Middle ground: web 1.5, sets and more

This week I have been attending to the various discussions around the recent work of Jon Dron and Terry Anderson, including the Hot Seat forum related to the 8th International Conference on Networked Learning (no, I’m not going to Maastricht) and Jon’s presentation at the Change MOOC (the web space for this is here). Sources also include Dron and Anderson’s 2009  article Lost in Information Space: Information retrieval issues in Web 1.5.

I am intrigued and delighted with an approach I see as middle ground between the Web 1.0/closed classes/LMS/hard tech/group focus and the Web 2.0/open education/network/connectivism focus.

For the former, the model seems to be formal groups of people, such as a class, using closed but comfortable ways to learn online in a manner prescribed by an instructor, with the result being a grade.

For the latter, we have the open ideas of networks, learning taking place in weak and strong connections, with softer technologies that provide for more creative work. Looser forms of assessment (such as badges and feedback) follow this model as well.

In the middle of this dichotomy is what Dron and Anderson  call Web 1.5, and what they refer to as “sets”, unintentional collectives of people who learn within a shared interest. Thus there is a middle ground between the horribly limited, walled garden system and the wild, diffuse, scary openness of networks.

These discussions are especially timely in light of my own efforts to find such a balance between closed/open, safe/scary, hard/soft in designing my online classes for next semester, where the unscary stuff (my own work, such as lectures, information, readings) is completely open, but the scary stuff (anything graded, such as student forums, quizzes, and essays) is closed in the Moodle LMS.

It is not, as I’ve noted, an ideal balance or compromise, because unlike the Elgg VLE used by these authors, I do not have granularity of permissions where students may choose exactly what elements of their work are open or closed.

I had thought that creating a broader “group” in Facebook (of all my students, not just those enrolled in one class) would design some openness for them, but of course I have been reminded that Facebook is closed too. It’s just an LMS with advertising, and a flat social space. On the other hand, at least there isn’t any hierarchy, and perhaps there is comfort there within a more open way of communicating, if not a more open role.

As much as I love the far out, wild west, final frontier elements of open web-based learning for my own use, I do not think my students are ready to the extent that I could handle helping 240 of them manage it. At the same time, the limitations of LMS-based education drive me crazy. So it’s productive to envision Web 1.5 pedagogies that could, in Jon’s Goldilocks analogy, get to a point of “just right”.