The following sections outline the nature of the learning ‘experiment’ behind this iteration of 522. Please consider this carefully to understand the impact of your participation.
This course is designed to operate as a “professional network” – a place where social networking techniques are applied to foster individual and collective professional advancement.
The essence of a professional network is that all participants are peers. David Vogt may have constructed this learning vehicle, but he will act as fellow peer passenger rather than the driver. As an “instructor” he has specialized knowledge and experience that he’s eager to share, but so do you. “Primary author” may be a more appropriate term to describe his role. Therefore the first participation guideline concerns your expectations for your instructor: he will be actively monitoring, guiding and contributing, but he won’t be dominating. Treat him as a resource you can reach out to whenever and however he might support your success. Reach out equally to your other peers as well.
More technically, the active innovation context for this iteration of 522 concerns network effects in peer communities, or “peer analytics” for short. Don’t worry, no robot is counting your syllables, but we will encourage you to carefully consider the value of your every keystroke. In short, even the simple act of rating a piece of content adds value to that content and to you. A natural byproduct of any peer community collectively appreciating knowledge is that knowledge returns the favour and appreciates every peer.
We will be distinguishing between two forms of artful participation: Discussion and Content Curation. These will be your primary avenues for creating valuable presence here. You already know about Discussion but we will provide a few guidelines anyway. Formal Content Curation may be less familiar, and we will be expecting you to rate, review, recommend & author content as part of collective professional curation of the course materials.
A critical difference between Discussion and Content Curation is that the former is primarily social and the latter professional. For example, within any real world chat we quietly rate, review and author, yet we express ourselves with cultivated social finesse. Everyone is a curator within a great face-to-face discussion. It would be awkward and asocial for anyone to publicly rate or review a discussion in progress. Equally, it would be sloppy and unproductive to apply social niceties to Content Curation – that is where greater professional finesse is required.
The following additional guidelines will help you grow your 522 presence effectively:
The intent of Discussions is to encourage conversation, as a benefit for yourself & peers.
Most of you will be very familiar with a blog environment, but the experimental nature of 522 necessitates some special instructions for making discussions successful:
- Given the number of people in the course, be deeply respectful of the volume of discourse we collectively generate. It is likely impossible for anyone to read everything carefully, reflect on everything fully, and respond to everything with great intelligence. Therefore develop your own strategy for consumption and contribution. When contributing, focus on being very concise and distinctly valuable. “Me too” and derivative contributions amplify the noise, not the signal.
- A blog is like a live conversation: your participation needs to be timely to add value. For example, posting your thoughts on one group’s emerging market analysis when the next group is already fully underway isn’t helpful because it breaks the continuity for everyone else.
Content Curation Guidelines
Content Curation is confined to one part of 522 – the Forums. All of the links under the Forums menu selection will take you to curated content. Everywhere else, the course works in Discussion mode. You can think of Curated Content in 522 as a structured, hierarchical form of academic peer review. It actually quite simple – here’s how it works:
The intent of Authoring is to create original content, as a benefit for yourself and peers.
The highest form of creation in 522, and presumably in the broader world, is to generate original value. This includes artful sensitivity to presentation, narrative, substance & brevity, as well as requirements for integrity, copyright, etc, that are traditional features of all professional and scholarly environments.
An inherent part of traditional scholarship, and now the whole Internet, is enabling other people to add value to any original content you create. Most entities that are “closed” to such social or peer participation have a shorter life expectancy than those that are “open”. So when you post something original in a curated content (Forum) area of 522 you are explicitly opening it for Review by other members of our community.
The intent of Ratings is to collectively identify the most worthwhile content, as a benefit for yourself and peers.
We employ PulsePress to offer a ratings functionality (five stars) for select course content. We’ll let you know when and where to use it. Ratings are anonymous (your peers won’t know how you rated something) but they are remembered by the system so that you can change a Rating at some future time if you change your mind (which also means that your Ratings can be audited by an administrator, so that unprofessional use is not advised).
We offer two basic ratings guidelines: 1) Don’t be populist: independent thought is the hallmark of every respected professional; and 2) Don’t be altruistic: you add better value for everyone when you rate selfishly, as follows:
- 5 Stars: Essential – This is a core resource for me: 5 stars is about helping me find it again quickly.
- 4 Stars: Good – Solid value for me; I’ll look for it again when I browse this topic.
- 3 Stars: Spotty – Some good stuff, but harder to find. I’m unlikely to recommend it to a colleague.
- 2 Stars: Marginal – Not quite dumpster material, but something I’ll probably rarely use.
- 1 Star: Avoid It! – I won’t use this again. It is outdated, biased, or otherwise forgettable.
- Unrated: Unknown – I haven’t looked at this (in some professional networks, when content is ignored, like email you trash without reading, it is automatically given the lowest-possible rating, but in 522 the assumption will be that you haven’t had the opportunity to consider it).
There is professional risk, without any prospective benefit, in rating content indiscriminately, so as your grandmother might have said, “if you have nothing worthwhile to say, say nothing”.
The intent of a Review is to add distinct value to existing content, as a benefit for yourself and peers.
A Review is like an in-depth Rating, but it has a broader impact & value. A great review extends content and creates contexts that can be extremely useful. While Ratings are anonymous, Reviews are not, so Reviews also build direct reputation value for their author, and can be part of your Participation Portfolio. Review content when you have something of substance to add, and when you can do so succinctly (if a Review is less than 10 words, or more than 200, perhaps reconsider whether it is really a Review).
Also, Reviews in 522 are “flat”, meaning that it is not possible to reply to a Review, or Review a Review, you can only Review the original content. If you have extended opinions about a review, please write a new review for the same content, possibly with a reference to that other review.
The intent of Recommendations is to collectively identify the most worthwhile Reviews, as a benefit for yourself and peers.
You can’t Review another Review, but you can Recommend it, which is like an instant review. Every published Review has a Recommendation tool (thumbs up) attached, somewhat the same as a “like” in Facebook. The guidelines for Recommendations are as follows:
- Thumbs-Up: I agree with this review & recommend it for others. I “like” it!
- No Recommendation: I have not looked at this review, or I am neutral about it, or I disagree.
Analogous to Ratings, Review are anonymous, but are tracked by the system so that you can change them later. And as with Ratings there is no benefit and some risk to a pattern of indiscriminate Recommendations.
Participation Guidelines Summary
522 will offer you multiple opportunities to Discuss, Author, Rate, Review and Recommend as contributions to the conduct and curation of the course. The ‘experiment’ is that we’re trying to understand how a few, structured, formal elements of curation can blend – seamlessly and effectively – with informal discussion to foster a professional learning experience. The formal elements we’ve selected range from something quick and easy like a Recommendation to something more intense and involved like Authorship. The point is that, whether simple or intense, every single one of your contributions is a representation of your knowledge, competencies and professionalism that can be aggregated analytically. Your feedback, questions and recommendations on this design are most welcome – we are serious about your peer status and your co-researcher capacity.