VI International Seminar on Open Social Learning (IV): Demostration Session

VI International Seminar of the UNESCO Chair in e-Learning

Notes from demostration session the VI UOC UNESCO Chair International Seminar on Open Social Learning, Barcelona, 30 November – 1 December, 2009

George Siemens and Kathleen Matheos: Open Social Learning in Higher Education: an African context. University of Manitoba, Canada.

The project is the result of collaboration among the Research and Education Networking Unit, the Extended Education University of Manitoba and the Open Society Institute in West Africa. The purpose of the project is to build human resource capacity in African universities in the use of social networking technologies to transform teaching and learning, and create the environment for the democratic exchange of knowledge between learners within Africa and beyond.

Process: two day face-to-face workshop in conjunction with e-learn Dakar; 12 week bilingual online course open teaching; website references and resources; re-design of learning activity; sustainability of website and network.

The guiding theory is based on social connected pedagogy, learner autonomy (self-efficacy), learner directed (we provide, they choose; be careful of not importing western “standards”) and contextualization of content.

The project uses Wikiversity. Learners are encouraged to participate in forums and discussions of their interest and to initiate new learning opportunities. There is also a Moodle site.

The participant profiles showed interesting facts. There was more participation from non-African learners. There were concerns about the mix of conversations that were held. Participation was limited in some cases (LPP…Lurking). There is a group of people who know and there is a group of people who don’t know. It is necessary the latter participate in order to learn from the former.

Several issues aroused: technical (bandwidth, but also electricity), cultural and others about design and pedagogy (some students were uncomfortable posting on a Wiki).

The question for us is how social, economic, political and cultural contexts do impact self-efficacy?


Tony Carr: Facilitating online: a course leader’s guide. University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Why an online facilitation course? Increasing use of online resources and interaction at universities; educators likely to confront significant learning curve; online conversational spaces encourage debate and shared knowledge construction; existing courses not easily available to African institutions.

Pilot course: 5 week course for e/merge 2008 conference costs, with emphasis on clarity. It’s an open educational resource (so it can be downloaded and customized for local contexts), in English, suitable for fully online courses, blended, online conferences or collaboration projects. It includes synchronous and asynchronous learning activities.

The aims to develop are: knowledge, skills and attitudes concerning online facilitation; awareness of other toolsets available; skills in designing appropriate online activities. It adopts and active and experiential approach. Its principles are fostering online learning, playful learning and reflective learning.

Multilevel learning path: arriving (the most difficult one), conversing with other people (trade off between dominating and lurking), facilitating (adopting more active roles), creating and applying the acquired learning. By the end of the course, participants should be able to facilitate online discussions, demonstrate knowledge of different facilitation strategies, including web 2.0 tools, and designing or adapting small learning activities.

It is very useful to know who uses the course (which is licensed as CC-BY-NC-SA), any feedback is really appreciated: we have found mentions on influential blogs, positive comments, initial take up in South Africa, interest within UN agencies and some possibilities for use in UK and USA as well.


Carlos Santos and Luis Pedro: SAPO Campus Project. University of Aveiro, Portugal.

The main objectives gravitate around the following issues: web 2.0 promoted by the institution, openness, PLE institutionally supported, dissemination and massification, and to promote blended formal and informal activities. We had to “fight” against the institutional environment: control and supervision practices, hierarchies, students’ expectations, resistance to change and natural inertia.

The web2.0 phenomenon: students filling forms to create a blog within the institution. On the other hand, the out world is simple, free and fast, based on the DIY philosophy, you can get the last technical innovations but… you cannot rely only on external services (i.e. magnolia meltdown).

Institutional front-ends should be super-aggregators / mash ups of available services from different communities. The institution may provide learners with some basic services but it should offer also the opportunity of replacing/complementing them with external ones.  People from inside and outside the institution can participate and consume through these services, but only people from the institution can create services.

Connecting ideas and services is based on a presence builder, a PLE, e-portfolio and instant messaging. A multilayer architecture has been designed to support the whole system. Core services should be truly open, in order to promote participation. The use of Creative Commons for content publishing is also encouraged. The result should be a PMLE: personal meaningful learning environment. Lifelong learning is also an important issue, as well as building an effective digital identity.


Tom Caswell and Marion Jensen: TwHistory: Historical Reenactments with Tweeter. Utah State University, USA.

Social networking is everywhere. Twitter is a tool that has changed completely the way we do some things. Hastags are the best example of that: now you can follow a stream of tweets related to an event, conference or so. You can create (and recreate) a complete history of facts following a temporal line.

Two examples: the Battle of Gettysburg and the Cuban missile crisis. You can have followers / spectators, as well as participants / content creators. The basic idea is to reproduce the context and timeline, either because there is a complete documentation or by introducing some variations. So you can experience history in bite-sized micro-updates and spread out authentically to match the timeline. As participants, you can create content to represent a historical persona, learn from analyzing original sources, which is participatory and collaborative in nature.

Future plans include reenacting the pioneer trek or the Lewins and Clark expedition. We are currently seeking funding for sustainability, a web-based repository for historical simulations so anyone can create, post and share their own, and allow the replay of simulations with varied timelines and start times.

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