Hello..? Echo, echo, echo

This post is part of a series of very short essays on whatever passes my mind. Full list available here

As an educator and learning facilitator, I believe my work is done if I’m not needed anymore. If learners support each other, look for information and ask each other questions.

I was never a good student. Let me correct this. I achieved good grades but wasn’t the student who participated in class. I loved looking outside the window. I wasn’t made for school. But I followed social norms and went to university. A university without required lectures and with a pedagogy steeped in active learning and self-directed learning. Finally, I was in charge of my education.

This educational experience shaped me and my belief in what good education is.

Learning from others

Have a look at the figure below. What do you see? I’d describe it as a number of galaxies or star constellations. Each constellation has a specific color. The constellations do not touch each other. They are isolated from each other. All constellations have at least one big circle in them. Some have several. What could this picture represent?

Source: Hernández-García, Angel, González-González, I., Jiménez-Zarco, A. I., & Chaparro-Peláez, J. (2015). Applying social learning analytics to message boards in online distance learning: A case study. Computers in Human Behavior, 47, 68–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.10.038

Each constellation is an online course (a cohort-based course). Each circle within the constellation is a person. The size of the circle represents the number of messages a learner has sent.

For example, in the brown group (middle left) the constellation has just one big circle and several small ones. This means that one learner has written most of the messages. But in the green constellation at the bottom, there is one bigger circle, several medium ones, and a bunch of smaller circles. While again there is one dominant and prolific writer, other students also write posts.

What does this mean?

The constellations show you if the interaction between course participants is equally spread among participants or centralized. In most cases, interaction is centralized as only one person writes messages. If you consider that different people bring different perspectives and that there is something you can learn from anybody, this centralized and one-sided interaction isn’t ideal.

As team leaders, instructors, and community managers we need to ask ourselves what level of interaction do we want? If we aim for 100 posts per week, do we want one person to write them? Or do we want 20% of members to write 80% of posts? Or something more egalitarian: 1 post per member?

Does it matter?

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Katerina

Behind every problem is a web of connectors and links. I look for patterns and offer solution. — I’m also raising 4 humans: I know problems can be solved.