Christian Dalsgaard and Morten Flate Paulsen, in the paper "Transparency in Cooperative Online Education", (22 pages) (retrieved January 9, 2010) try to answer to the question: What is the potential of social networking within cooperative online education?
Since the abstract explains their purpose better than I, here it is:
“The purpose of this article is to discuss the following question: Social networking does not necessarily involve communication, dialogue, or collaboration. Instead, the authors argue that transparency is a unique feature of social networking services. Transparency gives students insight into each other’s actions. Cooperative learning seeks to develop virtual learning environments that allow students to have optimal individual freedom within online learning communities. This article demonstrates how cooperative learning can be supported by transparency. To illustrate this with current examples, the article presents NKI Distance Education’s surveys and experiences with cooperative learning. The article discusses by which means social networking and transparency may be utilized within cooperative online education. In conclusion, the article argues that the pedagogical potential of social networking lies within transparency and the ability to create awareness among students”.
The authors argue that transparency is important to online education, as a prerequisite for distance students to work cooperatively. They believe that transparency enables students to be visible to each other as potential partners and resources.
I’d like to focus my comment on the relation between transparency and cooperative learning. The pedagogical potential of transparency lies within developing social networks in which students’ activities are visible (whose privacy is assured) to other students. We learn that “cooperative learning and a socio-cultural approach provide a strong motive for support of transparency between students”. Maybe with the condition that all students on distance education should contribute to the learning community, either with high quality contributions or with low quality contributions, be visible as potential partners and resources for others. That’s the challenge.
The use of social software (blogs, wikis, social networking sites, RSS and social bookmarking) by the learning community is discussed also in the paper, not only to understand how users produce, share and refine information of mutual interest, but how it could be used to strengthen affinity between students. For example, if a personal tool like del.icio.us is available to others, this way it supports transparency and become social, because students can connect to and subscribe to the personal tools of other students. Thus, social networking is a pedagogical cooperative supplement within a virtual learning community.
I agree that creating awareness among students is a good pedagogical thought, because on online education is important that students be motivated to work together with someone that they will hardly meet face-to-face ever. Arguing in favor that transparency might support cooperative learning between students, that it has a pedagogical potential within a virtual learning community is a great contribution to debate the challenges of online education.