Another year, another E-Learn. Seems like only last year that I was blogging E-Learn 06. I'm blogging this during my third no-show of the day (and it is only day 1). This has always been a problem with AACE conferences and they don't seem to have solved it yet. Still a great place to meet great people though.
I've just been to an interesting presentation 'Am I Still Wiki: The Creeping Centralization of Academic Wikis' by Andrew Moshimia. He told the tale of a wiki used by kids in which constraints were gradually increased over the course of a year, starting with a loose requirement to post something relevant through to a tightly controlled, graded set of teacher-set exercises. Of course, by the time it is that controlled, it is no longer a wiki: just a publication medium controlled by the teacher and written by the students, albeit one which replaces automatic control mechanisms with manual ones.
The general message was that, if you want high quality and engagement then the wiki (or publication system) should be closed, graded and controlled, whereas if you want pride and creativity it should be open. Of three interventions, open, semi-open and closed, about a third of students liked each and (significantly) disliked both of the others. An issue of control, with some correlation between locus of control and preferences for open or closed, as you might expect.
The semi-open approach (broad grades, list of options to choose from) was slightly more popular than the others, which I would hypothesise would also relate to issues of control: people like freedom, but a bit of structure is good for learners who are still forming learning habits.
Interestingly, few if any saw it as a collaborative tool: of course not! A wiki (at least in its basic form) is a poor collaboration tool. It is far more about collective behaviour. There is little support in the tool for any parts of the communication process that are needed to collaborate.
At last year's E-Learn I reflected on the difference between my first WebNet in Hawaii and that one, particularly the differences that a continuous connection with the rest of the world had brought when compared with a few minutes in an email room. Now I work for Athabasca University and all of my teaching is online, the rest of my working life fits in every remaining gap. But of course, there are no gaps. I'm sure conferences used to be more fun.