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Open Technologies – Activity 22

Image by Kathleen Donovan

Write a short blog post suggesting one additional technology that is important for open education, either from the role of a learner or a provider. The technology can be one that has been significant, or one that you feel is going to become increasingly relevant.
What you include as a technology can be quite broad: for instance, it can be a general category (such as social networks), a specific service or a particular standard.
In your post briefly explain what the technology is, and then why you think it is important for open education. The emphasis should be on open education in particular, and not just education in general.

Personally I would choose social media as it has become my PLN (personal learning network) and an important way of getting and receiving support. Wikipedia defines social media as

the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.

There are many examples of social media, Facebook and Twitter for example, both of which I use. But for me G+ has become the most important and, I think, is perfect for open education. I find G+ to be a friendlier more supportive version of Facebook. I am a member of a couple of G+ communities created by students on MOOCs I am studying, and have created one myself. The Human-Computer Interaction MOOC community now has 365 members and is essential for asking questions about the course and assignments, providing additional resources and supporting each other. To me it is the common room at my old university where I spent time socialising with fellow students and working together on assignments or projects. Google hangouts give you the opportunity to speak “face to face” with colleagues.

This online network also helps me stick with my courses. I have taken about 10 so far and dropped out of two. Both of those involved courses where I wasn’t a member of any online community (from searches I made I couldn’t even see that there was one) and I didn’t have the sense of connection I normally had. Being part of these communities gives you a sense of belonging and I also had a feeling that I would be letting my peers down if I simply dropped out. Being part of a community also makes me feel that I have invested more and makes me think twice about dropping out. Given that MOOCs report such a high rate of students “dropping out” maybe this is a way of keeping more students engaged?

Some MOOCs have 50,000+ students enrolling on their courses. Admittedly the numbers do reduce as a course continues, but the numbers are still too high for one professor and a handful of teaching assistants to support students. Online communities can help as someone will always have the answer, and given its global appeal, 24 hours a day.

Online communities provide me with additional reading and links to useful and interesting sources of information. It means that when I log in each time I don’t know where my learning will take me.

To me online communities are what your tutors and peers were at college or university. You went to the lecture and did the exams. Meeting with other students and your tutor was not only essential but enhanced the experience.


  1. I am reposting this in the Inspiring Leadership G+ community.
    PS. where do you find your wonderful images?

  2. […] The second would be to use a social network (depending on class size this could be a particular network or students could choose the one they wish to use) (The research on social networks show that they provide a lot of benefits associated with informal learning (  and for anecdotal evidence see this blog post by a student on a mooc) […]

  3. Hi Nat, this post absolutely resonates with me. Google+ has been a revelation for me in terms of the friendly yet professional feel the Community interface gives. It’s also a great motivator to keep going, essential for open learning. You are right that it feels like a common room and a comfy safe space.

    • For me also, the combination of brain cell stimulation, subtle soft support and feeling of community has gotten me in gear on an important work project that had been in stall mode for way too long. Hopefully, when I am to the point of putting it out for review, I can get some helpful feedback to fill gaps weaknesses, and whatever-:) and the community will know that I will put out what ever help they need in return . I see this as the future of education starting from pre-school onward. This is my theme and am trying to get a script together for an animation of the future of open education for my #h817open Activity 25 badge. Screen writing is harder than I thought it would be-:)

  4. ingermariec says:

    Hi Nat
    I was going to write a tribute speech to G+ for activity 22, but you beat me to it. So I’ll just join in the chorus 😉

    I, too, really enjoy the professional, yet “intimate” atmosphere. The easy way of sharing and connecting. And then it’s very appealing visually. Colours and images invite you to explore and investigate. It’s a definite plus that you can engage on several levels: from lurking to + to comment. It seems like a tighter community, you’re not anonymous and there’s a gentle pressure to engage in and pursue the topics on the agenda. A good framework in open education.

    • Nat Nelson says:

      Oh I forgot to mention the sublime colours! Guess this makes us the official G+ appreciation society! I am considering giving up on FB as it leaves me cold. The problem is I have some friends who only use FB. I think short term I will just check it once in a while but focus on G+.

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