#MSLOC430 | Week 1-2

Already more than two weeks since #MSLOC430 kicked off. This online course is the open section of MSLOC 430 – a graduate course in the Master’s Program in Learning and Organizational Change at Northwestern University. The goal of this course is to explore enterprise social networking innovations and their impact on work and learning.

Some reasons I joined this 6 week programme:

  • Previous #xplrpln last year under guidance of Jeff Merrell and Kimberly Scott was a rocking experience
  • These online gatherings are unique occasions to (re)connect with PLN explorers and other Social Learning pioneers of this world
  • I am dealing with the challenge of networked learning on a daily basis in my job as a Project Consultant in the online learning industry
  • It’s been so long since my last blog post !

When I say “joined” it may sound a bit presumptuous indeed as my time has been pretty scarce the last few months. Still I have managed to catch up on a few blog posts and some interesting discussions in our Google+ community.

Initial Inquiry

One of the learning models Jeff suggested to explore is the “Community of Inquiry” (CoI). I had never heard of that term before and I thought it could be something similar to the Community of Practice (CoP) as described by E. Wenger.

The CoI framework is primarily described as a way to approach and design online learning in higher education, but very quickly some #MSLOC430 explorers, including me, brought this rather academic model under the lens of the business microscope…

« Par ma foi ! il y a plus de quarante ans que je dis de la prose sans que j’en susse rien, et je vous suis le plus obligé du monde de m’avoir appris cela. » Monsieur Jourdain (Le Bourgeois gentilhomme – Molière, 1670)

…Or to quote the more contemporary Jennifer Rainey in her blog post Communities of Inquiry in Pursuit of Change : “I am now convinced that not only can I relate to what a CoI is, but that I have been involved with one in the past and preparing to lead one now.”

In that same post Jennifer shared generously about her specific experience of Learning Communities in the context of change management and innovation.


It took a few days to Helen Blunden and her sharp sense of critical thinking to come out of the “Australian bush” with some thoughts provoking questions about the “Teaching Presence” in the CoI model : “how can this be of benefit to say, a group of business bankers, engineers, doctors etc who have a pesky performance problem to solve together? Who would they (and could they) trust and respect as a”teacher”?”

Alea Jacta est…That question turned into a rich debate in our G+ community where we discussed definitions and various challenges, constraints and opportunities of a CoI for business performance and innovation.

When one Helen is around another Helen is not far ! In her post A Community of Inquiry: initial inquiry (from the business end), Helen Crump offers a good summary of some of these exchanges.


Mentioning Helen Crump’s post brings me to LTUK15 that took place last week in London and where I actually had the chance to meet Helen for the 1st time – “for real life” as my 5y. old likes to say. Nice to meet you Helen !

Back to the online world and Dave Kelly’s backchannel about LTUK15. The following link went flickering while I scrolled down his rather exhaustive list : “Beyond the Hole in the Wall: Discover the Power of Self-Organized Learning.” I really enjoyed reading this short TED-book by Sugata Mitra, one of the keynote speakers at the show and the inspirational force behind Vikas Swarup’s Slumdog Millionaire novel.

“Surely, we need to understand the conscious brain and how it works in order to understand the nature of learning. Yet, that seems to be a tall order. I think the nature of learning is hidden in the new science of self-organization and emergence. To understand learning, we must understand how self-organization happens and what leads to this mysterious process called “emergence.” When an audience claps continuously for a long time, the claps start to come together in a boring, rhythmic kind of way, as if there were a conductor waving his baton and saying, “Clap, clap, clap, clap.” Only there is no conductor. The sounds of the claps self-organize, and the rhythm is emergent. No one organized it. It just happened.” says Sugata Mitra.

“The only condition for self-organization and emergence seems to be that every part of the system must be connected in some way to every other part. For example, neurons in the brain are simple switches, but connect them all together and the whole mass begins to think. Could education be a process of self-organization, with learning being the emergent outcome?”

Is this concept of emergence and connectivity not similar to what we are exploring with the CoI model, and with Networked/Social Learning in general ?

On a slightly different note, my 5 Rhythms dancer’s mind was put in motion by Sugata Mitra’s organic and rhythmic approach to Learning (and if you wonder why I am suddenly talking about dance, please look at the name of this blog…). How different bodies – completely unknown to each other and without any particular choreography skills – can get in synch and potentially learn from each other after just a few minutes of being in movement on the same dancefloor?

The Dancers = Learners

A dancefloor = dedicated online space

The music = tech solutions and social features

The 5 Rhythms map  = curated resources

The teacher = cognitive presence…

The sum of all these element means (much!) more than simply adding them one by one (=the box ticking…). I can dance alone, in my kitchen, in silence, without any map and any guru ! Although my learning experience will certainly be different than dancing for 3 days in a church with 100 other movement maniacs…


Warning > what follows are (really) half-baked and processing thoughts towards Week 3-4…

What can all this mean for social and connected learning in a business context ?

  1. Intentions need to be clarified for a healthy development of the Cognitive Presence. Inquiry begins with a “triggering event” say Swan, K., Garrison, D & Richardson J. (2009) in A constructivist approach to online learning: The community of inquiry framework. When that trigger has been clearly identified, let’s make sure everyone understands “what we are trying to achieve?” and “where/how we  are trying to create value (ie. sharing knowledge, improve performance, fixing specific issues…) ?”
  2. Passions need to be ignited. In the Social Presence, people need to feel empowered and know what is expected from them, individually and as a group > transparency, emotional intelligence and clear “contract” (time spend, rewarding system, resources allocated…).
  3. Teaching Presence could be everything but a one size fits all approach. Depending on 1) and 2) (and many other parameters like level digital literacy and maturity, level of trust, market conditions, number of participants, internal politics…) > we need a broad range of skills to be found in community managers, mentors, sponsors, coaches, network weavers, guides, ambassadors, early adopters, gatekeepers, “jesters”…

Relying on these different spheres of influence and a complex system of overlapping dimensions, the CoI model IMHO clearly offers an interesting framework to support and develop online learning in business organisations.

My intention for weeks 3-4 is to look in more details for potential and practical applications of this rather theoretical model though, in terms of new work practices, areas of focus (concerns?) and skills needed to support the emergence of knowledge & learning in communities and self-organised online spaces.

And the dance goes one… Any new ideas/movements welcome of course !

This entry was posted in ESN, L&D, PLN and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s