DBR feedback please

My organisation has begun to embrace online learning in teaching, currently pre-course theory, primers, are starting to be delivered online. However, the development of these courses is guided by the teachers that are most interested in this environment. Further to this learners’ familiarity with online learning is widely varied as is their enthusiasm.

The breath of courses taught within my organisation is large, from practical skill based basic firefighting 1 to operational and strategic based courses that cover the management of a large bushfire incident.

As I suggested in my post ‘How NGL can inform my role as a teacher’ I suspect that the development of an operational gateway, an online environment, where participants of these higher-level operational courses can discuss tactics, policy and analyse real incidents could prompt a change in culture that embraces online learning.

Conversely, basic firefighting 1 is the first course that all firefighters take. By developing an engaging online course that covers firefighting theory and utilises NGL principles I can indoctrinate a new generation of fire fighters and normalise online learning, thereby shifting culture overtime.

Problem Statement

I need to identify at which level in the delivered courses framework would be best suited to develop an online course that incorporate and promotes NGL principles to best change organisational culture, fostering a positive attitude towards online learning.

Research Questions

  • Is it possible to utilise NGL principles to engage learners new to learning online?
  • What level of digital literacy do learners need to effectively learn online in a NGL environment?
  • How can technical and teaching staff support and encourage learners to utilise online environments effectively?

Literature Review

  • Teaching methodologies best aligned to NGL principles
  • Digital literacy
  • Creating enthusiasm in online learning
  • Organisational culture


The main intervention is development of an online course built with NGL principles in mind to support one of the learner groups mentioned above. The goal of which is to prompt enthusiasm for online learning environments and guide an organisational plan for future course development.


Ultimately an organisational culture shift in embracing online learning environments and utilising them in a way that aligns to NGL principles and not as a content repository. Ideally promoting the idea that utilising online environments is a preferred method of seeking, generating and sharing knowledge.


How NGL can inform my role as a teacher

As a teacher, NGL principles can inform my role by allowing me to create an environment where learning networks can be established. At present, NGL is not utilised in my organisation, analysing the courses currently taught I believe NGL principles would best fit in courses that teach incident management and operational principles. The students of these courses are familiar with using technology in their operational roles and as such, I believe they would be receptive to using technology and NGL principles if they can see a rationale.

Traditionally within the organisation many courses that teach practical skill acquisition use a didactic method. However, the didactic method does not translate well in a course intended to teach operation roles; teaching skills that involve high-level logistics planning, intelligence application, and large incident command. These roles require clear communication, critical thinking, and teamwork. Students of these courses need to seek out information from multiple sources and synthesise it for application in an operation setting. Typically, these courses are much more constructivist based; making sense of theory with ‘war stories’, however, students undertaking these courses are currently classroom bound after which they return to their geographically disperse locations. As such their discussions and meaning-making end when the class does.

By creating an online environment where students can discuss and apply the course material, my hope is that overtime a learning network will evolve. By creating an ‘operational online gateway’, for which membership is granted once a student has enrolled in the course and creating group-directed learning network around operational roles, policy, past operations the gateway may create a social-learning environment. The advantage of having a learning community develop in this way is that it becomes an organisational resource (Jarche, 2011).

Applying the SAMR model to this operational gateway idea I believe NGL principles could be introduced effectively with judicious use of technology.

S – Currently after-action reviews are conducted for the members involved in the operation to review and reflect, a product of these meetings is a ‘lesson learnt’ document is distributed. Substituting the meeting with an online environment, means greater flexibility in discussions; synchronous and asynchronous.

A – Augmenting this online environment, adding a repository of knowledge makes the environment a useful source of information for students.

M – Modifying the repository of information to a shared knowledge document like a wiki will help students generate knowledge. This would also allow capturing of tacit knowledge.

R – Redefining this membership and making the gateway open to the organisation, or perhaps the entire internet, could allow for incidental learning opportunities for visitors indirectly involved in operations; on the ground firefighters or the community.

As a teacher I can promote the idea of the PKM routine and make suggestions of technology that may work for students. Perhaps by placing a video on the LMS explaining how students can reflect on their PKM routine and by providing examples of technology that could be used in each step. I found understanding my PKM routine to a be a useful in planning my learning, the routine highlighted to me the tools and methods that I prefer, something that was previously a sub-conscious process. I think this framework can be applied more widely through courses in the organisation, however, it would be of specific value to courses where operations roles are required to search, sense and share knowledge (Jarche, 2014). However, there is a temptation is to transplant the tools and methods of my PKM routine and set it as a template for students. Socol’s toolbelt theory (Socol, 2008) re-iterates that the tools that worked for me in my context may not work for other students.

The two main limitations that will affect these two transformations; creating the operations gateway and promoting that individuals’ reflect on their PKM routine, I believe to be digital literacy and resistance to change.

I believe White and Le Cornu’s assertion that students’ participation in technology can be viewed through a lens of motivation, digital visitors and digital residents (White, D., & Le Cornu, A., 2011), is useful in understanding these limitations. I believe that digital literacy can be viewed as a motivation issue, if the student has an interest in utilising the technology then resources and facilitation will assist overcoming the barrier to entry. However, if the student doesn’t have an interest in utilising the technology, providing there are clear benefits, they may be resistant to change; this is to be expected at some point in the “dance of change” (Siemens, 2008). In my context, students learning about incident management are comfortable with parsing information from multiple technological information sources, the motivation to use this technology is to control the incident; to perform their role.

Considering this, as a teacher I believe that NGL principles can inform the creation of a gateway for students, I believe it will be perceived as a benefit in that it will assist students perform their role more effectively; acting as a repository of information, allowing access to practitioners and assist in reflective practice. Similarly, promoting the PKM routine to these same students may be beneficial in formalising in their mind their knowledge-seeking, sense-making, and sharing practices.


Jarche, H. (2014). What is your PKM routine? Retrieved 2 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2014/03/what-is-your-pkm-routine/

Jarche, H. (2011). Social Learning, Complexity and the Enterprise. Retrieved 8 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2011/04/social-learning-complexity-and-the-enterprise/

Siemens, G. (2008). New structures and spaces of learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism, and networked learning. Retrieved 9 September 2017, from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/systemic_impact.htm

White, D., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v16i9.3171

As a learner, participating in NGL was useful to me

As a learner, using NGL principles to learn about blockchain technology I did not achieve the objective I planned. This is not to say they weren’t useful, I do believe in hindsight that NGL principles will be useful as a learner next time I undertake a learning project. I have found that Kilgyte’s quote “the ultimate destination in exploring networked learning is most often not fully understood at the starting point of the journey” (Kilgyte, 2009, p541), rings true with regards to utilising NGL principles for the first time. During my learning journey I experienced liminality when re-defining my scope multiple times and often devoting time to features tangential to my main area of focus. Further to this I experienced filter failure and a high barrier to entry due to the jargon used in information sources that I chose. I attribute many of these issues to the Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) routine (Jarche, 2014) that I developed and the tool choices that accompanied it.

My objective was to learn about blockchain technology and develop a web application that utilises it. The process of creating that application was embedded as part of my CLEM schema; using familiar programming libraries as a model to implement my knowledge. Using Riel and Polin’s definitions for learning communities (Riel, M., & Polin, L., 2004) I identified that I would need to construct a task-based learning community around myself. As such I planned my tool use in line with my PKM routine in that my “learning goals [were] a part of the project” (Riel, M., & Polin, L., 2004, p38) and that it would “[end] with the completion of the product that reflects the learning” (Riel, M., & Polin, L., 2004, p39). With those tools I challenged myself to be more social through the PKM routine in the seeking, sensing and sharing stage, influenced by Jarche’s belief that “social learning is how groups work and share knowledge to become better practitioners” (Jarche, 2011).

Understanding and defining my PKM routine was an extremely useful exercise as a learner as it helped me plan my learning journey and define what tools I would use to undertake it. However, the plan, in terms of tool use, didn’t eventuate as expected. I found that the podcasts, blog posts and sub-reddits I selected where too high level to begin with; using jargon and discussing the bleeding edge of the technology. I believe my lack of understanding of the subject matter meant that I was unable to select appropriate tools and information sources. I had no filter, it all seemed relevant.

Further to this my scope of information sources was too broad, I searched for information in the bitcoin subreddit, subscribed to a blog about smart contracts and listened to podcasts about crypto-currency. Indicating that I was within the liminality threshold “shifting back and forth” across a messy terrain (Kilgyte, 2009, p541). These sources of information discussed blockchain technology as a mechanism to achieve the outcome of the applications, as such the information was more directed to the application not the technology that drives it; which was where my interest lay. I soon realised I needed to seek out a primer; videos or websites that explained the base-level knowledge.

The tools I selected were more prominent in my personal learning than my professional learning life, which if used in accordance with my PKM routine and learning plan would have created a more integrative learning network (Kilgyte, 2009). However, because I hadn’t previously used these tools in a social way I fell into my usual habits when using the tools rather than trying to create new habits that involved being more social. Typically, I share knowledge in person; explaining a concept to a friend, colleague or family member. If I want to know an answer to a question I search for the question that I want to ask, rather than simply asking it. Or if I can’t find a suitable version of my question I break the question down to its subsequent parts and search for those parts individually. Upon reflection as student of the NGL course I believe a blog would be an effective tool to make sense and share knowledge as a learner using an updated PKM routine.

My lack of social interaction was one factor to the feeling of isolation from the communities I found, I also believe it was also due to the tools I chose to use. If I had chosen a MOOC or online course I would have had a collection of other learners to seek, make sense and share with, a readymade cohort at the same or similar level of knowledge. This may have also prompted more social interaction in my PKM routine.

One of the tools I chose to use I hadn’t previously identified as a tool in my learning network even though I use it every day. I listen to podcasts daily whilst performing other activities: travelling, cooking, cleaning or gardening. My belief was that this tool that I frequently use would translate very well when trying to learn about the blockchain. However, the subject matter of my common podcasts, if not entertainment, are subjects that I’m intimately familiar with and as such the concentration level needed to understand the conversation is not that high. However, I found listening to a podcast about blockchain technology whilst performing another action was difficult. To the point where, while driving, I frequently caught myself not listening while a podcast was playing; rather, thinking about something else. I attribute this in part to cognitive overload and in part to the manner in which I used the tool. In a similar manner to my use of sub-reddits, when I had to use the tool in a way that I previously hadn’t I was unable to achieve the same outcome.

As a learner, NGL principles will be useful for me in the future. As a learner, I felt as though I was isolated learning about blockchain technology, my tool selection was poor and my PKM routine did not work for me. I may be more effective next time as a learner using NGL principles now that I know that blogs are a useful method for me to make sense and share knowledge.


Jarche, H. (2014). What is your PKM routine? Retrieved 2 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2014/03/what-is-your-pkm-routine/

Jarche, H. (2011). Social Learning, Complexity and the Enterprise. Retrieved 8 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2011/04/social-learning-complexity-and-the-enterprise/

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Same places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

Riel, M., & Polin, L. (2004). Online learning communities: Common ground and critical differences in designing technical environments. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 16–50). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

As a student, participating in NGL was useful to me

As a student of EDU8117 I found the structure of the Networked Global Learning (NGL) course to be challenging in comparison to previous courses I had taken. The impost to understand the course structure and expectation of engagement placed on leaners meant that for me the initial readings in the course blog were postponed until I had a grasp of what was needed of me. These expectations were: the method in which we were to learn the course material; initially using the course blog, to interact with each other; via comments in our own dispersed blogs, and to interact with our facilitator; via scheduled web meetings. As these activities occurred outside of the university Learning Management System (LMS) this was a daunting change for me. I have worked as a student and professionally with LMSs for many years and have constructed a ‘LMS’ toolbelt (Socol, 2008) to effectively achieve whatever learning outcome I’m faced with or task to be performed. Being removed from this environment where my LMS toolbelt was not useful was unexpected and challenging. Initially, this change of practice put me in a liminal space (Kligyte, 2009) as I searched for new technologies to manage my learning.

To this end I appreciated the open nature of the course, the course blog was available in its entirety and previous student blogs were also available to review. I found reviewing the paths that previous students had taken helped in creating my own plan, it helped with selecting which subject would be appropriate and what technology previous students had used in collating the multitude of information sources. Downes mentions openness as a feature of a network (Downes, S. 2007) and I believe is of vital importance for the integration of a course with NGL principles. I believe having an open course encourages inquiry and exploration that is not impeded by time released materials, time releasing is a wall, an “assertion of exclusivity” (Downes, S. 2007).

Similarly seeing other course members blogs was useful in understanding that I was not alone in my uncertainty of how to progress. Further to this, discussing the course subject matter with students who were undertaking a similar journey was useful, for me it helped define our community’s shared purpose (Riel and Polin, 2004). Conversely, as a learner I was tackling my subject matter alone and the contrast was stark. As a student, I would share videos I found to be useful or comment on other students’ blogs and they did the same, as a learner I found it difficult to find peers who were learning the same material and as such I was unable to build a toolbelt with submissions from others or feel a sense of community. The tools I used as a learner came from my own experience and knowledge but the tools and resources I used as a student of the course were gathered with input from other students in the course; the uptake of Lauren’s knowledge mapping software for example. I wasn’t alone as a student in the course in the same way I was as a learner, I was able to comment on other blogs, talk in web-meetings, share resources, and get a feel for others’ progress. We didn’t interact as much as we could have, other students pointing out that we were a the group and more reminiscent of a task-based community however I think the requisite potency of the defining characteristics can be subjective.

The use of a blog to reflect on weekly readings and other course materials was a useful tool for me. On reflection, this method for creating and sharing knowledge has become a new tool in my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) routine (Jarche, 2014), one I hadn’t previously identified. The threshold concept of irreversibility (Kilgyte, 2009) does ring true with regards to using blogging, or at least journaling, as a mechanism for making sense. The journaling part of the blog was a suitable method of making sense of the course material and the comments were a useful method of sharing information. However, as the blogs were dispersed and as a cohort we hadn’t developed the network literacy to interact in this discursive network (Kilgyte, 2009) I believe that network cohesion was dampened when comments throughout the network were not forthcoming. As Goodyear suggests “trust and information sharing give networks the advantage of resilience in times of change” (Goodyear, 2014, p25), I believe that overall we were slow in sharing information via blog comments and our resilience suffered. Considering this for future implementation some facilitation is needed with regards to getting student in interact with each other. This was done in the course with weekly activities and requiring linking to other student’s blog posts but in my teacher context it will need to be couched in technology recommendations.

Bearing in mind Downes’ definitions of a network needing a facilitation, I believe the web meetings were designed to allow us to discuss our common issues, to create an environment for “mutual exchange of value” (Downes, S. 2007). This environment also provided an avenue for accidental and serendipitous learning (Jarche, 2011) by having the facilitator prompt us for our context. However, I believe that the meetings needed more participants for the conversation to flow. Removing the synchronous nature of the question and answer session and asking students to post their questions prior to the web meeting. Might allow for a larger gamut of questions could be asked, thereby increasing the chance of serendipitous learning.

Overall, as a student, participation in NGL was useful to me as I found that blogging to be a useful method for creating and sharing knowledge. Participating as a student made it clear to me that NGL principles work best when material is open. Furthermore, that a student’s familiarity, or lack of, with technology can cause confusion and obfuscation of the bigger learning journey when working in an NGL environment.


Downes, S. (2007). Groups vs Networks: The Class Struggle Continues. Retrieved 16 August, 2017, from http://www.downes.ca/post/42521

Goodyear, P. (2014), Productive Learning Networks.  The Evolution of Research and Practice. In Carvalho, L. & Goodyear, P. (Eds.), The Architecture of Productive Learning Networks. (pp. 23-47). New York: Routledge.

Jarche, H. (2014). What is your PKM routine? Retrieved 2 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2014/03/what-is-your-pkm-routine/

Jarche, H. (2011). Social Learning, Complexity and the Enterprise. Retrieved 8 September, 2017, from http://jarche.com/2011/04/social-learning-complexity-and-the-enterprise/

Kligyte, G. (2009). Threshold concept: A lens for examining networked learning. In Same places, different spaces. Proceedings ascilite Auckland 2009. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/kligyte-poster.pdf

Riel, M., & Polin, L. (2004). Online learning communities: Common ground and critical differences in designing technical environments. In S. A. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.), Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning (pp. 16–50). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Socol, I. (2008). Toolbelt Theory for Everyone. Retrieved 27 August, 2017, from http://speedchange.blogspot.com.au/2008/05/toolbelt-theory-for-everyone.html