P2PU Future Scenario on Collaboration

April 5, 2011, [MD]

This term, I took a Knowledge Media and Design Institute class on values and design. Part of the class was a group assignment that had us choose a public venue, and do unobtrusive participant observation (this could be a public square, a museum or another place where people congregate). Based on what we found through our ethnographic ministudy, and the readings and ideas from the class, we would come up with a design intervention to further a certain value. My group chose the value of "collaboration", and used Peer2Peer University as the "venue".

We were able to do the study in P2PU, because all interactions are archived publicly - the ethics approval for the class would not have allowed us to do research on a class that was protected by password. For me, it was fun having a group of people with a lot of ideas around design and knowledge media, but who did not know much about P2PU. Of course, this was a small project in one class, so it cannot be seen as a full-scale research project, more to get your feet wet with ethnography and design, but it was still a lot of fun, and hopefully could inspire further work.

The group visited several current and archived P2PU courses (here's an example "notification" that I posted in one of the courses to let them know that we were having a peek). We did not do any rigorous analysis of the data gathered, but from the notes that the group members took, their feeling was that course organizers were trying very hard to promote collaboration and peer-learning, but that participants did not take enough cognitive responsibility, which led to conversations that were very course organizer-centric.

We discussed many possible reasons for this, and brainstormed ways of improving this state of affairs. We came up with a number of ideas, like designing some kind of an "orientation" for new participants, to let them understand better the P2PU principles. In the end though, we wanted to create a design intervention. Based on the readings from class, we thought that perhaps the linear design of the discussion forums, which lead to good ideas being "buried", could be a factor hindering deeper engagement from the students.

To demonstrate our idea, we were asked to create a "future scenario" video. Creating a video always takes much longer than you think, but it was a fun assignment, and we were lucky to have a very photogenic "protagonist".

We also wrote a small paper describing some of the literature we consulted, and our thinking around the video.

I am very interested in the theory around visual representations of discourse in online learning. I will be giving a talk about this tomorrow (Wednesday, April 5th, 2011) at the CCK11 course. It will also be an important component of the P2PU course on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning which I will co-organize on P2PU starting later this month.

Thanks to Arlo, Rebecca and Eleonore for a fun collaborative project.


Stian HĂ„klev April 5, 2011 Toronto, Canada
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