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Power Laws and CCK11

January 29, 2011

I have participated in several of the connectivist course offerings over the last couple of years and have been and remain critical of some of the ideas and theories espoused therein. I am trying to understand my antipathy for this thinking, after all, how important can it really be?  There are many theories of learning and connectivism is just one more, and not necessarily even the latest one. But I have discovered in me one facet that might explain my situation:  I wonder if it is the observation of a theory unfolding, and the means by which it does that is bothering me?  When I study behaviourism, for example, I did not have a front-row seat as to its development, its historicity is available by proxy, but with connectivism, I am making observations first-hand.  Thus behaviourism is perhaps more of a objective concept in my perception, and connectivism is more subjective as my affectations are more caught in it through watching it grow?

Regardless, I can think of a couple of issues that irk me.  One relates to the normative presumed egalitarian approach to the structuring of the latest offering, CCK11. This offering has done away with the use of the Moodle LMS (an open-source construct) and replaced it with the Grasshopper LMS (a seemingly non-open source construct). The rationale behind this is to focus the course on blog-work, and then using Grasshopper to aggregate the blog work into a centralized access point.  Moodle is a centralized access point that does not harvest blogs for its content, rather, it is a separate content-area in itself, which permits blog-work to continue on its own.  Grasshopper seeks to perform both functions:  permit blog-work then centralize it.    

The normative base for replacing Moodle/Blog with Grasshopper is that Moodle permits power-laws to function, and Grasshopper will reduce the functioning of the power-law.  Now my understanding and interest in power-laws is minimal, but I think of them as the 80-20 type rule:  20% of the persons in Moodle create 80% of the posts, or something like that.  This has been deemed to be bad, by the course designers, and they have judged the Grasshopper format to be good.  But is there not a ‘power-law’ at work in the new construct too?  Is it not the case that 20% of the course participants are producing 80% of the blog posts? 

And who really cares about the power law, so what if some people prefer Moodle over blogs, isn’t that the point of a distributed, autonomous, open, diverse connectivist course?  Choice for the learners?  I think the course designers move towards a social deterministic/social engineering conceptual framework, when they tinker as they do.  And I, for one, prefer fewer constraints.


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  1. Hi Ken,
    Have written a post in response to yours here. So Moodle is your choice. It is not available in CCK11. I have a Moodle set up for my class at work, but it is not yet opened. So, choice, choice, but, don’t be disappointed, have you still got your blog sharing ideas?
    Power law does changes from 80 – 20 to 80 – 10 or even 99 -1 though power is never 100 -0, I suppose. Is that the sharing of power? 50-50 in communication?

  2. 90-10 not 80-10
    How is your PhD research going?

  3. deadvocate permalink

    Hi John. I’m not sure communication has to be 50-50. I guess it depends on who’s communicating and what they want. I liked Moodle for what it is/was. I’m of two minds about it: I am really too busy now to spend as much time making comments as I did before; on the other hand, I miss the intensity of the interaction on Moodle. I haven’t explored this new structure enough to see if it would offer the same interactions.

    Thanks for asking about the PhD. It’s going very well; I am in the course-work stage for the rest of this year. The courses are very good, lots of very interesting readings. I’m writing some papers and hoping to go to a few conferences this year to observe and present. I am learning more about ‘community of practice’ concepts, and ethnography and linguistics in one course I am taking right now. I may use this new knowledge to study one of the OOCs.

    How about you? How does your research go?

  4. Hi Ken,

    Glad to learn about your PhD study, and that you are enjoying it so much. Congratulations.

    COPs, ethnography and linguistics are interesting areas, and surely that it would be wonderful to study the OOC from those perspectives.

    I am still conducting some background research, for the literature review on MOOC and PLENK. So, still research in progress.


  5. Hey there Ken,
    Good to see you surface again. I’m still on holidays and thought I’d try out the new MOOC. Have had quite a break from courses, just enjoying peace and solitude. My observation – I don’t like the new format, having to dart around everones blogs. Once the Moodle navigation in the previous course became familiar, the discussion forum worked well for me. I learnt so much and enjoyed the productive sparring. Perhaps there’s no escaping the restrictions when there is an agenda. At the moment I feel like a child whose parents have told me I can only play at the local park and with a particular group of friends while I long to play in the caves down at the beach with the renegades. I don’t think I’ll play this time. Good luck with your research and your life journey ……

  6. deadvocate permalink

    Hey Susan, great to hear from you! I know how you feel; it was good to play with the renegades in that last course. I always learn a lot from the sparring, even if it’s not what I thought I might learn!

    I agree there is an agenda with these things. I am glad that I’m not the only one that sees it that way. I wonder what the outcome of the ‘new’ way will be? It seems the activity is dropping off already in that course.

    All the best in your endeavours too.

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