As a student, participation in NGL was useful for me?

Networked learning, as Connectivism suggests, is as much about acquiring meta-skills in learning as it is about the learning itself. In the absence of a teacher role, this typically means that the networked learner must discover sources of inspiration from within the network through role models, or discover the learning design in some other way. (Dron & Anderson, 2014: Ch.5 online version).

The Dron & Anderson quote highlights my learning from Networked and Global Learning course and paradoxically my frustrations with the ‘delivery’ of the course. The lack of learning design and teacher presence have caused me (and the other students) no end of pain, whilst paradoxically enabling me to create my own learning network, although not per se for the course. More so participation in Networked and Global Learning course was useful to me in understanding what networked learning is, and how I can use it to be a lifelong learner.

I learnt that networked learning is a decentralised way of learning. Not everything is taught by the teacher within the structure of the institution. Networked learning recognises that an active, self-directed exchange with places, people, situations, communities and content outside the ‘school’ environment is just as much part of learning (Dron & Anderson, 2014). Networked learning is particularly enabled by the internet as a medium to create and distribute content and connect people to people and content (“Networked learning”, 2016; Ehlers, 2013). In addition, networked learning explicitly addresses the sharing of experiences of the learning process and independently creating one’s own learning network (Ehlers, 2013).

It has to be noted, that networked learning has occurred throughout human history via our social, family and work networks without necessarily being part of an educational setting (Carvalho & Goodyear, 2014). The NGL course has attempted to instill networked learning via its instructional design. “How a person learns a particular set of knowledge and skills, and the situation in which a person learns, become a fundamental part of what is learned” (Putnam & Borko, 2000: p.4). Connectivism (Siemens, 2005) was used as a model for the the design of the learning environment that is delivered via the blog entitled An Experiment in Networked and Global Learning. The use of ‘new’ learning tools (blogs, feed aggregators, shared annotations) to find and filter information as well as allowing students to build connections by creating and sharing knowledge on their own blogs (Siemens, 2005; Kop & Hill, 2008).

David Jones (2016) stated in an Overview/intro to EDU8117 – Networked and Global Learning online session that:


This is certainly how the NGL course has been delivered. The role of the teacher, David, was mostly to model network learning behaviour, via his personal blog and the course blog in which he made connections to past student blogs, literature, people and communities. He also demonstrated how to use the tools that enable connections such as Feedly, WordPress and Diigo.

Apart from understanding what networked learning is and having experienced a version of it via the NGL course, the irony is that the course sits within traditional course structure with its roles and deadlines negating some of the benefits of networked learning, especially that of learner freedom. At the same time too much freedom has caused enormous frustrations for students within the course (Spangler; Martlew; Murray; Cassano, 2016).

Too many options, especially in a learning context where we may have little idea about appropriate tools, methods, content, or individuals from which to learn, can make it very difficult to choose between one path or another, and may leave the learner in a worse position for control than if he or she had no choice at all. (Dron & Anderson, 2014: Ch.5 online version)

Natalie echos some my feelings about partaking in the course:

“I have found this course somewhat chaotic, with many concepts and theories presented in a non-intuitive order (from my perspective only). I have completed other courses, where I haven’t had trouble following the learning; and in these courses, I haven’t felt a strong need to connect face-to-face.“ (Natalie: 2016)

Dron & Anderson (2014) suggest a number of freedoms in networked learning that can be either advantageous or damaging to learning. These freedoms are time, medium, technology, relationship, method, pace, content, place, disclosure and delegation.


Notional cooperative freedoms in a network
(Dron & Anderson, 2014: Ch.5 online version)

In the table below I will outline how the NGL course performed on suggested freedoms that are normally part of networked learning and that have impacted on my and other students’ participation in the course.

Freedoms (10)

(Dron & Anderson, 2014)

Performance of NGL course

😊=good (2) 😑=neutral (4) =needs work (4)


“the availability of other people determines when and how participants might learn.”

Other students/teachers did not respond in a timely manner to blog posts. Limited to institution’s semester time. Too much time spent to learn what networked learning is.

Place 😊

Could be accessed anywhere, any device with internet connection using various technologies (mobile, Feedly, Diigo).


“connectivist models place a great deal of emphasis on members of a network being contributors and creators rather than consumers”

Small amount of students participating and slow start meant there was not much participant content. Content provided was mainly of the read/write type and thus did not necessarily align with the learning needs of students. The content on the course blog could be updated for greater relevance to the new students.


Individual creates their own learning path

Students did not know subject matter well enough to ask questions of others in the network. Students were hesitant in their new role of creating their own learning path. They did not know this is what they were meant to do.


“Within a network we choose how, when, and whether to engage with others, without any constraints beyond that those we engage with must be, by definition, part of the network.”


The course tried to ‘enforce’ relationships by asking students to link to other students (limited number) and others. Freedom was taken away by making it part of assessment to do this. Few students and different background meant that connections were tenuous.

Medium 😊

Ability to choose any medium to supplement learning and suit learning style was evident in all participant’s posts.


“The only constraints on the choice of technology in network-based learning are that the tools and processes we use must facilitate connection.”


Encouraged to use freely available tools, in particular to move away from the learning management system. The course was run via a blog and students’ assessment is linked to the creation of their own blog posts. This has proved beneficial to creating a personal learning network. However, technical issues with the use of Diigo, student’s blogs being added to the OPML file for Feedly, automated blog analysis and learning new technologies was particularly hard on students in the first few weeks of the course.


“Networks are very good for surfing ideas, following paths wherever they may lead, going on tangents, and connecting disparate ideas and skills, but to follow intentionally focused paths they are more limited.”


Learning path was always unclear and has caused frustration. Could have been improved by scaffolding students into networked learning. A lot of time was wasted trying to discover the learning path. Course content, method and assessment did not change to suit the current students.


Blog posts were slow in appearing and being noticed. Learning in a semester based course with assessment deadlines makes this type of learning less suitable to a ‘traditional’ course. Perhaps it would be better as an ‘add-on’ (Ehlers, 2013).

Disclosure 😑

Reluctance to reveal one’s identity and lay public reflections. Considerable time commitment when writing blog post due to posting for others as opposed to the pure self reflection of a personal journal.

Shift happens

Overall, I think that the NGL course has been beneficial for me to establishing lifelong learning habits, in particular creating one’s own personal/professional learning network and identity. However, achieving this valuable conclusion through means of the NGL course has not been an easy task due to the extensive time commitment necessary to write blog posts and feeling lost most of the time without any support. To improve the course, I strongly agree with Natalie’s analogy of a host at a party, who not only enables online socialisation but also scaffold students into networked learning.



Carvalho, L., & Goodyear, P. (2014). The architecture of productive learning networks. New York: Routledge.

Cassano, N. (2016). Nat8117. Retrieved from

Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching Crowds: Learning & Social Media. Edmonton: AU Press, Athabasca University.

Ehlers, U. D. (2013). Open learning cultures. A Guide to Quality, Evaluation, and Assessment for Future Learning. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. Retrieved from

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. Retrieved from

Martlew, A. (2016). Networked and Global Learning Blog. Retrieved from

Murray, M. (2016). Global Education Matters. Retrieved from

Nat8117 (2016) As a student, participation in NGL has been useful for me. Retrieved from

Networked learning. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved 1 August, 2016, from

Putnam, R. T., & Borko, H. (2000). What do new views of knowledge and thinking have to say about research on teacher learning? Educational Researcher, 29(1), 4-15.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from

Spangler, A. (2016). Adam does NGL. Retrieved from

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