Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog

October 11, 2008

Network Control via Grades

Filed under: Week 5 — lisahistory @ 8:20 pm

This week we were asked to deal with specific questions in our blog: “Have you Have you begun to see the rudiments of a learning network forming? Has some of the conceptual uncertainty settled?”

I’m not sure I ever had any “conceptual uncertainty”, or if I did, it certainly hasn’t been debilitating. But the first question is more complex. Some networking has occurred in this class because the structures set up, and the reading assigned, allow for a rich communication experience via blogs, Moodle forums, and others. I am having trouble seeing the class “members” as forming a “learning network”, however. At least, it’s not a network in the ideal connection-based form suggested by this week’s readings, including Groups vs Networks, and Downes’ comments in the Friday Elluminate session.

We may in fact be a just a group, because we have leaders (Stephen and George). Although these leaders are very open and do not necessarily try to control the conversation, they are still leaders. Thus, as I questioned in the Moodle forum this week, the network ideal (and idyll) is being subverted by the group, which I think happens a lot. I’m coming to a position where there is an ideal, and an operational reality, that are often in opposition when it comes to defining types of connections.

In the case of those of us who are being graded (formally enrolled students) the ideal more markedly differs from the operational reality. Referring to George Siemen’s presentation this week, there is a “coercion to the norm” (a “sameness”, according to Downes) implied by the marking scheme. I am an autonomous agent, and yet my grade will be dependent on my performance through elements (and levels of achievement) determined by the instructors. These elements may not reflect my total learning experience in this course. For example, a mere 10% for all my blog posts seems very low; 40% is based on, essentially, for big posts or “papers”. 20% for a concept map that reflects the entire course does not reflect how I learn. And 30% for the final project implies that I should start working on that right now instead of writing this post. I have thus lost autonomy as a learner, and am experiencing similar frustration as my students must experience with my own class grading schemes.

I am uncertain whether our instructors’ goals, in offering this course, are more on the freedom (high innovation) or the control (for achievement of particular outcomes). The course seems to have a particular outcomes for them in terms of research they may be doing on this type of course and on connectivism and networks. As the learner, I would prefer to restructure the grading scheme to actually reflect my learning (for example, grading my understanding of the subject in terms of an aggregate of *all* my work, at 100%). So perhaps there is a network forming, and I’m just a discontented node.



  1. <>

    That is a great point Lisa. This is the one place where I have trouble – how does one operationalize the concept of networks without some group like characteristics being blended in? Educators face more challenges than just the teaching and assessment process. They have to deal with all kinds of logistics and institutional aims as well.

    Comment by Viplav Baxi — October 12, 2008 @ 3:13 am

  2. Lisa,

    Thought provoking post. I’ve been thinking about this also. The biggest issue I see with networked learning is that you can’t really effectively create a network for learning without assuming some level of control. I guess an instructor could just say…”go off and learn”. But, the structure is needed if the goal is to meet pre-identified learning objectives. (Is that even necessary?) It seems to me that a student-created contract would be a better way to assess a course like this. But, it would have to be a flexible contract because student needs would change as the course progresses. For example, my contract would look different today than it looked at the beginning of the course. It would also be a lot more work for the instructors. Maybe we have to look at the course as a kind of lab environment. It’s not a perfect representation of a “real world” network. But, it may provide enough of an example to reflect the concepts we’re trying to grasp.

    Comment by Wendy Drexler — October 12, 2008 @ 10:54 pm

  3. […] When I read Developing Online From Simplicity toward Complexity: Going with the Flow of Non-Linear Learning , I liked the openness of the course structure, but immediately wondered student learning was assessed.  Lisa Lane also writes about being graded/marked in CCK08. […]

    Pingback by CCK08 - Assessment/Marking and Networks OR Do you Trust Your Grade to the Cloud? « An Education and Technology Blog — October 15, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

  4. […] builds on my previous critique-y posts Environmental Engineering and Course Critique (week 9) and Network Control via Grades (week 5). Except for the first one, they are about form rather than […]

    Pingback by Course Recommendations: Revamping a MOOC « Lisa’s CCK08 Wordpress Blog — November 29, 2008 @ 7:54 am

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