Levels of Scaffolding

The first blog post I wrote as an EDCMOOC student shared the scaffolding I put in place around myself as a learner in order to avoid dropping out of the course. I am happy to report that I stayed engaged the whole time and am ready for more MOOC’ing! Last week, Peter Taylor, left the following comment on my scaffolding post:

A blog post on different levels of scaffolding, http://wp.me/p1gwfa-sK
The first level is the one we think of in education, but I’d be interested to hear discussion on how that kind of scaffolding in MOOCs could lead to the other levels
[“1. Someone starts with a final structure in mind and provide the workers (or students) a safe scaffolding they use to complete the structure (or students come to understand the ideas and be proficient in the practices)…..”]

I am not an expert on scaffolding (I’ll leave that my colleague Kimberly Scott and others like Peter). However, I do think Peter’s question is an interesting one. How might the kind of scaffolding that I describe in the #EDCMOOC – Week 1 Scaffolding to Avoid Dropping Out post lead to the other levels of scaffolding that Peter describes for MOOC participants? But also, how does the scaffolding put in place by the instructors and other course participants enhance learners experiences and help them go deeper?

When I read Peter’s Scaffolding post, Level 3 stuck out for me. I’ll come back to levels 4 and 5 – need some more thinking time on those.

3. Someone (or someones) has (have) a synergistic cooperative or collaborative situation in mind—drawn from past experience and current understanding—and provides scaffolding to more than one group of workers (potential cooperators) to lead them towards a place where, if and when the groups meet, their interaction creates more than the sum of the parts. That is, like two sides of a bridge joining in a stable arch, the resulting situation is something no group could provide for itself (see strategic participatory planning)

In the Voice Thread group I’ve been part of during the EDCMOOC, we have been discussing ideas for ways to support various types of MOOC learners — how to provide scaffolding — so that individuals can meet their personal learning goals whatever they might be. I think that the EDCMOOC team at the University of Edinburgh definitely had a synergistic cooperative situation in mind, this EDCMOOC, and provided scaffolding to all of us which led us to all sorts of places where we met up and interacted. And from my own personal experience the interactions I’ve had with both the Voice Thread group and the group of #edcmchat students in the live Twitter chats have produced interactions and content that is much more than the sum of the parts.

So what does the scaffolding look like that produces the outcome described in Peter’s level 3 scaffolding? In the case of this particular MOOC, some of the ways that the teaching team provided scaffolding to foster 1 + 1 = 4 outcomes are listed below:

  • Designed a final assessment that is peer-reviewed instead of instructor-reviewed. This meant that in some cases people were forming groups or using existing social media communities to share their work prior to submitting. My Voice Thread group, for example, had a Google+ Hangout well before the due date of the final assignment where we shared drafts of the digital artifact and conducted a peer review that helped us iterate and tweak our final submissions.
  • Encouraged various ways of connecting with other students and course content. While there was a Coursera discussion area, it was not frowned upon if particular students, like me, wanted to interact on Twitter, Google+ or other places. In fact, it was encouraged (even though this makes the measurement of a MOOC difficult). In the two Google+ hangouts hosted by the teaching team, they answered questions on Google+ and Twitter — they met the participants where we were, not where the teaching team deemed we should be.
  • Directed participants to various groups to facilitate connecting with other students. During the second Google+ hangout, Christine Sinclair, spent some time talking about various groups  that were forming, specifically the Over 60 group. Jen Ross shared the EDCMOOC Voice Thread group with others in a blog post.

I also think that in a MOOC, the teachers/facilitators themselves are actually not able to provide all the scaffolding. Participants start emerging who provide some of this scaffolding. For example, Ary Aranguiz started the #edcmchat Twitter chat which was not part of the course design. Ary along with other Twitter chat hosts AndyDMMitchell, Eleni Zazani , and @kmallwein (list not meant to be comprehensive – many others played a role) did an excellent job of including Twitter newbies in the conversation with tweets like this one:

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 10.37.03 AM

Felicia Sullivan artfully provided scaffolding by being a quiet leader in the Voice Thread conversation. She seeded the conversation with a prompt and then replied quickly to member’s comments throughout the course, keeping us coming back for more!

But this is my experience. What are your thoughts on this topic?

  1. What are other kinds of scaffolding that could be used in future MOOCs to facilitate this kind of cooperation and collaboration amongst and between groups?
  2. Who was left out despite these various scaffolding methods?
  3. Were there things that didn’t work for you?
  4. Have you seen examples in other MOOCs where scaffolding was not put in place or didn’t naturally emerge? What happened?

photo credit: pni via photopin cc

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9 thoughts on “Levels of Scaffolding

  1. margrethj

    I was intrigued to see the number of self-organizing structures that appeared in the MOOC.

    I appreciated that the course seemed to appeal to a variety of people with varying levels of experience with e-learning, MOOCs, and philosophy of technology.

    There were also multiple entry points and levels of participation. So, you could get as much as you wanted from the course or skip things you didn’t find engaging without feeling like you were getting behind. There was organic differentiation in that sense.

    The emergent aspects (twitter chats, blogs, etc) I found more useful than the “official ” course discussion forum which became a mess and a lot of posts on similar topics. Not sure what that means other than we may see better formats that discussion forums emerging for interactions.

    Reply
    1. Sorokti Post author

      Thanks for your comments. I like this term ‘organic differentiation’! There is a blog post in there somewhere.

      I also stayed away from the discussion boards on Coursera. May be because I have a bias against LMS discussion boards after battling with Blackboard for several years. One of the things that I think is so important is to have profile pictures appear next to posts in any online environment. I just don’t engage as much when I can’t see an avatar/picture there and click into a profile to see who is “talking”.

      In the MSLOC program we moved off of Blackboard for online discussion/interaction and now use Jive Software (private enterprise social network), Google+, and Twitter for our program online social collaboration/discussion/knowledge sharing.

      Reply
  2. Sorokti Post author

    Andy Mitchell ‏@AndyDMMitchell just tweeted this in response to this blog post:

    @sorokti @kmallwein @EleniZazani It also helps to have innovators who appear at certain times… Amy, Ary & pre-course Eric Clark etc

    Great point! I almost included Amy Burvall’s Digital Viking blog post as an example of something created by a MOOC participant that provided scaffolding even though that probably wasn’t the intent. Her post helped me get over my fear of blogging and I kept going back to it during my time in the course. See: http://amysmooc.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/why-we-need-digital-vikings-edcmooc/

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Levels of Scaffolding | eLearning and Digital Cultures | Scoop.it

  4. Felicia M. Sullivan

    Keeley, since my background isn’t in education, I tend to think of these issues in terms of engagement and community building. The questions that kept coming to my mind during the EDCMOOC and the conversations with you and others, was how do I make sense of all of thee interesting ideas, how do if find folks to connect to, how would I facilitate the coming together of others towards collective action and / or sensemaking of the collective intelligence in an environment like this.

    At the same time, I’ve been working through how concepts of self-organization (http://www.feliciasullivan.net/?p=113) apply to community-based settings, including those in the virtual and online worlds. I think some of these concepts would apply to the EDCMOOC as well. I’ve tried to map them out here (http://www.feliciasullivan.net/?p=563).

    What I continue to ponder is the question you captured in item #2 — who was left out? I’m not so concerned with folks who lurked or chose to disengaged as a result of time constraints or competing priorities, but rather those how were left out because of they were: 1) lost / overwhelmed; 2) lacked key skills; 3) suffered from low confidence in abilities; or 4) didn’t even know about the MOOC or didn’t have adequate access.

    It seems to me that at least the first group couple be addressed by making visible and providing adequate directions to all one the varied ways in which to be engaged. Some of those in group 2) might be able to be addressed in the MOOC or some pre-MOOC activity, but the more complex and fundamental skills (e.g. information processing, goal setting, etc) seem to call on some more systemic efforts. Those in group 3) also might be able to be addressed through tone and other efforts within a MOOC but also seem like 2) part of longer term educational and personal development efforts. Part of 4) could be addressed through increased outreach, but again larger system considerations would seem to prevail.

    Sorry to go on so much here, but you’ve prompted my thinking here. As always, thanks.

    Reply
    1. Sorokti Post author

      I’m sure I thought of question #2 as a result of the conversations we’ve had during this EDCMOOC! I’m afraid we won’t have great answers to this question because we won’t hear from the people who are left out. So how do we find them? Thanks for this thoughtful reply (as always!) – must tuck my kiddos into bed so will come back to this soon.

      Reply
  5. Pingback: Self-Organization in the #EDCMOOC | Felicia M. Sullivan

  6. Pingback: On how #edcmooc did a cmooc on Coursera | Doing by Learning (and vice versa)

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