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A call for promoting ownership, equity, and agency in faculty development via connected learning

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Abstract For transformation to occur in learning environments and for learners, higher education must first consider how such transformation will occur for the designers and facilitators of learning experiences: the university teachers or educators we call faculty (in the US), instructors, lecturers or professors or, in some instances, university staff. For the purpose of this article, we will refer to them as educators or faculty, and the process of their professional development as educational development or faculty development (more historically common in the US context). We aspire towards universities in the future that cultivate connected, participatory educational development that crosses institutional and national boundaries, and which takes equity, social justice and power differences into consideration, promoting educator agency. We propose theoretical underpinnings of our approach, while also highlighting some examples of recent practice that inspire this direction, but which are small in scale, and can provide springboards for future approaches that may be applied on a wider scale and become more fully integrated, supported and rewarded in institutions. Our theoretical underpinnings are influenced by theories of heutagogy and self-determined learning, transformative learning, connectivist and connected learning, and an interest in equity. We share models of alternative approaches to educator development that take advantage of the latest advances in technology, such as #DigPINS, Virtually Connecting, collaborative annotation, and dual-pathway MOOCs. We then share a semi-fictional authoethnography of our (the authors’) daily connected lives, and we end by highlighting elements of the models we shared that we feel could be adapted by institutions to achieve educator professional development that is more transformative, participatory, and equitable.
R E S E A R C H A R T I C L E Open Access
A call for promoting ownership, equity, and
agency in faculty development via
connected learning
Maha Bali
1*
and Autumm Caines
2
* Correspondence:
bali@aucegypt.edu
1
American University in Cairo,
Virtually Connecting, Cairo, Egypt
Full list of author information is
available at the end of the article
Abstract
For transformation to occur in learning environments and for learners, higher education
must first consider how such transformation will occur for the designers and facilitators
of learning experiences: the university teachers or educators we call faculty (in the US),
instructors, lecturers or professors or, in some instances, university staff. For the purpose
of this article, we will refer to them as educators or faculty, and the process of their
professional development as educational development or faculty development (more
historically common in the US context). We aspire towards universities in the future that
cultivate connected, participatory educational development that crosses institutional and
national boundaries, and which takes equity, social justice and power differences
into consideration, promoting educator agency. We propose theoretical underpinnings
of our approach, while also highlighting some examples of recent practice that inspire
this direction, but which are small in scale, and can provide springboards for future
approaches that may be applied on a wider scale and become more fully integrated,
supported and rewarded in institutions. Our theoretical underpinnings are influenced
by theories of heutagogy and self-determined learning, transformative learning, connectivist
and connected learning, and an interest in equity.
We share models of alternative approaches to educator development that take advantage
of the latest advances in technology, such as #DigPINS, Virtually Connecting, collaborative
annotation, and dual-pathway MOOCs. We then share a semi-fictional authoethnography
of our (the authors) daily connected lives, and we end by highlighting elements of the
models we shared that we feel could be adapted by institutions to achieve
educator professional development that is more transformative, participatory,
and equitable.
Keywords: Faculty development, Transformative learning, Heutagogy, Connected
learning, Connectivism, Higher education, Educational development, Equity
Introduction: Why this direction/approach?
Imagination of how things could be otherwise is central to the initiation of the trans-
formative process. (Mezirow, 2006/2018 p. 119).
In responding to a call to address the future of universities in an educational technol-
ogy journal we thought carefully about our direction and approach. We wanted to be
sure that we were approaching this question in a serious and non-predatory way, as
forecasting the future is a ubiquitous activity in the field of educational technology,
and one that we fear is too often taken on in irresponsible ways. There is no doubt that
© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
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indicate if changes were made.
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education
(2018) 15:46
https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-018-0128-8
looking forward to envision what may come is important; to ignore the future would
make us vulnerable to dangers that are easily seen, unaware of obvious opportunities,
and would ultimately result in a failure of imagination. Still, the work of telling the fu-
ture has a long history of coming from charlatans and con-men who care more about
selling a product than making transformative change.
Audrey Watters (2016) makes it clear that this kind of unscrupulous future-telling is
not confined to the snake oil salesmen of yesteryear who traveled about in a
horse-drawn cart, but is ever present in the world of educational technology. In her
public talk and essay entitled The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Issue a Press Re-
lease, she gives example after example of inaccurate and fantastic predictions in educa-
tional technology from corporations, analyst firms, and futurists. She shows how none
of these predictions are built on evidence and how they are always in favor of an in-
creasingly technological future.
In this article we advocate for and give examples of educational development oppor-
tunities for educators that encourage heutagogy with outcomes that focus on ownership
and agency which can potentially lead to transformative learning. These are often open
educational practices that use technology but which are rich because of the social inter-
action and open attitudes underlying the practices rather than the particular technolo-
gies involved. We call for a future with more of these kind of experiences rather than
predict or forecast such a landscape. The reason for a call rather than a forecast is an
important one rooted in the very reasoning for such an approach to educational devel-
opment. The point of this article, much like the point of the educational development
that it advocates for, is not to convince you of some already determined consequence.
Rather, our goal here is to inspire further exploration and inquiry into methods that
question deterministic narratives and to relay the kind of future we aspire towards.
History of faculty development, evidence base and future aspirations
In the work of Beach, Sorcinelli, Austin, and Rivard (2016), faculty development (some-
times called academic development and/or educator/educational development) is cen-
tered on the professional development of academic teaching staff at universities. They
point out that while faculty development often focuses on teaching it rarely centers
around the whole person. In their work, they differentiate between different ages of fac-
ulty development, starting with the age of the scholar (where scholarship in ones own
field was considered sufficient for good teaching), the age of the teacher (where learn-
ing to teach became recognized as important to develop), developer (where educators
were seen to need support from faculty developers at their institution), the age of the
learner (where centering student learning became more important than teaching), the
age of the network (which focuses on the ways departments and entities within and
outside institutions collaborate in order to enhance learning, in a way de-centering the
instructor as solely responsible for learning in the classroom), and the age of evidence
(which emphasizes the importance of gathering evidence of what works and what does
not). These ages are of course not mutually exclusive.
There are several points to discuss here. First of all, let us draw attention to the shift
from the age of the teacher to the age of the student where we see a change in nomen-
clature and focus from teaching to learning or to teaching and learning. While faculty
development rhetoric has evolved from being teacher-centric to learner-centric, faculty
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 2 of 24
development itself is not necessarily centered around the learner (who in this case is
the educator). Even when attempting to address learning needs via a needs assessment
and gathering feedback to promote an evidence-based approach, experiences are often
designed in modular, disconnected ways that remain authoritative (Webster-Wright,
2009, cited in Kalir, in press). So much of faculty development is one-size-fits-all and
arranged according to preset schedules and locations - and by doing so, will consist-
ently fail to meet the needs of those whose interests are marginal or different from the
majority. Moreover, the understanding of networkin the institutional sense fails to
account for the individual level of the Personal Learning Network (PLN) where educa-
tors can build connections and relationships that advance their ongoing learning out-
side of institutional structures and boundaries - finding mentors and collaborators who
have no hierarchical relationship with them internally. A university educator may, in
the course of their career, need to call for help from various members of their own in-
stitution, but they should also have enough agency to find that support elsewhere if
appropriate.
When offering workshops and evidence-based approaches, educational development
centers make decisions on behalf of educators based on what has worked in the past
for the majority. This often ignores the few who have more specific needs, and by fol-
lowing best practices taken from other contexts, may end up being less relevant to local
contexts (Hill, 2009 cited in Kalir, in press). Occasionally there will be a direction to-
wards a new trend that administrators find interesting or valuable regardless of evi-
dence. Neither of these approaches are sufficient for two reasons: first, they often do
not address needs of minorities or educators who are marginalized in particular ways
and second, they are unlikely to meet specific needs of faculty e.g. In their disciplines
or a specific area of interest few in ones institution share.
Another critique of traditional face-to-face faculty development is that even though
educators may have choices as to which opportunities to take advantage of, they are
still restricted by what is offered and available and what is rewarded by the institution
as valid professional development. This is inevitably a limited array, often
one-size-fits-all, and likely to be fixed in time and space. Time is an increasingly scarce
resource in academia, and usually more efficiently used in conducting research which is
more highly valued and rewarded in most higher education.
The inflexibility of time and space of traditional faculty development is inherently in-
equitable. It discriminates against educators who have family responsibilities (such as
parenting or caring for an elderly relative) that limit time available to spend on campus;
it discriminates against contingent faculty and graduate students who undergo clear op-
portunity costs when they spend their time on profession development-time they could
have spent earning money elsewhere or finishing their degrees faster. Face-to-face con-
ferences and workshops continue to reproduce inequality in access to those whose time
and mobility are more limited. It discriminates against those who live far away from
additional opportunities for professional development and cannot afford the cost of
constantly traveling to learn what others can with less cost and effort.
How do we offer educational development to people with different teaching philoso-
phies? What are the values behind using particular approaches or encouraging the use
of technology in particular ways either by rewarding it monetarily or otherwise, or by
normalizing certain practices such as Learning Management System (LMS) use or by
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 3 of 24
partnering with corporate entities whose agendas will rarely, if ever, be centered to-
wards the public good?
Our recommended approach is to consider what we can learn from heutagogy, con-
nectivism and transformative learning and with an equity orientation, in order to facili-
tate learning experiences where educators map their own individual learning pathways
by looking within and beyond the institution for learning opportunities and mentor-
ship, and doing so with support from local environments. We suggest this can result in
a more transformative, sustained and equitable educational development experience,
which respects individuals and better addresses their needs and goals, while doing so in
supportive communal spaces. Although our approach often relies on technology, the
philosophical underpinnings are not dependent upon technology, but instead utilize it
for a purpose. Technology here mainly serves the purpose of allowing flexibility of time
and space, the latter of which allows for the development of continuous or sustained af-
finity spaces across wider geographical differences than would be typical in professional
development opportunities. Even as we share specific examples to demonstrate our as-
pirations, we recognize that these models may not fit every educatorsneeds and prefer-
ences. We encourage readers to abstract the important elements of each innovative
practice and consider how it might be adapted to their own context, with or without
technology. And while many of these models exist, faculty development centers (and
other support departments such as libraries and IT departments) at institutions are
rarely the ones that initiate them (although in some of our examples, they do) and edu-
cators may not naturally find these opportunities on their own without the necessary
support to see them as viable options.
Philosophical underpinnings
Transformative learning
Transformative learning is
the process by which we transform problematic frames of reference (mindsets, habits
of mind, meaning perspectives) sets of assumption and expectation to make them
more inclusive, discriminating, open, reflective and emotionally able to change. Such
frames are better because they are more likely to generate beliefs and opinions that will
prove more true or justified to guide action(Mezirow, 2006/2018 p. 116).
While transformative learning is touted in many approaches to undergraduate and
even graduate education, when it comes to faculty development we often do not see a
focus on it. Educator professional development, as anyone who works on teacher edu-
cation or faculty development knows, often entails a process of unlearning assumptions
built from years of being the recipient of ineffective pedagogy. Anyone who works on
educating other educators is involved in the process of trying to make the educator
question their assumptions, reflect on their practice, and embrace alternatives after crit-
ically evaluating their suitability in their context, in order to guide their action. As
Freire (1970) and proponents of critical pedagogy contend, education is always political,
and any action an educator takes in their classroom or teaching, has political implica-
tions and can influence social change. Therefore ignoring what we know about trans-
formative learning in our educational development efforts is an oversight, because
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 4 of 24
transformation theory contends that adult education must be dedicated to effecting so-
cial change, to modifying oppressive practices, norms, institutions and socio-economic
structures to allow everyone to participate more fully and freely in reflective discourse
and to acquiring a critical disposition and reflective judgement(Mezirow, 2006/2018,
p. 120). If university educators are responsible for cultivating values of democracy and
social action in students, they themselves should be learning in transformative ways
that promote these capabilities and attitudes. Heutagogy, an adult learning theory,
builds on transformative learning, and we discuss that in the next section.
Essential elements of transformative learning are critical self-reflection, including
questioning ones own assumptions, and participating fully and freely in dialectical dis-
course to validate a best reflective judgement(Mezirow, 2006/2018, p.118). Trans-
formation may occur either suddenly (what Mezirow terms epochal) or progressively
over time (what Mezirow calls cumulative). Since such transformation frequently oc-
curs outside a persons conscious awareness, reflecting in community and dialogue
helps learners develop a metacognitive awareness of connections between theory,
values and practice. In our experience supporting other educators, we have seen how
one-off faculty development efforts such as one-hour or one-day workshops might pro-
mote epochal learning, but a more sustained approach with a community of learners
(such as the examples we shall describe) offers opportunities for cumulative trans-
formative learning, as well as more opportunities for epochal transformation, since the
learning itself is continuously accessible. This also relates to Wenger, Trayner, and de
Laats(2011) model of assessing value creation in networks and communities of prac-
tice, in that some value is immediate, in the moment, while other learning is potential
and the participant will notice its value later; some learning is then applied in practice,
and the value might be realized if the outcomes meet the intentions, and later value
can be reframed. One can imagine how a one-off workshop could produce sudden
learning that would later have potential for application, but a more sustained reflective
community supports opportunities for epochal learning, and reflection upon ones prac-
tice to recall what was previously learned and as one applies something new and as-
sesses its success or failure.
Heutagogy
Heutagogy is an approach to teaching adults where learners are granted a high degree
of autonomy, their learning is self-determined and emphasis is placed on development
of learner capacity and capability with the goal of producing learners who are
well-prepared for the complexities of todays workplace.(Blaschke, 2012, np).
Heutagogy builds on the principles of transformative learning, and contends that the
properties of social media enable heutagogy since they allow learners to consume and
produce without reference to authority. The main difference between heutagogy and
andragogy (a theory of adult learning) is that learners have full ownership of their own
learning pathway with guidance from a facilitator - the learner designs and leads their
learning process, including what and how to learn, not the facilitator (Hase & Kenyon,
2000; Eberle, 2009 - cited in Blaschke, 2012). Acquiring competency and capability to
adapt and apply learning in novel situations is an important focus of heutagogy (Blas-
chke, 2012).
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 5 of 24
Essential components of heutagogy are self-reflection and double-loop learning
(Blaschke, 2012), where double-loop learning involves two levels of learning. The
first loop involves reflection on the problem-solving process from problem to ac-
tion to outcomes, whereas the double-loop occurs when the learner additionally
questions their own beliefs and assumptions and how they impact their thinking
and action. This clearly connects with the metacognitive and self-reflective pro-
cesses of transformative learning. Since heutagogy suggests social media supports
these learning processes, we next discuss connectivism and connected learning,
which arose for the same reason.
Connectivism and connected learning
Connected Learning (Ito et al., 2013) creates a framework for learning with modern
technologies, focusing on equal opportunities for participation through social connec-
tions and engagement based on personal interests (Connected Learning Alliance, un-
dated). Connectivism, a model for describing the way online networks influence the
way people learn online, is a pedagogical model that views knowledge as a networked
state and learning as the process of generating those networks and adding and pruning
connections.(Siemens, 2013, p. 8).
Connectivism focuses on how people acquire knowledge in complex, uncertain envi-
ronments, via personal connections that build individual networks. The eight principles
of Connectivism as laid out by Siemens (2004, n.p.) are:
Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions.
Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
The capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
The ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all Connectivist learning
activities.
Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the
meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality.
While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in
the information climate affecting the decision.
According to Downes (2014, n.p.), Connectivism sees a learner as a
self-managed and autonomous seeker of opportunities to create, interact and have
new experiences. Rather than designing learning around particular knowledge and
skills, connectivism would suggest we instead focus on creat[ing] the conditions in
which a person can become an accomplished and motivated learner in their own
right(Downes, 2014,n.p.).
Kalir (in press) contend that participatory networked digital and hybrid practices,
while not unproblematic, have afforded educators professional development that has
fed their curiosity and been more relevant to their daily practice, compared to previ-
ously pre-designed, rigid pathways in professional development.
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 6 of 24
Equity
We would also like to highlight our interest in addressing equity in educational devel-
opment. Here, we are interested in Gorski and Pothinis(2013) equity literacy model,
which contends that we need to learn to recognize inequity, respond to it, redress it,
and create and sustain equitable learning environments. Most of the models we share
next have recognized and responded to inequity in one form or another.
One cannot speak about ownership and agency without recognizing that participants
in any learning environment each have a different sense of self-efficacy, confidence, be-
lief in their own agency, and willingness to take ownership, whether this is based on
personality, past experience of marginality or power, or intersectional identity.
Kalir (in press) identified four elements of the design of an equity-oriented open edu-
cational practice as
1. Taking advantage of the open aspects of the web thus facilitating equity in
participation, while recognizing that power imbalances will remain, but also
technically using open source technologies that do not carry a corporate agenda
and offer transparency
2. Using partnership with various stakeholders, thus creating space for multiple
voices to influence the process, since if we seek to generate equitable outcomes,
the processes by which we enact change must be orchestrated such that equity is
embedded in every stage(Teeter et al., 2016, p. 52, cited in Kalir, in press).
3. Using openly accessible content, thus ensuring equity in access to material.
However, we need to remember that equity in access does not necessarily lead to
equitable outcomes (Czerniewicz, 2015).
4. Focusing on professional learning, thus attempting to be relevant to participants
interests and needs.
The particular project Kalir applied these principles to, Marginal Syllabus, will be de-
scribed later in this article. However, the majority of the models we refer to use the
open web (though not necessarily open source software) and open material for profes-
sional learning, embracing individual agency in a participatory environment.
The latter point about relevance to professional learning is particularly important in
educator professional development. As demands on educatorstime are many, requir-
ing them to spend time on learning that seems less relevant to their immediate inter-
ests or needs, which holds no flexibility to fit within their other priorities, or goes
unrewarded by administrators would likely create (justified) resistance from their side
and be an unfair use of their labor.
Choice of models
We are, when we are at our best, meant to unsettle assumptions, to reorganize our
ideas of agency, and to push the boundaries of what is possible in a connected
learning environment.(Morris, Rorabough, & Stommel, 2013).
In the sections that follow, we present multiple models of professional development
of educators that we feel partially address our aspirational values. While there are other
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 7 of 24
models, we attempted to present a spectrum of possibilities within connected and con-
nectivist approaches here, ones that, to different extents, promote some degree of heu-
tagogy and transformative learning, and ones that address equity to varying degrees
and from different lenses. Models we share include some that are institutional versus
ones that are mostly extra-institutional; models that are fully online versus ones that
are hybrid, and models showing a range of learner agency, time flexibility, and equity
emphasis. None of these models alone achieves all we aspire towards, but offers a start-
ing point to imagining what a future of educator development could be.
The models we share offer alternatives to the status quo, recognizing that
even when knowledge may appear to be the solution, it can be partial and
disempowering to all but the dominant groups. [There is a] need to contest such
knowledge claims and to learn to transgress, rather than to conform... transformative
spaces need to be found and... these should be about the creation of new opportunities,
ways of knowing and ways of being. (Jackson, 2018, p. i, emphasis ours).
We recognize that some commonly existing practices achieve some of our aspirations.
Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs, see Cox, 2004) build community and often involve
critical dialogue, but are not guaranteed to be flexible enough for institution faculty mem-
berstime or interest or needs. Cox (2004) recognizes this, saying that about one third of
faculty at his institution do not participate, whether out of disinterest or lack of time/pri-
ority. Some institutions such as University of Cape Towns Center for Innovation in
Learning and Teaching, offer online courses, which afford flexibility of time and space but
usually have pre-set content, or self-paced online modules which again afford flexibility
but would not include critical dialogue. We feel the models we are sharing, while not ex-
haustive of all innovative approaches to educator professional development that afford
agency, equity and transformative potential in a participatory environment, are diverse ex-
amples of what we are striving towards. We are able to offer more detail on DigPINS and
Virtually Connecting because of our own involvement in them.
#DigPINS
#DigPINS is a fully online and networked educational development experience. The
hashtag and acronym refers to the content of the course which covers Digital Pedagogy,
Identity, Networks, and Scholarship as major topics. However, the content of the ex-
perience is not what is highlighted. Rather, the experience is focused on participants ne-
gotiating multiple online contexts through various online tools that span open and
more private spaces to create a networked learning experience and an ongoing institu-
tionally based online community. Cronin (2014), states that
Open online spaces offer multiple opportunities for networked learning. Learners can
establish new connections, within and beyond the classroom, based on their interests as
well as the curriculum, and connect, share and work with others across the boundaries of
institution, education sector, geography, time zone, culture and power level.
But how are faculty ever to create networked learning experiences in open online spaces
for students if they have never experienced learning for themselves in these spaces?
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 8 of 24
#DigPINS attempts to create a transformational and heutagogical learning opportunities for
faculty and (at some institutions) staff through modeling Connectivist and Connected
Learning practices.
Each of the major topics are covered over a specific time period, most often one week
each, through online content with a greater focus on conversation and online community
building. The experience is intended to be delivered with a cohort of participants who are
all affiliated with an institution. These participants work in open environments that can be
viewed by the public but also in a backchannel where they are only in communication with
one another. Other cohorts from other institutions may be working through #DigPINS at
the same time and there is, at times, opportunity for inter-institutional collaboration in the
open environments.
The experience was originally conceived of, designed, and delivered in 2016 by Sundi
Richard and Daniel Lynds at St. Norbert College (SNC), USA. as a project affiliated
with the colleges Full Spectrum Learning strategic initiative. Since its inception, a tem-
plate of the #DigPINS curriculum has been released under Creative Commons license
and it has also been run at Davidson College, USA by Richard and at Kenyon College,
USA by Joe Murphy. Additionally, Caines (co-author of this article) has continued to
run the #DigPINS experience at SNC since 2017.
A focus on ownership and agency is inherent in #DigPINS as a foundational aspect of
the course is digital identity and digital networks. Identity work lends itself directly to the
highly autonomous and self-directed nature of heutagogy. Whereas instruction and other
top-down pedagogies can provide content that discusses identity it is only through critical
self-reflection and self-expression that ones identity is given room to grow. Participants
are asked to analyze their current digital identity and relate differences between how they
present themselves online as a professional, faculty member, scholar, and teacher as well
as more personal aspects of their digital identity such as a mother, father, friend, etc. and
how different tools enable or hinder this expression. Through the circulation and commu-
nication of this analysis, in dialogue with others who are similarly evaluating themselves,
participants are given a space to learn about themselves and one another.
As the experience progresses, facilitator(s) distribute content and continue to en-
gage participants in an ongoing conversation around the major topics through a
heutagogical approach that promotes agency in those participating. Content is pro-
vided as a way to give structure and fuel conversation but by putting the emphasis
on open dialog the facilitator(s) enable a space for participants to engage in
self-directed learning. The template of the curriculum at digpins.org describes the
facilitators role as follows:
Facilitators of #DigPINS act as guides more so than instructors. They are not there
to dictate right or wrong answers but rather to encourage each participant to
consider their own digital identity, how they network through digital spaces to
connect for positive change, and how that can impact their pedagogy and
scholarship.(DigPINS Course Structure, 2018)
While there are structured readings and activities every week, much of the experience
takes place as an ongoing conversation toward the making of meaning between the par-
ticipants, between the participants and the facilitator(s), and between the entire
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 9 of 24
community and the public. Public interactions are promoted by the facilitator often
with the facilitator engaging their own network to converse in community with the co-
hort. Additionally, as time has progressed past participants of #DigPINS have remained
in the open spaces as well as in shared backchannel spaces and, at times, contribute to
the community dialog.
#DigPINS does not prescribe any particular digital technologies for delivering the ex-
perience; as part of the design process facilitators need to decide which digital tech-
nologies will be used. The tools chosen, together, need to enable channels of
communication ranging from one to one, one to many within the cohort, and one to
many in public. The experience calls for participants to critically examine expression
and dialog in a range of public/private environments, and the participatory
decision-making promotes agency and ownership. The design of the experience calls
for this critical consideration to be part of the readings and content but it is enabled
and enacted through the ongoing conversation which is shaped by the boundaries
allowed in the technology. Participants reflect on how they choose what gets said in the
public and what stays in-group in the backchannel. Grappling with this distinction,
making decisions based on it, and figuring out how to use the technology to enact that
decision enables faculty and professionals to not just become more fluent in their
digital skills but to become more critical in their use of technology considering multiple
contexts and power dynamics.
Many of the models that will be discussed in this paper are dependent on intrinsic
motivation from individuals to be successful but we know that not everyone is inspired
by purely intrinsic motivators. Furthermore, we recognize that even among faculty a
commitment to personal lifelong learning in practice is not always valued or even prac-
tical. Because #DigPINS is an institutional model there is much to be learned about the
details of how it is implemented.
All of the institutions that have run #DigPINS have implemented some kind of
stipend program for at least some participants. Initial stipends at SNC were limited
to faculty but in later years were opened, in part, to staff. The most recent iter-
ation of institutional support of #DigPINS at SNC is its alignment with a two part
stipend program called the Full Spectrum Learning Stipend. The stipend is divided
into two parts: Level One - which focuses on exploration and Level Two - which
focuses on implementation. Level Two is dependent on Level One but is not a re-
quirement of the award as a whole. This simply means that someone has to
complete Level One before they can apply for Level Two but that applying for
Level Two is an option not a requirement. It is also important to note that both
levels are awarded at equal amounts.
The Level One exploration level is awarded simply by active participation in the
#DigPINS experience which is defined as:
Active participation includes online discussion in text chat, blogging, twitter chat,
video calls and other digital means around common readings, videos, and other
content. #DigPINS is designed to create a safe-to-fail (rather than fail-safe) environ-
ment in which participants can explore human-centered approaches to working with
technology to create community and learning experiences.(Full Spectrum Learning
Stipend, 2018)
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 10 of 24
Level One of the stipend was opened to staff in 2018 with the intention that the lar-
ger outcome of the experience was to lay a foundation for a broader institutionally
based online community with more voices from various levels of experience. For the
weeks that discuss pedagogy and scholarship staff are asked to consider how they teach,
perhaps in informal ways, in their work and for scholarship how they contribute to and
influence their larger fields. For staff, pedagogyoften is not classroom teaching but in-
formal teaching with students or even co-workers. Scholarship, for staff, could be pre-
senting at a professional conference, hosting a webinar with a professional
organization, or even starting a professional blog.
Level Two of the stipend focuses on implementation and is only available to those
who teach and were first awarded a Level One stipend. The implementation stage is
project based and has requirements of planning, enacting, and disseminating a reflec-
tion - in their pedagogy or scholarship that includes an aspect of digital pedagogy,
open education, hybrid and online learning, developing digital literacies/competencies/
citizenship in students, and/or other creative approaches to teaching and learning.
(Full Spectrum Learning Stipend, 2018). By making the project based implementation
stage dependent on an explorative, networked, and connected experience, a foundation
is laid for transformative and heutagogical learning through self-reflection and dialog.
#DigPINS is still very young as a model but it is hoped that networked communities
within and between institutions can be born from this initiative.
Virtually Connecting
Virtually Connecting (sometimes shortened to VConnecting or VC) is a living enact-
ment of connectivist/connected learning theory applied to hybrid conferencing in com-
munity.(Bali, Caines, DeWaard and Hogue, p. 227). VCs about page explains:
The purpose of Virtually Connecting is to enliven virtual participation in academic
conferences, widening access to a fuller conference experience for those who cannot
be physically present at conferences. We are a community of volunteers and it is
always free to participate.(Virtually Connecting, n. d.).
It is a grassrootsvolunteer movement which, in its finished product, uses
web-based video conferencing to allow spontaneous hallway-type conversations be-
tween speakers and participants at a conference and those who cannot attend but
would like to chat with those who do. A pair of onsite buddy/volunteer and a virtual
buddy/volunteer (and often a larger team of volunteers) plan and implement this meet-
ing with conference participants and put an open call to invite virtual participants to
join the video conversations.
This becomes important for all constituents bringing an outside perspective to the
conference participants, giving those who do not have the means to travel a glimpse of
the conference, and providing the conference organizers with a boost to online atten-
tion and participation with the conference. Vconnecting was co-founded by an Egyptian
(Bali, co-author of this article) and a Canadian living in the US (Rebecca J. Hogue) who
were joined in co-directing VConnecting by 3 others from US (Caines, co-author of
this article), Canada (Helen DeWaard) and Germany (Christian Friedrich).
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 11 of 24
Equity is central to the concept of Virtually Connecting as it was initiated in order to
provide access to networking and opportunities of social capital to educators who could
not attend conferences. These are people who are often marginalized by this lack of ac-
cess due to financial, social, logistical, health or other reasons including: academics
who are geographically far from most edtech conferences in North America and West-
ern Europe, contingent academics and graduate students who lack funding for travel,
parents of young children, people with health issues that prevent travel, or people who
cannot travel because of visa issues or travel bans. VConnecting breaks down hierarch-
ies by bringing established conference speakers in conversation with early career indi-
viduals (virtually or in person) who may not normally have a chance to speak to them,
even if they had attended the conference in person - as Rebecca Hogue has said, VCon-
necting boosts the social capital of both the onsite buddy/volunteer and the virtual
buddies/volunteers and participants (in Bali & Hogue, 2015). Moreover, VConnecting
sometimes intentionally brings in lesser known guests from marginalized groups in
order to highlight their work.
In a previous paper (Bali, Caines, DeWaard, & Hogue, 2016), we explored how the in-
formal conversations in VC mapped to connected and connectivist learning, and we re-
ported survey results showing that, for the most part, VC met its values (written in the
manifesto, Virtually Connecting n.d.) of improving the virtual conference experience by
providing access to spontaneous conference conversations, and aiming towards inclusion.
The educational development that happens in Virtually Connecting is varied and lay-
ered depending on the level of involvement which will vary from individual to individ-
ual (Beckingham, 2018). For this article we will focus on the level of involvement of
two groups: the group of volunteers versus the guests and participants. The main dif-
ference being that the volunteers spend more time coordinating and organizing prior
to the streamed session while the guests and participants are only active in the moment
of their streamed session. There are therefore two layers of dialogue.
The group of volunteer buddies are made up of educators, academics, and other in-
terested parties from around the globe who are interested in advancing conversations
around educational technology, instructional design, and open education across bound-
aries and especially towards creating greater equity around conferences. VConnecting
events are planned beforehand by the volunteers in the community. Being part of the
volunteer group is an educational development opportunity that builds digital literacies
and online collaboration skills. Additionally, besides planning, logistics, and digital sup-
port volunteers also participate in the conversations which provide a space for critical
self-reflection around the conference experience.
Guests and virtual participants are most often only active during the streamed session
for this critical self-reflection. Onsite guests who are presenting or attending the con-
ference are invited to come and reflect about their experience at the conference or re-
late some of what they are presenting about. Critical self-reflection is an essential part
of transformative learning and often those who are attending conferences in person or
from afar do not take the time to so. By providing a space for critical reflection on the
experience of the conference Virtually Connecting provides an opportunity for trans-
formative learning in the moment.
An unintentional but welcome dimension of VConnecting is that the actual conversations
that occur are often critical due to the general disposition the community takes. Therefore,
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 12 of 24
VConnecting offers participants opportunities to critique corporatization in some confer-
ences, certain technopositivist directions seen as harmful by participants, and also to con-
stantly be aware of who is not present at conferences and to get their point of view:
the possibility to include their [virtual participants] views on conference themes
and trends is an enrichment of the overall conference experience...VC is pushing
boundaries... VC made the invisible online lurkers of a conference like this a bit
more visible to the organizers.(Friederich, 2016).
Shy participants found that eventually joining a conversation was enriching:
I felt a bit shy and uneasy about being present out in the open.But I joined the
hangout, asked my questions to Dr. Cand it was great. I just cant describe the
experience here. My experience in Turkish schools taught me to follow hierarchy
and build it, even if doesnt impose any structures on me. But here I was talking to
somebody influential in the field, asking some basic questions and getting answers.
(Koseoglu, 2015, a graduate student at the time).
Another graduate student, Lisa Hammershaimb, wrote:
As someone with very limited income, being part of Virtually Connecting has given
me access to events that I otherwise would have no chance to attend. With this
access comes pretty amazing content but even more comes invaluable exposure to
the human creatorthat is behind behind every idea...One of my favorite parts of
Virtually Connecting is its casual immediacy and spontaneous insight. Seeing the
kind of unpluggedversion of people Ive previously only encountered in highly
polished + edited perfection is so refreshing. (Hammershaimb, 2016)
Participation in VConnecting involves a high degree of agency. Onsite and virtual
buddies volunteer to work on a conference out of personal interest and are supported
by other volunteers to do so. Participation virtually is also a choice: people are welcome
to sign up and join the conversation, or to watch live, or to watch a recording. People
who watch live may leave questions on Twitter which speakers may be able to respond
to. Since every participant in vconnecting does so by choice, choosing which confer-
ence and time and conversation to participate in, and whether to join the video or
watch the livestream or recording online, it is a good example of self-determination in
that the learner decides their own path: which learning to prioritize, which format to
do it in, and when to do it. The facilitators only offer dates and times and opportunity
to access a conversation many people would never have had the chance to have.
Virtually Connecting is also built on recognizing the power of conversation not pre-
sentations in adult learning. Most conferences give more time for presentations and lit-
tle room for conversations. Moreover, it is difficult to have spontaneous hallway
conversations without knowing someone beforehand. Virtually Connecting creates a
hospitable space to hold such conversations and facilitates them for people who
wouldnt normally have access. It also creates space for reflection at conferences which
usually does not happen while everyone is busy experiencing the actual conference. As
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 13 of 24
Berman (2015) wrote, it virtualizes the right part of the conference...the personal
interaction.
Critiques of Virtually Connecting mentioned in Bali et al. (2016) and presented in
Bali et al. (2017) include the fact that the supposedly open and hospitable community
may appear cliquish to those outside the community, that it may reproduce some of
the power dynamic of conferences by re-centering those already in power(e.g. keynote
speakers), and that it may meet some peoples needs but be intimidating or uncomfort-
able for people who are shy or do not like appearing on video, or even do not really
have access to technical infrastructure or digital literacy thresholds required to partici-
pate. Even though VConnecting uses freely available technology (Google hangouts on
Air that livestreams and records to YouTube), some countries ban Google and/or You-
Tube, and some individuals prefer not to deal with Google. Overall, however, VCon-
necting is considered a form of open educational practice that provides a partial
solution to the problem of limited access to social capital at conferences. While it has
no direct institutional reward, occasionally conferences will offer complimentary regis-
tration to one or more Vconnecting volunteers, and the connections made during these
events enhance the professional standing of participants. Additionally, participants may
be able to make their learning via Vconnecting visible by highlighting the connections
in their tenure/renewal portfolios and how they influenced them. For institutions that
reward service, volunteering for Vconnecting would be considered as service to the
profession and also a form of scholarship similar to moderating a panel at an in-person
event.
Collaborative reading: Twitter Journal Club and open web annotation with Marginal
Syllabus
Both Twitter Journal Club and Marginal Syllabus offer non-traditional approaches to
online collaborative reading of texts, each of them addressing equity from different an-
gles. Both of them naturally gain traction from a synchronous event which can con-
tinue asynchronously. By focusing on conversations around texts, rather than the texts
themselves, they promote transformative learning as dialogue over affirming and clari-
fying participantsthoughts and experiences, rather than submitting to traditional au-
thority of the text. Both approaches also do not require pre-reading: participants are
welcome to start reading the text for the first time during the event.
#TJC15
Twitter Journal Club (TJC15), founded by Laura Gogia is an open, unstructured, aca-
demic reading group found on Twitter, [and] provides meaningful learning experiences
while embracing the holistic and messy nature of learning(Gogia & Warren, 2015,
n.p.). It challenges traditional face-to-face reading groups in that participants meet syn-
chronously to start reading an article live (with no expectations of pre-reading, no
shame in not having read) and each person is free to live-tweet aspects of the article
that resonates with them or connect it to their own life experiences, and to reflect with
others (including sometimes the author). These conversations start synchronously but
often continue asynchronously beyond their starting point.
Gogia and Warren mention how TJC15 offers:
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 14 of 24
opportunities to care, in terms of emotional and intellectual engrossment, relational
and personal interest, and kindness and mutual respect. As such, we find this
alternative, digital approach to academic reading one that engages its participants in
uniquely creative, playful, and human ways of learning even as it augments and
challenges traditional academic practice(Gogia & Warren, 2015, n.p.).
Gogia (Gogia & Warren, 2015, n.p.) writes about how her previous experiences of
faculty reading clubs had no place for the connection of ideas to emotion or life ex-
perienceand was missing the relational, human dimensions to Noddings care that
motivates me to learn more. The culture of permissivenessin TJC15 encourages re-
flection and agency of participants who previously may have felt excluded from
expert-focused academic conversations, and TJC15 conversations were often enriched
by participation from the article authors (Gogia & Warren, 2015).
Marginal Syllabus
Marginal Syllabus is a faculty development project which uses Hypothes.is to collect-
ively annotate socio-political texts. Those who lead the project believe that open web
annotation promotes educator agency and has the ability to foster equity-centric dia-
logue. This approach is inspired by the transformative potential of openness in educa-
tion, while recognizing that the use of technology for connection still carries
implications for politics and equity (Kalir & Perez, 2019). Texts which tackle equity is-
sues are chosen (sometimes by the leaders, sometimes crowdsourced) and scheduled
for annotation and promoted openly on Twitter. In the past, these annotatathons
were done over a short period of time (usually an hour) but were later expanded to
multiple days in order to facilitate inclusion of more participants from different time-
zones and with less flexible schedules (Kalir, in press).
Collaborative digital annotation of readings allows geographically dispersed individ-
uals to share the act of reading, and facilitates their reflection together, using tools such
as Hypothes.is https://hypothes.is which allows sentence-level commenting on any
internet-based text using multimedia annotations (Zamora & Bali, in press).
As mentioned earlier (Kalir, in press) this project was designed with equity in mind.
The use open source software for social and technical accessibility, the involvement of
multiple stakeholders in decision-making (working flexibly within conflict), the use of
open content and the emphasis on relevance to professionalspractice and context. The
approach reframes annotation of texts as conversation, thus fostering critical dialogue
among participants which can support transformative learning.
It is difficult to find any glaring limitations with either the approach of #TJC15 or
Marginal Syllabus. While both these approaches offer learning benefits, it would also
be expected that some learners prefer to read alone and not be distracted by other peo-
ples comments on an article. It is also possible that a participant may wish to read
something different. However, participants always have these choices.
cMOOCs and dual pathway MOOCs
The philosophical constructs of Connected Learning and Connectivism that we
highlighted above can be seen in practice in Connectivist MOOCs or cMOOCs. Con-
nectivist Massive Open Online Courses (cMOOCs) are open online learning
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 15 of 24
experiences that are different from xMOOCs. xMOOCs are often offered by institu-
tions on known platforms such as Coursera, EdX and FutureLearn, and are usually
structured in particular ways set by instructors or course designers. Whereas cMOOCs
are more loosely structured, with a framework provided by course instructors, and a
large proportion of learning occurring distributed across participantssocial media pres-
ence on spaces like blogs, Twitter and Facebook, who connect and collaborate to ex-
tend knowledge in the course (Bali, Crawford, Jessen, Signorelli, & Zamora, 2015).
cMOOCs are based on connection rather than content, which looks more like an on-
line community than a course, and doesnt have a defined curriculum or formal assign-
ments(Downes, 2015). Crosslin (2018, p.132) emphasizes how in cMOOCs,control of
power has shifted from a centralised instructor to a network of connections, and where
content acquisition has shifted from a centralised expert to a nebulous connection of
shifting elements and participants.
There are MOOCs that neither fit the xMOOC nor the cMOOC end of the spectrum
but still fit into the example of Connectivism and Connected Learning that we are
identifying here. One example is such as Ross, Sinclair, Knox, Bayne, and Macleods
(2014) eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC (#edcmooc), which was offered on Cour-
sera via the University of Edinburgh, but which gave learners lots of choice over which
material to engage with, and whether to engage on social media or Coursera discussion
forum, and which did away with quizzes entirely and instead had assessment via final
artifact which learners had agency to choose (see Ross et al., 2014). Dual pathway
MOOCs, which have been run several times and will be described below, offer both a
structured and an unstructured pathway, and encourage participants to switch path-
ways as they see convenient at any point during a MOOC.
Connectivism and Connected Learning also of course occur outside of a MOOC
framework, in digital networks. Relationships and connections between participants of
a social network occur, potentially forming Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), com-
munities of practice or affinity spaces. A community of practice, online or offline, en-
tails a shared domain as a source of identificationamong community members
(Zamora & Bali, in press), and is differentiated from affinity spaces which are geo-
graphically distributed, technologically mediated, and fluidly populated social group-
ingsGee & Hayes (2012, p. 135) and being based on interests which may not be
professional in nature. (Gee & Hayes, 2012, p. 137) assert that human learning be-
comes deep, and often life changing, when it is connected to a nurturing affinity
space.
On the other hand, the PLN (Personal Learning Network) is a vibrant, ever-evolving
and flexible group of connections(Zamora & Bali, in press) that each individual de-
velops, which may or may not intersect with communities of practice or affinity spaces
the person belongs to. As such, the PLN offers the most agency and heutagogy within
any model for learning, because it is centered on each individual building and lever-
aging their own connections. However, such networking and connections are not
equally accessible to all who try to form them, and as such, more structured and orga-
nized learning experiences can help someone begin to build a PLN.
The majority of participants in any type of MOOC is often adults, participating for
their personal reasons such as their ongoing professional development, and only a few
are seeking formal certification (Hew & Cheung, 2014, cited in Crosslin, 2018). The
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 16 of 24
idea and practice of a dual pathway (sometimes called dual-layer) MOOC is one that is
built on heutagogy and an interest in equity. Participants are offered two parallel path-
ways to the MOOC, one structured by following an instructor-designed path, and one
more connectivist, following the learners desired path and involving connection with
other participants. Each participant is encouraged to switch between these paths
throughout the MOOC as they see fit. This is a heutagogical model that gives owner-
ship and agency to the learner and respects their preferred approach to learning. It is
equitable because it does not assume that each learner is independent and digitally lit-
erate enough to cover each topic in a connectivist manner, so the support of the
instructor-centric structured model is available when needed, and at the same time, the
opportunity to learn differently is offered to those who prefer it.
In practice, while many learners find the choice in the learning experience of a dual
pathway MOOC positive, there are sometimes barriers caused by technical limitations,
such as learnersinability to consistently see what is happening in the pathway they are
not currently following (Crosslin, 2018). The first MOOCs run using this dual pathway
approach was the edX Data, Analytics and Learning course (DALMOOC), run by the
University of Texas at Arlington.
Untethered faculty development (Jill Leafstedt and Michelle Pacansky-Brock)
Faculty development is in dire need of transformation to reflect the realities of
teaching in digital, online environments.(Leafstedt & Pacansky-Brock, 2016a).
The model proposed by Leafstedt and Pacansky-Brock (2016a,2016b) reflects the im-
portance of faculty learning in online and blended formats, while developing digital lit-
eracy and respecting facultys needs for multiple points of access and multiple modes
of interaction, including asynchronously accessible online resources, synchronously
joining face-to-face sessions via video conference, watching recorded sessions, and fa-
cilitating dialogue among and with faculty before, during and after professional devel-
opment experiences (Leafstedt & Pacansky-Brock, 2016a). This offers equity such that
faculty whose time is more limited or who are geographically more distant from cam-
pus are able to participate in professional development activities more easily.
Importantly, this approach provides ongoing rather than one-off support. This model
was implemented at California State University, Channel Islands, which has several
geographically dispersed campuses, and as such, attempts to equitably address the
needs of faculty across these campuses. This approach is explicitly built on principles
of open and connected learning, and intended to influence the daily practices of faculty,
and aims to overcome barriers of time and space while promoting lifelong learning in
community (Leafstedt & Pacansky-Brock, 2016b).
A week in the life of Caines and Bali: semi-fictional autoethnography
The kind of participatory connected learning experiences that we are advocating for are
not easily described. Because they occur in complex networked environments with
many overlapping connections, trying to relate them in a linear format such as text be-
comes quite difficult. We have provided the models above to act as case studies and in-
dividual examples. However, to give a more personal outlook of what it means to teach
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 17 of 24
and learn in participatory connected learning environments we are also including this
semi-fictional autoethnography of a typical week in lives of the authors, Bali and
Caines. We are both co-directors of Virtually Connecting. Bali is based at the American
University in Cairo in Egypt and Caines is based in St. Norbert College in the USA. We
both work in the area of educator professional development.
~~
Bali is heading for bed at 10 pm, Cairo time, and checks her Twitter feed. She finds
there is a new article being collaboratively annotated starting today, via the #marginal-
syllabus hashtag. She checks out what its about and starts posting some annotations
on her phone and responding to annotations of others, until shes too tired to continue.
She plans to continue tomorrow, but posts a tweet about the annotation activity for
others in her PLN who might be interested, tagging a few who would be particularly in-
terested. It is an article she would not have normally read in her day to day work, but it
inspires her to refer to some of its ideas in her class next week.
Caines is one of the people Bali tags on the tweet; it is 3 pm Green Bay time and she
is almost at the end of her work day. She checks out the article and realizes the topic
fits the #DigPINS discussions she has been facilitating with a cohort of instructors at
her institution. Though the article is not part of the prepared content for the week,
Caines shares the article and the #marginalsyllabus annotation event with the #Dig-
PINS group by tweeting the article using #DigPINS and #marginalsyllabus and by post-
ing the article and a description of the event in the #DigPINS backchannel on Slack.
The participants are already familiar with the annotation tool from an earlier structured
activity in #DigPINS and some of them jump into the #marginalsyllabus annotation
with some thoughts on the article. Additionally, someone participating in the #margin-
alsyllabus annotation saw the cross-listed tweet and started inquiring with Caines about
what exactly #DigPINS is all about and Caines pointed them to the openly licensed
curriculum.
The next morning, Bali wakes up to some Slack notifications from the Virtually Con-
necting Buddies team. They will add one more guest to the session at a German confer-
ence this week. The session takes place in the afternoon German time, and includes
virtual participants from the US (Caines), France, UK, Egypt (Bali) and Australia. In
Slack, Caines and some of the other buddies are communicating about updating the
blog post and promoting the event on Twitter as well as other technical details sur-
rounding the event. On the way to work, Bali is listening to an audiobook of Parker
Palmers, 1998 book and hears this part which resonates with her deeply: our willing-
ness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a
community that encourages such risks(p. 144), and she tweets it out tagging several
people in her PLN who have particularly inspired and encouraged her to take risks, in-
cluding Caines.
The day of the Virtually Connecting session everyone logs in a few minutes before
the time to go live, across their various time zones - it is afternoon at the conference
location in Germany and for Bali but it is early morning for Caines and evening for the
Australian participant. As the participants join the call they are in connection with one
another but the live stream has not yet been started so no one from the outside can see
them. Since they are not live streaming yet, the tone is much more informal and light-
hearted. Bali has taken on the role of the lead Virtual Buddy for this session and so she
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 18 of 24
greets each participant as they enter noting the quality of their audio and video and
troubleshooting with them if necessary. Once those who are onsite at the conference
join the call with the onsite guests Bali similarly checks with them about the quality of
their connection and once determining that all technology is working as well as can be
expected everyone prepares to go live. Bali double checks to make sure that everyone is
aware and consenting to the conversation being live streamed and recorded before she
starts broadcasting the stream. Once she does, Caines and other virtual participants
Tweet the link to the live stream on the conference hashtag and from time to time
Tweet out insights from the conversation.
The guests are from Cameroon and the UK, and the onsite buddy who facilitates
their connection from Germany is himself German, and the conversation starts with re-
caps of what has been happening at the conference but early on the guests begin to re-
late some critiques of the activities of conference organizers. Caines recounts a similar
experience related to participant tracking at a US edtech conference. Everyone seems
to agree that this problematic trend is increasing despite criticism from several in the
field who have blogged and directly confronted conference organizers about these is-
sues. Some of the virtual participants are Tweeting about these concerns while Caines
and the guests are recounting these examples which stirs more conversation on Twitter
and at the conference. After the session and conference are over the German onsite
buddy blogs about this conversation and how VConnecting helps create space for such
critical and dissenting conversations and for listening to perspectives of people not
present at the conference.
The next day, Bali runs an open online Twitter activity with her students and invites
her PLN to participate in this Twitter Scavenger Hunt about educational games. She
tags people she knows in Egypt, US, UK, Ireland, Austria, Australia and South Africa
who might be interested, and several of them respond to her students. Meanwhile,
Caines is facilitating #DigPINS and has ten faculty members who have analyzed their
digital identity for a week. She has a video call scheduled with the participants to dis-
cuss their self-analysis and she will use many of the technical and hospitality skills that
she uses in Virtually Connecting to work with them. This call will not be public or re-
corded to provide a space for the participants to discuss identity without the public
eye. In the weeks that follow the #DigPINS participants will be asked to communicate
more publicly and Caines will reach out to her PLN and see who might be interested in
engagement.
Besides taking on leadership roles where they are designing and facilitating these ex-
periences, Bali and Caines use these heutagogical and transformational learning ap-
proaches in the weeks ahead in their own learning. Bali is giving a workshop locally
about critical pedagogy soon. She has very few people in her face to face surroundings
who understand critical pedagogy enough to give a workshop on it, so she blogs her
thoughts and asks some people to give her feedback by posting the link on Twitter and
adding hashtags to some recent MOOCs she had participated in, as well as posting it
in the VConnecting buddies Slack #random channel. Several people comment on ways
of improving the activities and someone suggests a change of order. Most of the sug-
gestions make sense. One does not apply to her context, so she ignores it. At the same
time, Caines is excited that her institution is implementing a Domain of Ones Own
(DoOO) initiative. Besides having managed many of her own domains for several years
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 19 of 24
and having helped to collaboratively maintain domains and sites for several of her pro-
jects, Caines is attracted to the philosophy behind DoOO with its focus on ownership
and agency. Still, Caines knows that Domain of Ones Own, especially as it is deployed
institutionally, is a complex idea that often becomes problematic without critical dialog.
Because the project is so new she is having trouble putting her ideas into a blog post,
however, in the weeks ahead she calls on various members of her PLN to ask specific
questions about technical deployment and larger philosophical concepts.
~~
In this brief semi-fictional autoethnography, we have highlighted how our connected
learning days and our PLNs interweave to embolden each of us in taking risks within a
supportive community, and broaden our access to learning resources and conversations
when we need them. While we have institutional roles, we have agency such that much
of our learning takes place outside of institutional boundaries, in times and online
spaces that we seek and choose. Open practice supports connection because it enables
people doing similar practices or who share similar values to find each other, at what-
ever stage of their learning. While it takes time to build a PLN and a supportive learn-
ing community such as VConnecting that one can trust for deep and critical
conversations, they can become eventually become sustaining, and feed back into sup-
porting us to do our institutional faculty development and teaching roles with more
knowledge and confidence. It would be difficult, for example, to conduct a Twitter
Scavenger Hunt online or facilitate #DigPINS if the teacher/facilitator had not already
built a PLN. It would be difficult to have hybrid conference conversations without
building connections with participants ahead of time to enable these conversations
(perhaps even more difficult than when you are in a conference onsite and know no
one). Transformative learning is possible because these connected experiences afford
us ongoing reflection in community, whereas living the day-to-day without stopping to
reflect can hinder ones ability to take learning deeper and question the connections be-
tween our practices and our values (the VConnecting conversation we mention is a
great example of this).
Discussion
We are strong believers that the true benefit of the academy is the interaction, the access
to the debate, to the negotiation of knowledge not to the stale cataloging of content
(Siemens & Cormier, 2010, n.p.) and that this should be the case in our educational devel-
opment, in how we learn to teach and to reflect on our teaching, not just in our academic
disciplines and research. However, we should continually question who has access to this
debate, who feels they have the right to participate in negotiation of knowledge, and
whose knowledge is being negotiated and discussed? Whom do we exclude?
Dialogue and reflection with others is central to transformative learning, learning that will
create deep and lasting change in our practice because it is based on reflection on how our
beliefs and values influence our practice, and the connections we make with others in the
process, facilitated by modern technologies, require the development of digital literacy and
investing time in order for connectivist learning to bear fruit and meet its potential:
Working with and through each other should not be seen as a liability, a hassle. It is
a process that can transform us. We remember Bakhtin here: I am conscious of
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 20 of 24
myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another,
and with the help of anotherI cannot manage without another, I cannot become
myself without another(1981, p. 287).(Bali & Sharma, 2014, np).
It is also important to recognize the differences between working in private spaces such
as Learning Management Systems or our own institutions, versus open, public spaces,
which offer both risks and transformative potential (Cronin, 2014). Both afford us the op-
portunity to learn with others, but they are very different environments with different po-
tential risks and benefits. Whom you learn with and from is wide open and global once
you take it to the open web, and yet an educator might be more likely to find people who
share their most specialized interests in a global community than at their own institution
- hence the power of the PLN, the online affinity space, the online community of practice,
or the connectivist MOOC experience. But similarly profound experiences can occur in a
largely face-to-face situation, or in a private online space such as a Learning Management
System that includes people from different institutions or countries.
Institutional professional development can benefit from elements of the different
models we have discussed above. #DigPINS is already an institutional model that fol-
lows a less traditional pathway that affords agency to participants. Virtually Connecting
is a grassroots movement that is completely extra institutional and challenges academic
gatekeeping (Bali, 2018). Dual pathway MOOCs and untethered faculty development
show how learning experiences can be designed flexibly to respect different learners
preferences. Marginal Syllabus and TJC15 are extra institutional collaborative reading
opportunities, yet Marginal Syllabus partners with institutions to better meet the needs
of various educators from K-12 to higher education.
Most of these models combine elements of public, open interaction, but there is often
a degree of private interaction that supports each.
While one cannot deny the need for institutions to provide locally contextualized
professional development, that indeed, it is the institutions duty to do so, we suggest
that institutions also consider incorporating more flexible opportunities that afford
agency to educators to choose their learning pathways, participate in critical dialogue,
and form networks beyond their immediate circle in order to promote future growth
relevant to their individual needs.
It is important to differentiate between relying on individual educatorsintrinsic mo-
tivation for their own professional learning, and individual educators becoming
exploited through unrewarded affective labor. While we wish to encourage educators to
seek their own learning path, we also recognize that if this goes unrewarded by the in-
stitution, this will discourage many from taking such a path. We point out that what in-
stitutions countas professional development must be flexible beyond traditional
approaches that are familiar to them. Educators benefit from having the space to define
their own learning goals and paths, and institutions will benefit in return when educa-
tors are given the freedom to develop in these ways. It is from these intrinsically moti-
vated, heutagogical, and transformational faculty development experiences that
educators will excel in their own teaching and scholarship. Institutions needing a more
evidence-based approach could look along the lines of the Full Spectrum Learning
Level Two stipend from St. Norbert College which requires that faculty show evidence
that they have transformed something in their teaching or practice. While this might
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 21 of 24
be more straightforward for institutions to reward it would be short-sighted overlook
that level two of the Full Spectrum Learning stipend is dependent on Level One which
requires the connected learning experience #DigPINS and that both levels are rewarded
equally. This model offers the possibility of rewarding learning separately from reward-
ing application. One may ask how to motivate faculty who are not intrinsically moti-
vated to participate in professional development, but we feel that the majority of
academics start out as lifelong learners, and given opportunities to choose their own
learning path within reasonable time and space restrictions, will do so. The majority of
current faculty development offerings at most institutions do not meet any of these
criteria.
Aspirations for educational development of the future
Can we envision a new approach to educational development of university staff and
faculty which embraces transformative learning and heutagogy? One that does the
following
1. Recognizes and respects that different people have different professional
development needs and that they have different priorities for how to go about
achieving their goals?
2. Offers and rewards each persons chosen pathway towards their professional
development, be it a structured approach provided by an institution, a
self-determined path chosen by the individual, or somewhere in
between?
3. Offers dialogic spaces for self-reflection in safe community, including for dissenting
views?
4. Accounts for inequity in individualsaccess and ability to benefit from existing,
more traditional opportunities for professional development, and provide options
that offer flexibility of time and/or space?
5. Involves educators in key decisions related to their professional development in
their institution?
The challenge in designing learning experiences that afford the optimal amount of
power and agency to learners (in this case, educators), is that it requires a paradigm
shiftfor faculty development practitioners who are used to designing single pathway
learning experiences that align objectives and content to particular, pre-set outcomes,
to find ways to respect multiple learner epistemologies as valid within one learning ex-
perience (Crosslin, 2018, p. 141).
We have attempted here to offer multiple models that can inspire others in their
endeavors to develop new approaches relevant to their context and to perhaps in-
volve educators in designing and facilitating their own professional development in
supportive communities. For example, might Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs)
that usually have regular face-to-face meetings incorporate more participant-centric
practices, or allow for untethered approaches to learning that allow in-person and
online synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences? Could they support
learner-chosen collaborative annotations and engagement in both private and pub-
lic spaces? And how will their educators (and indeed education developers) be
Bali and Caines International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (2018) 15:46 Page 22 of 24
supportedintotheirforayintotheparticipatoryandconnectedopenweb?FLCs
are often timed to last a semester or year (Cox, 2004), but why would we not
strive to build sustainable and sustained communities, with members leaving and
rejoining but being able to remain in the same space for longer? How can they
benefit from existing open opportunities such as Virtually Connecting, Marginal
Syllabus and DigPINS? We encourage readers to explore these options in their
own context.
Abbreviations
cMOOC: Connectivist Massive Open Online Course; FLC: Faculty Learning Community; MOOC: Massive Open Online
Course; PLN: Personal Learning Network; VC: Virtually Connecting; xMOOC: eXtended Massive Open Online Course
Acknowledgements
Our ideas here build on the ideas and contributions of others in our PLN. We have referenced them where possible,
but we know that even our original thought is a result of the buildup of knowledge we have constructed in
conversation with many others.
Funding
No funding was involved in the preparation of this article.
Availability of data and materials
Not applicable. No data collection was conducted while preparing this article.
Authorscontributions
MB wrote the abstract, the history of faculty development, philosophical underpinnings, the collaborative annotation,
dual pathway MOOCs, untethered faculty development and the discussion and conclusion, and co-wrote the Virtually
Connecting section and semi-fictional narrative. AC wrote the reasoning behind our approach, the DigPINS section,
and co-wrote the Virtually Connecting section and semi-fictional narrative and reviewed other parts of the article. Both
authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Authorsinformation
N/A.
Competing interests
The authors are involved in some of the models mentioned:
Maha Bali: co-founder and co-director of Virtually Connecting
Autumm Caines: co-director of Virtually Connecting and facilitator of DigPINS, 2018.
Both authors have participated in dual pathway MOOCs, TJC15 and Marginal Syllabus, and as such have
relationships with the academics we cite who have worked on them, as well as the initiators of untethered
faculty development approaches.
Note that although we have removed all references to author names in the article, a reader who knows us
personally is likely to figure out who we are from the context.
PublishersNote
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Author details
1
American University in Cairo, Virtually Connecting, Cairo, Egypt.
2
St. Norbert College, Virtually Connecting, De Pere,
USA.
Received: 19 July 2018 Accepted: 13 November 2018
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This report is a synthesis of ongoing research, design, and implementation of an approach to education called “connected learning.” It advocates for broadened access to learning that is socially embedded, interest-driven, and oriented toward educational, economic, or political opportunity. Connected learning is realized when a young person is able to pursue a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career success or civic engagement. This model is based on evidence that the most resilient, adaptive, and effective learning involves individual interest as well as social support to overcome adversity and provide recognition. This report investigates how we can use new media to foster the growth and sustenance of environments that support connected learning in a broad-based and equitable way. This report also offers a design and reform agenda, grounded in a rich understanding of child development and learning, to promote and test connected learning theories.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is threefold: to describe the equity-oriented design of a publicly accessible and openly networked computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) initiative that has supported educator discussion about equity topics; to identify design principles for equity-oriented design in open education; and to propose a model for the design of open learning initiatives that are mutually committed to educational equity and educational openness. Design/methodology/approach This paper draws from design-based research methodology, specifically design narrative and the worked example. The paper is one response to the need for more “designerly work” in the learning sciences, generally, and more specifically in domains such as CSCL. Findings Four design principles are identified that informed the equity-oriented creation and iteration of the Marginal Syllabus, an open CSCL initiative: leveraging the open web, fostering multi-stakeholder partnerships, working with open content and engaging professional learning as an open practice. This paper also advances the open palimpsests model for equity-oriented design in open education. The model integrates design principles to assist CSCL and open education designers and researchers in creating or iterating projects to be more equity-oriented learning opportunities. Originality/value This paper’s design narrative identifies Marginal Syllabus design principles and advances the open palimpsests model for equity-oriented design in open education. The design narrative demonstrates how critical perspectives on the relationship between equity and digital technology can encourage collaboration among diverse project stakeholders, attune to the dynamics of power and agency and respond to the worldly needs of partners and participants.
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As an organiser of a conference it is hugely beneficial to capture the attention of your prospective audience months before the event itself. After all you want to fill seats. During the conference you want delegates to enjoy the event and encourage them to return the following year. Post conference, happy participants who go on to share the valuable knowledge they have gained through attending sessions and networking, can encourage others to attend the next event. For many years we have relied on word of mouth and email exchange. However the impact has to some degree been limited. This chapter will explore how social media has augmented traditional approaches and provided spaces for interactive and engaging dialogues, creating a ripple effect that can share experiences far wider than ever before. Not only is this useful for the conference organiser, it provides new communication channels for prospective participants, the conference speakers, and also the wider public. The chapter will consider: • Preconference preparation • During the conference • Post conference • Benefits for the participants • Benefits for the speakers Whilst the chapter won’t provide a step by step guide on how to use specific tools, it does include a Social Media Toolkit which includes links to the tools mentioned in the chapter and for each one a link to the associated help pages. https://brill.com/view/title/38686
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For much of my adult life I have been trying to locate myself in an academy which has often felt alien and isolating to me, forever trying to fit myself and my work within more ‘traditional’ academic teaching (Jackson, 2015). This has too often denied my own non-traditional, gendered and working-class entry into higher education, leading me to want to find ways to be ‘differently academic’ (Jackson, 2004) and to challenge ways of being and becoming academic through feminist and critical pedagogic approaches. If education is the practice of freedom (Freire, 1976; hooks, 1994), then whose freedom is being practiced; whose freedom is already perfected; and whose freedom is yet to come? Education is always a certain theory of knowledge put into practice, and it is therefore always political (Freire, 2004).
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Open online courses provide a unique opportunity to examine learner preferences in an environment that removes several pressures associated with traditional learning. This mixed methods study sought to examine the pathways that learners will create for themselves when given the choice between an instructor-directed modality and learner-directed modality. Study participants were first examined based on their levels of self-regulated learning. Follow-up qualitative interviews were conducted to examine the choices that participants made, the impact of the course design on those choices, and what role self-regulation played in the process. The resulting analysis revealed that participants desired an overall learning experience that was tailored to personal learning preferences, but that technical and design limitations can create barriers in the learning experience. The results from this research can help shape future instructional design efforts that wish to increase learner agency and choice in the educational process