my output to some extent.

Continue reading “Week 7 summary”


from Dropbox



My aim was to produce a video for this and I had all the transitions/animations in place but then decided to do via a Dropbox link and opted for a document only due to PowerPoint Mac and export to mp4 choice not showing. I’m not overly happy with it but it is the end of the week and time to move on. I really enjoyed the MOOC itself and will continue with it to the end.

Week 6 summary

I ended my thoughts last week with the question “I wonder if we now have overly high expectations of community in the online sphere?” and looking back through my stream for this week I see that I have been probing away at this.

The paper Participant association and emergent curriculum in a MOOC: can the community be the curriculum? (Bell, Mackness & Funes) looks at participation and community and its conclusion states:

There was confusion over what community meant, and where and how to perform it in Rhizo14, as participants brought different tacit understandings of the term to the course. The ‘warm glow’ communitarian notion of community emerged as a shared meaning that often defined both interaction and curriculum.

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Week 5 summary

This week’s stream seemed to have three different elements – community, robots and spaces.

Robots and ethics still seem to be on my mind in this block and Philip and I have been discussing the worries around the future of these. Using autonomous vehicles as an example, even Elon Musk is warning humanity that they need a plan for the displaced workforce due to these vehicles.

Spaces and their importance offline and online have also appeared due to our discussions and also from my MOOC on designs for the future. As with the vehicles we need to redesign our spaces to work with technology and not against it – the library is now used more than ever but needs to be more than just a building to house physical books. We need to encourage collaboration and communication for users and access to the Internet.

Continue reading “Week 5 summary”