Some readings on networked learning

What follows is some ad hoc thoughts and reflections upon the somewhat ad hoc collection of readings (Kligyte, 2009; Bonzo & Parchoma, 2010; Bell, 2010) around networked learning from Week 1 of the NGL course.

Kligyte, 2009 – Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning

Connects nicely with one of my interests to “explain why it has been so difficult to inspire academics to adopt technologies in their teaching” (p. 540). Apparently is going to use threshold concepts and networked learning to do this.

So the world has changed and thus

Information, media and network literacies are becoming vital skills for academics to be able to perform in both their research and teaching roles today (p. 540)

Of course this bugs me. The assumption is that it’s primarily the academics that need to lift their game. Of course all universities have already transitioned to deal effectively with the brave new networked world and its only the academics that are lagging.

List of solutions to the laggard academics have included

  1. F-t-f workshops focusing on technical features without the link to teaching context
  2. More “embedded” approaches include CoP, fellowships and good practice databases (yet another repository will fix it).

Apparently all these have had limited success, but “academic development units still struggle to promote innovative uses of technologies among mainstream academics, and the small group of technology enthusiasts at the forefront of the academic staff seems to be growing at a very slow pace”

The case here is a formal foundations of teaching program for academic staff. And the use of threshold concepts to challenge practices and beliefs. Apparently this is challenging, confronting and can be transformative.

A session on networked learning and network literacy gets the most extreme reactions in both directions. I’m assuming there are a few participants in NGL that can relate to some of these feelings.

Threshold concepts are characterised as

  1. Troublesome – alien, in coherent.
  2. Discursive – language is enhanced/extended.
  3. Irreversible – transformative in how the discipline is viewed.
  4. Liminality – i.e. traveling back and forth until the full implications dawn.
  5. Integrative – reveals connections between different concepts

Ahh, the advice is that taking this view requires change in the academic to be seen as a long-term process. One to be treated “with empathy and respect”.


  1. I wonder if the NGL participants are seeing NGL as a threshold concept?
  2. Is there value in having the NGL participants go back to this framework and apply it to their own experience?
  3. An obvious question would be what are the threshold concepts underpinning NGL?
  4. Raises the question of network literacies as a future topic/reading for NGL.

Bonzo & Parchoma – Paradox of social media and higher education institutions

Draws on an experience from a Canadian university where values of social media conflicted with those of higher ed (especially QA). This sparked a lit review of research to identify the issues. Quotes Trinder et al (2008) at length

widening of the gap between the culture of the educational institutions and the culture of learners’ lives outside higher education. Outside formal educational environments individuals act as active participants navigating their way independently through complex multimodal digital environments. Yet in higher educational they are expected to submit to a pedagogic regime that is fundamentally premised on the transmission and testing of decontextualised knowledge and skills, and which is dominated by “old- generation” technologies (Web 1.0) underpinned by a radically different philosophy and a different set of affordances” (Trinder, et al, 2008, p. 4)

Ahh, a quote from Ferreday & Hodgson (2008) that covers some of my disquiet about the current shape of NGL

Participative processes can be experienced as tyrannical when participation is demanded by course designs, tutors and ultimately by participants in an unreflective and normative way. (Ferreday & Hodgson, 2008, p. 647)

Gives some background on learning theory leading up to social constructivist learning which is summarised as having 5 main elements (Yilmaz, 2008, p. 167)

  1. Learning requires active participation by the learner. Learning is not passive.
  2. Previous experience coupled with and compared to new experience results in a reinforcement of /or adaption of that knowledge.
  3. Individual knowledge construction requires a social interaction element within the environment.
  4. 4. Negotiation within the learning environment is essential to the development of shared meaning and common knowledge.
  5. Learning best takes place within a sociocultural context – a community of practice.

The argument – as shown in the table – is that social media and social constructivism are compatible.

Comparison of social media and social contructivism principles (adapted from Bonzo and Parchoma, 2010)
Social Media Social constructivism
Are dynamic and based on active participation rather than passive viewing Active participation where learning is created based on collaborative effort
Information sharing Knowledge is built upon experience
Communication Social interaction
Information is created by the individual participation and interactivity of the users/Collaboration Shared interaction creates common knowledge
Information sharing Learning takes place best in a sociocultural context

Woo Hoo. Social media are disruptive because they can change the university model. Mmm, having a wiki within a Moodle course site doesn’t seem that disruptive.


Three areas where conflict may emerge

  1. Existing hierarchical structure of higher education institutions

    I get this one and have seen it in action. Nice extension to involve the hierarchy of knowers (i.e. teachers know more than students) and how social media disrupt that).

  2. Accreditation and quality concerns and

    The fearful response of “how can we certify that the learners have learned”. Not sure this is a strong one. Misses the how can the institution QA the experience (even though it doesn’t really now).

  3. Formal and informal learning


  • What if any of the struggles on the part of NGL participants arises from their expectation of NGL to be “premised on the transmission and testing of decontextualised knowledge and skills” and the difficulty of being “active participants navigating their way independently through complex multimodal digital environments”?
  • Both EDC3100 and EDU8117 attempt to walk a fine line between providing some structure and demanding specific types of participation. How good a job is the design that’s been adopted actually doing? How do participants view it?
  • Is a social constructivist perspective the only (best) way to look at social media?
  • If you applied the 5 main elements of social constructivist learning to the environment in which university academics engaged with around e-learning, how well would it fair? Must do a little test.

Bell et al 2010 – Undergraduate experiences

Grounded theory research into undergraduate on-campus students’ experiences with network learning. Four themes

  1. Familiarisation with the networked environment;

    Unsure about required engagement, unfamiliar with the technology….

  2. grappling with collaboration;

    Competition versus collaboration. But benefits including vicarious learning opportunities and observing others.

  3. learning anew the ‘text as talk’ medium and

    Limited efficacy in writing.

  4. coping strategies – reverting to the familiar.

    Meeting f-t-f to overcome issues.

The focus here was the use of asynchronous discussion forums in a class of 21 learners. Only 5 randomly selected students were interviewed.


Bonzo, J., & Parchoma, G. (2010). The Paradox of Social Media and Higher Education Institutions. In Networked Learning: Seventh International Conference (pp. 912–918).

Bell, A., Zenios, M., & Parchoma, G. (2010). Undergraduate experiences of coping with networked learning: Difficulties now, possibilities for the future. In L. Dirckinck‐Holmfeld, V. Hodgson, C. Jones, M. de Laat, D. McConnell, & T. Ryberg (Eds.), 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010 (pp. 904–911).

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Proceedings of the Ascilite 2009 Conference (pp. 540–542). Auckland, NZ.

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