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N is for Network Theory

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  • Jakob Nielsen

  • Networks (Network Theory)

  • Netiquette

If you've been involved in web design for any length of time then you'll have come across Jakob Nielsen; I still treasure my 1999 copy of 'Web Usability' because it takes a scientific approach to web design - making web pages intuitively easy to use. A decade on and Nielsen's work has grown into a substantial and significant web usability consultancy.

'Netiquette' embraces all the behaviours and misbehaviours that have arisen as a result of paramount connectedness on the Web; what we see and do reflects human society on a global scale. Spam, porn, hacking, flash mobs, freedom of speech, libel, privacy ... 

Network Theory embraces many aspects of understanding who we are and how we behave in a way that can exploit the 'Big Data' offered in the 21st century. It is a smarter way to study what is going on in our heads, in society and online. 

 

 

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Use of video in elearning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 06:34

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What role does video play in elearning? What role does AV or video play in digital communications?

A simple question shared on Linkedin and picked up by a West End Production company led to my joining four producers for what became a two hour conversation yesterday. I based this conversation around a mindmap created in Bubbl.us, something a fellow MAODE student introduced me to over a year ago. (We were comparing tools, such as Compendium, for creating visualisations of learning designs).

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I had thought about dripping ink into a glass of water to make a point: that digital content dripped into a digital ocean quickly dilutes, that binary code of text, images, video and sound can be melted down and mashed up in many ways. I wonder if an ice-cube in a G&T would have served the same purpose?

It is of course a metaphor, the suggestion that anything goes and anything can happen.

(I find these mind maps a far easier way to share ideas. It is non-linear. It is an aide-memoir. I'd put it online in Picasa and in a blog rather than printing off. I had expectations of calling it up on a huge boardroom screen, instead we struggled with a slow download in an edit suite. Sometimes only a print out would do. There wasn't an iPad amongst them either).

We discussed the terms 'e-learning' and even 'e-tivities' acknowledging that as digital activity is part of the new reality that online it is just 'learning' and that an 'activity' is best described as such.

Video online can be passive, like sitting back and watching a movie or TV. To become an activity requires engagement, sitting forward, and in most cases tapping away at a keyboard (though increasingly swiping across a touch screen).

'Sit Back' or 'Sit Forward' are phrases I recall from the era of 'web-based learning' a decade ago, even interactive learning on Laser Disc and DVD in the early 1990s.

There is science behind it, that learning requires engagement if stuff is to stick: watching a video, or a teacher/lecture is likely to be too passive for much to meaningful. The crudest activity is to take notes (and subsequently to write essays and be examined of course).

Here I am saying 'anything goes' that a piece of video used in learning may be short or long, with limited production values or 'the full monty', the kind of conference opener or commercial that are cinematic with production values and costs to match. We differentiated between 'User Generated Content' and 'DIY', between the amateur working alone and someone being guided through the craft skills of narrative story telling using video. I cited various examples and our our plans to bring alumni together over a weekend, to introduce TV production skills, hand out cameras and a sound kit (though some would bring their own), then based on responses to a creative brief, a synopsis and treatment, even a simple script, they would go away and shot then edit something. These pieces should have a credibility and authenticity as a result.

The kind of outputs include the video diary and the 'collective' montage with contributions from around the world linked with some device. A recording (with permission) of a web conference may meet the same criteria, embedded on a dashboard to allow for stop, stop, replay. A couple of other forms of 'user generated content' were mentioned, but neither taking notes nor recording the meeting I have forgotten. I use the negative expression 'corporate wedding video' for the clips that can be generated by teams who haven't had the training, or lack the craft skills.

For the presentation I had spun through a dozen video pieces and grabbed screens as I went along, key moments in the presentation or some trick or approach that I liked to illustrate a point: text on screen, humour, slip-ups denoting authenticity and so on. Put online and embedded in a blog these images were a form or mashup. The images could be collated on Flickr. Whilst a piece of video on YouTube can be embedded anywhere a person wants it, this content in various ways can be reincorporated. Not a bad thing if links of some kind are retained. Providing a transcript and stills are ways to facilitate quoting from the piece, for getting the conversation going on a social platform. This depends of course on the client brief, whether there is a wish, let alone permission, supported by the right Creative Commons choices, to see content shared.

We discussed external and interal communications, the difference between content for the Internet or an Intranet.

We also discussed the likelihood of people to participate in this way. I like the simple split between 'Digital Visitors' and 'Digital Residents', between those who look and those who touch, those who observe from time to time, compared to those who take an active role. I quoted Jakob Neilsen and his 95:4:1 ratios between those online who simple browse or observer (what used to be pejoratively called lurking), those who rate, like or comment and the 1% who create the content.

Forrester Research have taken this further though this isn't something I took them through:

  • Creator
  • Conversationalist
  • Critic
  • Collector
  • Joiner
  • Spectator
  • Inactive

 

Forrester%2520Research%2520LADDER.JPG

 

REFERENCE

Salmon, G (2002) The key to active learning online. (accessed 24th March 2012) https://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde8/reviews/etivities.htm

 

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Why blog? Why not!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 14:10

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As an advocate for and practioner of blogging since 1999 and I couldn't let this pass by (even though I am meant to be writing at TMA that is due today).

Search 'blog' or 'blogging' in my OU Student Blog (here) or click on one of the tags.

The research shows that in the overall active online community of many millions online:

95% read (lurk/observe/consume blogs)

4% will go one step further and engage (i.e. add a comment)

1% actually 'create' (write essentially, though this may now include blogs that are essentially photogalleries or YouTube  uploads)

Neilsen, J (2011).

In the student population (the study was last done in 2009 with undergraduates in Australia), the figure rises to 34% having uploaded content to a blog ... 'in the last 12 months'. (which for my money means they are not blogging at all).

Good luck, enjoy!

They have a multitude of uses and value and I will of course say that this value greatly increases over time.

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Andrew Sullivan - The Daily Dish

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 31 May 2011, 17:11

Andrew Sullivan, I learnt as an undergraduate, would make copies of the letters he sent to people. An Oxford Union Debating Society President, Modern History First, and actor ... It struck me as extraordinarily vain. This is 1981-1984. Letters were handwritten in fountain pen, perhaps typed.

Was I jealous? Of his mind? The roles he got? His self-confidence? A speaker who followed on the heals of William Hague (Foreign Minister) and was followed by Hilali Nordeen (Harley Street surgeon).

I recall them as I guiltily do something similar - I lift a comment I have left in someone else's blog and put it here. The catalyst of the first reading is left high and dry as I bounce away from them, back into my own mind, then spill it all out here.

THe mind is a wonderful thing, if only your fingers can keep up with this. No wonder this is described as 'talking with your fingertips',

Fascinating! And so glad I scrolled all the way through your blog to find such riches. I could spend an hour here commenting on each entry. Perhaps I will. It is extraordinarily cathartic to be out of your own head (as it were) for a while ... to be inside someone elses.

I was saying to a fellow MAODE student that I was pleased that they had  struggled with applying Jakob Nielsen to some online text they had read. I've been singing his praises for too long. I got his 2001 book on Usability when I was working in a web agency as a editor and swore buy it - kind of. Though we created the kind of websites that had few words, loads of visuals are were more like an interactive pop video!

I have never come across or found that writers pre-empty their rhetoric. I'm not saying it can't be learnt, but I think we presume too much to take a text, as if were were A' Level English students, and chop it up to decipher the mind of the author. However, I recall being shown some notes Churchill used to write his speeches, a brilliant orator of course, he had a very blocky, stepped approached to linking persuasive ideas.

However, it isn't for an academic to persuade of their thesis is it? Or is it? Surely the facts, however dry, must speak for themselves.

(54021)

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Buzzing

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 06:10

I'm not tired, which is the worry; it'll catch up with me. When I wake up with a clear, original thought I've learnt to run with it. Time was I could have put on a light, scribbled a bit then drifted off again. 17 years of marriage (and 20 years together) I've learnt to get up. And once I'm up, then I know it'll be a while before I can sleep again.

(I'll sleep on the train into London; at least I can't overshoot. I once got on the train at Oxford on the way into town and woke up in Cardiff).

I have the thought nailed, or rather sketched out, literally, with a Faber-Castell Artist Pen onto an A5 sheet of cartridge paper in Derwent hardback sketch book. This seems like a waste of good paper (and a good pen), but this doodle, more of a diagram, almost says it all. My vision, my argument, my persuasive thought. My revolution?

Almost enough, because I then show how I'll animate my expression of this idea by drawing it out in a storyboard. I can do it in seven images (I thought it would take more). I hear myself presenting this without needing to do so, though, believing myself quite capable of forgetting this entire episode I'll write it out too.

I once though of myself as an innovator, even an entrepreneur. I had some modest success too. Enough to think such ideas could make me. I realise at this moment that such ideas are the product of intense mental stimulation. To say that H808 has been stimulating would be to under value how it has tickled my synapses. The last time I felt I didn't need to sleep I was an undergraduate; I won't make that mistake. We bodies have needs. So, to write, then to bed.

(This undergraduate thing though, or graduate as I now am ... however mature. There has to be something about the culture and context of studying that tips certain people into this mode).

You may get the full, animated, voice over podcast of the thing later in the week. I'll create the animation myself using a magic drawing tool called ArtPad and do so using a stylus onto a Wacom board.

(Never before, using a plastic stylus on an a plastic ice-rink of a tablet have I had the sensation that I am using a drawing or painting tool using real ink or paint. I can't wait 'til I can afford an A3 sized Wacom board ... drawing comes from the shoulder, not the wrist and certainly not the finger tips. You need scale. Which reminds me, where is the book I have on Quentin Blake?)

Now where's a Venture Capitalist when you need one at 04.07am. That and a plumber, the contents of the upstairs bathroom (loo, bath and sink) are flooding out underneath the downstairs loo. Pleasant. A venture capitalist who is a plumber. Now there's something I doubt that can even be found if you search in Ga-Ga Googleland.

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Why comments may skew your blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011, 05:53

90% of people only read a blog, 9% occasionaly write leaving 1% to do it all.

If you get 1 or 2 comments you may have what, 90-180 readers? With better stats that offered here you can validate this. All skewed by the distinct narrowcasting of an OU Blog, as we are in theory writing to our tutor group or course cohort.

So why might comments skew the content?

Who are this 1%? If they are being negative or abusive (never here of course), they are flaming. In my experience you will never placate or please them, only pour oil on their self-hate, attitude or whatever is going on. They may be cutting and pasting the same nastiness in dozens of blogs.

Other comments I feel are akin to a wave from a friend who I've noticed across the road. I like this. I'll let people know I am reading them, out of politeness, but also to encourage them. If I've read them once, I'd like them to write more and read again.

Comments, if you are chasing the stats, will skew your blog to the extreme views these commentators are expressing, or to the particular parts of the blog they find attractive.

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90% of users are lurkers

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 18:06

The 90-9-1 Rule


90% of users are "lurkers" (i.e. they read or browse but don't contribute)

9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time

1% of users participate very often and account for most of the contributions

From Jakob Nielson


So don't feel bad about. Enjoy lurking. We all lurk, we all contribute from time to time ... and I dare say there are places where we all contribute very often.Just not here.

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Web usability or pimping up my OU experience

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 13:23

Out of habit now I cut and paste all the course notes from H807 and H808 into word and reconfigure using techniques I have followed for a decade as a web editor based on the principles of Jakob Nielsen.

I got his book in 2000 and was using it when I started the MA in Open and Distance Learning with the OU in 2001.

Is the OU nervous about being so radical?

Is it note reasonable for us to expect them to keep uptodate? With a unit such as 'Inovations in E-learning' could an attempt at being innovative at least be made?

Some one is going to come along and create and manage platforms that are more suited to the next generation. I watch my son playing World of Warcraft, watching a downloaded movie AND texting friends and more than capable of keeping such a frenetic amount of activity going.

No wonder traditional classroom education bores him to tears. I'd home educated if I thought it wouldn't seriously compromise my ability to earn a living ... but then we wouldn't have school fees to pay?

The recent upgrading with colours and graded shading and a few clear icons and hugely welcome but compared to corporate sites the OU is at least four years behind.

This isn't 'sexy' presentation, but the lessons you pick up from Jacob Nielsen make text like this more suited to online reading. As I now NEVER print of, only diddle about with text and images in some kind of digital form I simply don't require text to be expressed as if it needs to be printed off or has been scanned in out of a book

Come on OU this is 2010, not 2002.

Perhaps when I've done my Web Editor bit on all the course content I could post it back in here?

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The e-learning professional. (v. long)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 31 Jan 2013, 06:23

The podcast H808 e-learning SMEs.

(Makes them sound like a prog rock band of the 1960s. Perhaps they were?)

[V. Long version here. 4,000 words +. 1,000 or under in H808 Tutor Forum.

Edited versions in the next 24 hours/couple of days in EduBlogs at www.mindbursts.edublogs.org]

Week One

I may be a professional swimming coach (amongst several things), but my head coach told me ‘I think too much.’ Think less and get the athletes to do more. Keep it simple. If there is any context however where thinking is the currency, literally if we are talking professionalism, then the more I think the more professional I become.

(Or not).

Many would say that a 3,000 word blog entry is 'unprofessional.'

I call it shared reflection, the 'uncut version.' It is the outcome of over five hours thinking on the topic. Hours banked. Ideas turned into cash. By definition when I have made two years worth of regular deposits I may call myself and even be defined as an 'e-learning professional' with the MA to suggest I have joined that club, and a job that for the remuneration I receive makes me a professional rather than a wishful thinking wannabe.

It is unprofessional as a post-graduate student to be flippant and/or verbose.

A professional would keep this down to 500 words, yet I am stretching it to 3,000. The uncut version. Reflection in action. My mind at work. Not the athlete sharing a few ‘mots justes’ after a successful race, but the race itself and all the training before hand. The choice words, bullet point form only with an abridged commentary goes into my Tutor Group Forum. Under 250 words there, is my targert. Under 1,000 words per OU blog had been my thinking too. Blown that then.

Watching the TV I fall asleep.

Listening to the radio (i.e. any audio) I do something else - I’d be distracted anyway, I have to.

In an effort to get into my head the points being made by OUr E-learning Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) I first read the transcripts provided and then listened to the podcast while reading the text.

What shocked me was how much I had missed.

I do less than skim read it appears, all I must do is to look at patterns and shapes. No wonder I learn so little when I do nothing more than read.

Lesson learnt?

This isn’t an 'airport thriller' I can read at break-neck speed chaisng the protagonist as he is in turn chased; this requires a different kind of reading.

It requires effort.

I must work with the text, make notes. Just highlighting choices words and sentences isn’t enough either. Effort I can do. It is consistent effort unless I am working under exam conditions where I struggle. There is always something more interesting to read.

Historically, when successful academically, it has been a huge effort and very time consuming for me. I have to take notes (long hand). Then I have to take notes on the notes. I have to make lists, take quotes and re-order the material. I may still not make sense of it. I need to chase up a few references. I need to find my own patterns. I need to discuss it. Argue about it, agree and disagree. And then, gathering up a wad of papers and scraps of paper the whole lot needs to compost for a few months. Then, and only then, might I start to ‘get it,’ and have something constructive and original to say.

Do any of us have this kind of time anymore? Did we ever?

(My late father, my daughter and a friend, a partner in one of the world's leading law firms, all have/had photographic memories. They would have read the transcript and been able to pick out its salient points after the first swift reading. Not so me, not so us?)

The process you see playing out here is an attempt to mulch the content, slow cook it and hope that I can achieve something in five hours that would normall require five months.

Keep cooking.

The second time round with the SME podcast I first worked with the text, highlighting points and generally trying to get my head around it. If you’ve come across Jakob Nielsen’s ‘Writing for the Web,’ this is what I did – isolating sentences and ideas, creating headings, sub-headings and bullet points, in a word ‘chunking. In fact, I begin to get close to doing what Richard Northridge recommends in the ‘OU Guide to Studying’ (1990) note taking, creating concept cards and then even looking for links and patterns in the text itself.

Lesson learnt?

This takes time and requires effort. I’m not great on effort. My modus operandi is (or has been) to take in volumes of material, but if this is only at a surface level no wonder I am often more frustrated than informed.

Lesson learnt?

Less is more. Rather than chasing a reference, another report or book, I need, at first, to ensure that the text I have in front of me has been dissected, not consumed, not afforded nothing more than a passing glance, but pulled apart, then reconstructed.

Lesson learnt?

Effort

Not the expected outcome of this simple task – my faltering approach to learning laid bare, but a valuable lesson at the start of the module.

At last I’m listening to the podcast.

I made myself think, made myself listen, I 'sat forward' (the technical term for interacting, for engagement.) I made myself read and take notes, made me list the contrasting ideas, the arguments for and against, the justifications ... and to cluster these ideas and adjust my own thoughts accordingly based on my experience.

I had something to think about as I listened.

Do I have anything in common with these e-learning professionals in relation to assumptions and aims?

  • Do I have different understandings of what it means to be an ‘elearning professional’?
  • Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?
  • The profession of teacher?
  • The profession of a university lecturer or academic?
  • The profession of a trainer or staff developer or a human resources developer in private corporate bodies?
  • Is there an elearning professional?
  • And should I be describing my job as that of an elearning professional?

My short reply, given my background in sports coaching, is simple.

  • If you are paid you are a professional.
  • If you are the athlete and not paid you are an amateur.
  • If you’re the coach and not paid you are a volunteer.

Therefore, if someone is good enough and experienced enough (or simply good at selling themselves and their ideas) – and they are remunerated for their efforts, then they are a professional.

Rebecca Addlington is a professional athlete. Bill Furness, her coach, is a professional too.

At my swimming club all the swimmers are amateur, though some through bursaries to pay for County and Regional development training are by definition quasi-professional as they are receiving benefits if not in cash, then in kind. Some of the coaches and I do not define myself as a swimming coach; it’s a hobby that’s got out of hand.

I have ‘put in the hours.’

(Which I can qualify by saying I have put in the appropriate hours. i.e. time will not make you a professional, the enduring focus of your efforts will)

One of the key themes of the podcast made by each of the speakers is that a professional has put in the time.

They have put in the effort, gained experience that is directly or indirectly relevant to their e-learning expertise – and by dint of this expertise (and being paid by the OU, for books and reports, lectures and workshops too perhaps) they are all professionals.

At the swimming club many of us (its the biggest club in the South of England) have earned our places through years of experience, gaining qualifications and attending regular courses (CPD) to retain a licence to teach or coach aquatics. Many of us, paid or not, can call ourselves 'professionals.'

Just as I’ve reduced my core thought to that of the contract between a professional and an amateur, by picking out the ideas of each speaker and doing something similar a number of interesting points regarding what it means to be an ‘e-learning professional’ emerge.

In this see-saw of ideas the protagonists have a habit of changing places.

By defining professional we should also think what it means to be unprofessional.

I’ve allowed this dance to play out as it leaves me with an image of a professional being circled by the professional wannabe, the unprofessional (as yet), the layperson, the naive, virgin student. A mass of non-professionals clamoring around the few.

The points and arguments frequently fall into another diametrically opposed set: the qualitative vs. quantitative, an objective point vs. the subjective, a value judgment vs. the facts. Everything overlaps - a Venn Diagram of the points would show sets within sets.

Adrian Kirkup

· Amateur vs. Professional (there are many highly ‘professional’ amateurs)

· Ineffective vs. effective.

Robin Mason

· Hasn’t done it for long vs. been doing it for a long time

· Undergraduate vs. PhD (A sub-set of the above)

· Hasn’t put in the hours vs. has put in the hours (more of the same)

· Immature vs. Mature (a variation of the same. Though professionalism is not a consequence of maturity)

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.(Experience that takes time to acquire, and a certain manner to be effective)

Gill Kirkup

· A new field vs. an established field. (Disagree. Though a new field of subset of a professional activity would be definably professional).

· New vs. Established. (as above)

· No established standards vs. abides by general and specific received standards.

· Acting alone or part of a professional association.

· Part of the UK Higher Education Academy or not. (a subset of the above)

· Part of a legitimate community or not. (as above)

· Committed vs. Uncommitted.

· Respectful vs. Disrespectful.

· Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice. (successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective)

· Juvenile and professional vs. professional only if matured. (as Robin Mason)

· Unlicensed vs. Licensed.

Robin Goodfellow

· Genuine vs. not genuine.

· Unrecognised vs. Recognised.

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.

· Independent vs. tied (to government or a business).(disagree)

· Technical foundation vs. no technical foundation

· No need for a label, e-learning professional vs. professional enhancer. (strongly agree)

Chris Jones

· Takes time vs. no time.(as Robin Mason and Robin Goodfellow. You have to put in the time to become a professional. Which I guess applies as much to the professional criminal, as the Professional lawyer. Little p, Big P- see below)

· Part of the mainstream vs. Specialist. (disagree)

· ‘Lone Ranger’ and early stages of innovation ... vs. early majority and established (themes of Rogers)

· Enthusiasts vs. the not interested. (strongly agree)

· Society and the professionalisation of modern life (quotable)

· Sport in the 20th century and professional vs. amateurs in sport

· Traditional and modern professionals

· Autonomous vs. dependent

· Trustworthy vs. (spin/PR/Branding/Agenda)

· Not part of a trade association or governing body vs. part of such an association

· Generalist vs. specialist

· An outside vs. part of something

· Formalised standards vs. none

· Unmonitored vs. monitored

· Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?

· Little ‘p’ pr big ‘P.’

Jonathan Vernon (moi)

· Doesn’t look the part vs. looks the part.

· Lacks form vs. has form.

· Self-taught vs. ‘done a course.’

· Qualified (with the piece of paper to prove it) vs. Unqualified (however expert they may be).

Some thoughts on the points identified above

It is worth reflecting on Robin Mason’s point about ‘putting in the hours.’

The suggestion that genius and expertise requires 10,000 hours of effort is no urban myth. A study carried out at the Berlin Music Conservatoire identified three groups of graduates. Asked to estimate how many hours of practice and playing each student had put in since picking up an instrument they were then divided into three distinct categories: up to 4,000 hours, up to 8,000 hours and up to 10,000 hours. The first became teachers, the second category got places in orchestras whilst the tiny number who had put in 10,000 hours (takes around 10 years to do this) were most likely to be the solo artists, the concert pianists, the mavericks, the Vanessa Maes and Mozarts. Whilst all these categories are professionals, they are paid for their skills, the use of the word ‘professional’ to distinguish those who are expert, who have attained a certain standard, would in my view apply to the musicians who have made it into a top orchestra – with the soloists in a category beyond the ‘professional.’ Our ‘OU H808 E-learning SME professionals', given the decades of thought they have put into what we now define as ‘e-learning’, have been part of this ‘orchestra’ of professionals for some time, and who knows, we may have a Mozart amongst them. Personally, I've not read enough from any of them yet to know any better. I look forward to hearing what they have to say and how they say it.

Interestingly, Robin Mason returns repeatedly to a theme of time passing, of gaining, requiring or acquiring maturity of thought. Though I feel as if I am clutching at ideas in an amorphous cloud here, my sense is that whether it is professional with a big P or a little p, that the word ‘maturity'; might say it all.

What does maturity imply?

Growing up, lessons learnt, age, growth, adult hood, a way of behaving, able to fit in and contribute to a community and so on.

I disagree with Gill Kirkup

If I have understood her correctly regarding her suggesting that only in an established field is something professional whilst in a new field this is not possible. We can all think of (or at least imagine) an unprofessional ‘professional.’ The corrupt lawyer, the doctor struck off the medical register, the TV food expert who is not a doctor at all (and so a sham professional).

In 2000 I would have defined myself, as some of the panel here would have done, as what is now termed an ‘e-learning’ professional. After fifteen years in corporate communications, training and learning, creating linear, then non-linear and ultimately web-based materials the companies and government department for whom I worked through various production companies had to see me as ‘professional.’ I hadn’t done the post-graduate studying, but I’d learnt through observation and experience (first carrying video kit into the changing rooms of a nuclear power plant age 17 assisting with a training film for BNFL at Sellafield).

Interestingly, I don’t currently consider myself to be an e-learning or a learning professional and even with the MA I hope to gain in 2011 I will by my own definition not be a professional until I am being paid for my expertise.

To use a horse-racing term I lack 'form.'

I'm literally out of the race (for now).

Being studious here and building my confidence is part of the plan to regain the 'professional' tag.

Does a barrister on retirement cease to be a professional lawyer?

Socio-econonmically he/she would still be defined as a 'professional' would they not?

I agree however, very much, with Gill Kirkup’s views regarding ‘respect’ and her definition of an e-learning professional within the academic community.

Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice.’

(This, for me, successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective. i.e. you can be a professional Professional).

I disagree with Robin Goodfellow’s view that a professional must be independent vs. tied (to government or a business). If we look beyond e-learning professionals and academia it would be quite wrong to say that someone is not professional simply because they represent the interests of an organisation or government department, let alone are being paid to take a certain stance or have a strongly held view (left or right wing politically, religious or atheist and so on).

If nothing else, I believe I have shown above that there is a natural dichotomy, if not a debate even an implicit conflict, between views on whether a person, or institution, or field of study, can be defined as professional or not, worthy of study or not.

It is engagement in such a debate where a professional proves their credentials.

A professional is a match for anyone, whilst the unprofessional would not play by the rules, make excuses, bow out...

Dare I imply that all the above are differentiating between the educated and uneducated?

Is it so black and white? Students at school, scholars as Edwardian’s would have defined them, and undergraduates, graduates too, in terms of education can never be defined as ‘professional.’

Or can they?

The government pays students to go to college, to stay on in secondary school after the age of 16 – does not this make them pros, like a boy of a similar age getting paid to play football in an academy, they literally ‘turn pro.’

I agree with Robin Goodfellow that there is ‘need for a label’, that what is currently the e-learning professional may be the ‘professional enhancer ‘of the future if the UK HE Academy has their way (though I doubt the term will stick). Just as Robin was (we were) once web-based learning professionals, or learning professionals, or professionals in education...

Big P, little p (Chris Jones) is the most memorable expression of an idea in relation to the professional Professional that I take from this and a worthy talking point. And 2,500 words in I could sum it up with a Twitter count.

Professional is an adjective and a noun.

Anyone can be described as ‘professional,’ (adjective) by dint of their behaviour and experience, however to be a ‘professional’, (noun), various criteria should be met. Depending on how your measure up, by Chris Jones’s definition, you are either Big or Little P.

(I can think of other categories where a similar way of looking at things could be applied, for example, ‘engineer’. The person who fixes my washing machine may call himself an ‘engineer,’ but Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an ‘Engineer’. A sports psychologist is no longer allowed to call themselves such, they are sports scientists. So Psychologist, if not professional, not has a legally binding form of expression and use).

I disagree however with Chris Jone’s view that Professionals (big P you notice) have to be specialists whilst implicitly, if they are professional at all (little p) they are not, or unlikely to be so if they are part of the mainstream.

Or do I?

(I'm changing my mind as I write this, reflecting on a matter tends to do this. You twist yourself in so many knots and then find you are looking in the opposite direction - and happy to do so)

Onwards

Is there an implicit elitism here that makes me uncomfortable, an obvious them and us?

As a Professional I am not ‘part of the mainstream’ ?

Yes, that’s it.

You see the ‘mainstream’ is the population, everyone, in the universe that we are discussing. Professionals are of the mainstream, of society, even if they are a subset community within the broader community.

The likes of Richard Dawkin and Stephen Hawkings are 'professional Professionals' by their engagement with the world, not because of an elitist, hide-themselves away hermit like attitude to knowledge acquisition. Do Simon Schama and Neil Ferguson fall into the same category of professionalism?

Be published and damned, broadcast and be damned even more?

But you don't have to be famous to be Professional (though I dare say you'd cease to be professional if you became infamous).

Or have I been making a mistake through-out this internal debate ... this reflection – that we have always only been discussing Big P professionalism ONLY as part of ‘the whole thing,’ i.e. the specific category of the ‘e-learning Professional’ and just as this time round I haven’t given a moment’s thought to ‘e-learning’ as a term, I have nonetheless unnecessarily dissected the term ‘professional.’

I’m yet to click through the OED online.

I daren’t. It may be my undoing.

Back to my idea of a Venn Diagram.

If ‘professionals’ is the universe then we have two subsets, Professionals (Big P) and professionals (little p) (the noun only). Far smaller, and intersecting both these sets, we have ‘e-learning.’ There are in e-learning little P and Big P professionals.

Still with me?

But there are also non-professionals, and even  the unprofessional to consider. Can they also be defined as Non-professionals (Big N) and Unprofessionals (Big U).

Final thoughts

Might a professional be defined as someone with 'qualified confidence in their field?'

Not finished yet

I've got a Venn Diagram to draw, some visualising to do.

Can a loner be a professional?

I enjoyed Chris Jones's point about the ‘Lone Ranger’ that in early stages of innovation there are maverick, loners having a go at something new way ahead of anyone else - think Dr Emmett Brown in 'Back to the Future' tinkering away at the construction of a time-travelling automobile. Are such people professionals or even professional? Does this 'odd-ball' behaviour disenfranchise you from the professional community, even if you have the mind the size of a planet?

A consultant escapes the hospital ward for a couple of years to undertake research. Just because they are beavering away on their own, being a 'Lone Ranger' doesn't disqualify them from the category of 'Professional,' (Big P), or even 'professional Professional' (little p, Big P).

Dare I suggest that our panel of e-learning experts are 'professional e-Professionals' ?

I don't even begin to delve into the thinking behind innovation diffusion. This is an entire module in its own right. It is called 'Innovations in E-learning', or H807 for short.

For more read 'Diffusion of Innovations' E.M.Rogers. (2005) 5th edition.

Nor am I going to teach the definition 'e-learning.'

Is there a professional 'look.'

Forgive me if I make a comparison here between the need for barristers to put on the appropriate garb in court and so look Professional with a big p, compared to those wishing to be called professional and seen as Professional who don't look the part. Poolside as coaches it is expected that all teachers are appropriately dressed in the club colours and well groomed - this looks professional. There was once a time when teachers wore a jacket and tie, so looked professional like fellow professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Don't academic look the part, 'look professional' in their gowns and mortar-boards?

And having addressed 'looks' can someone sound 'professional?

Think how a director chooses actors to play a role. Look at Michael Cane in 'Educating Rita,' is this the stereotypical professional Professor?

Another discussion, but coming from corporate communications we have been through exercises of using authentic presenters (people who work at the place) compared to buying in 'professional' presenters. To do justice to the message in the TV medium the professional broadcasters were far better at putting over the points the client wanted to make.

As I said, another discussion, a different thread.

P.S. It would be unprofessional to post such a long entry into a tutor forum, where a 500 word, even a 250 word version will be posted (the bullet points, or just my thoughts on the key bullet points ... or just where I strongly agree or disagree).

Lesson Learnt ?

Professionals put in the time and effort, and follow rather than ignore guidelines for the community in which they operate.

It strikes me that academics, like creatives, are more interested in reputation and recognition than money.

Is it not striking that not one of our panel mention it?

Can you be a professional without it?

And what about spelling and grammar?

The ability to communicate. Have I mentioned that. Can the professional spell?

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