#PLENK2010 Asynchronous Participation

In the last Plenk week, a major topic was the participation. Alan Cooper said:

“I don’t think it’s really shyness that leads some of us to prefer asynchronous communication.”

For me, asynchronous participation is probably the single greatest affordance of networked learning, because it offers a unique combination of features that were previously never possible simultaneously:

  • slow reflection like when reading a book, and
  • quick reactivity, almost like in oral exchanges.

In the face-to-face classrooms of my own school time, the relentless urge for “participation” was an urge for oral discussions that were inevitably shallow and mostly boring.

Asynchronous discussions like in blogs or forums, by contrast, can be far more motivating, in particular when there is a large diversity to pick from.

For both forums and blogs in Plenk, there were two major options of how to read them and pick from. Forums could be either read online via the browser, or subscribed into your inbox, and blogs could either be retrieved from the Daily, or read in one’s own RSS reader. For me, these options are so radically different that I would be very curious to know which participants chose which options. (I wonder if the various surveys and research projects will unearth these behaviours.) Chris Jobling nicely expresses a view that I share:

“The bottom line is, that I don’t usually like going some where to interact. This forum is a rare exception.”

I prefer reading the forum online (because I hate an overcrowded inbox) but I like to pick my blog readings from my local RSS reader. Picking the Plenk posts from among the other posts that the participants wrote during this ten weeks was a little extra effort but it was very interesting to get a sense of their contexts.

It seems, however, that few people favored this method of importing the feed list (OPML) into one’s own reader. Nobody complained that the OPML was rarely updated, and so I did not, either (although Stephen explicitly suggested this last time). Probably, RSS as a tool for end users is really dying, and is superseded by Twitter as vehicle for announcing resources? This would, sadly, reverse the move to the asynchronous, because the hectic speed of Twitter favors a more synchronous trend.

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3 Responses to #PLENK2010 Asynchronous Participation

  1. Hi Matthias,
    I resonate with your views, as I am more used to slow reflection after a few rounds of MOOC. I prefer reading the forum online too, though I also wish to participate more in the forum. I was sick for a while during PLENK and so I just blogged instead. I also need to think about what I could contribute before joining the forum, rather than engaging in the conversation for the sake of presence, too boring?
    Thanks for making me think.

  2. Heli Nurmi says:

    I like this pondering. The quality of reflection is the key, perhaps we understand it some day

  3. Alan Cooper says:

    Hi Matthias,
    I didn’t import the OPML because I relied on the gRSShopper extraction of relevant posts in the Daily – (but I definitely do not look forward to having Twitter displacing RSS as a tool for end users!).
    With regard to the forums, I found that the feed only seemed to show the creation of new discussions and not subsequent comment activity and I would have preferred not having to go back and check them all (and I think I did miss a lot through failing to do so).
    I don’t mind using email subscription as well as RSS but my habit is to scan through both and open the items of interest in tabs on my browser and that’s often where things bog down. So I do need better tools and strategy for organizing materials and workflow.
    Thanks for raising these questions and I share your hope that some of the research around this course will look for patterns in how these choices were made.

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