Pedagogically, the course is designed from a networked learning perspective (Jones, 2015) in which the learners connect within a learning-community assemblage comprised of a professor-course designer, learners, digital connectivity, a learning management system, digital media production software, and required tasks. Drawing inspiration from the sociomaterialist theoretical approaches of Sørenson (2009) and Mol and Law (1994), we suggest that patterns of relations emerge from recursive performances of social and material components within the course. We define social practices as effects that are generated by relational interplays among actors.
The main research question is:
How do learners within an online graduate class interact with each other, the instructor, and the digital and physical materials?
The sub-questions include:
- What actions or activities occur amongst learners, the instructor, and the digital and physical material entities in the online graduate course?
- What relations can we observe emerging between the learner, instructor, and digital and physical materials in the online graduate course?
We employ Hine’s (2004) virtual ethnography methodology, involving online, structured, text-based interviews completed through Fluidsurveys. The interview protocol contains questions addressing the what, how, and why of student experiences in the course. In the analysis, we focus on tracing the relations between human and non-human actors’ engagements in relational social practices that enact an online learning community into being.
In our findings, the actions and relations amongst the learners, instructor, and materials appear contingent upon the confluence of activity both inside the course by way of the inscribed learning design as well as social and material factors outside the course. This suggests that we cannot fully account for intended learning outcomes inscribed through our design; rather, we should focus on designing for facilitation possibilities supporting the potential emergence of flexible, varied relations.
During the presentation, we will discuss how the learning-space assemblage emerged. We will describe the patterns of relations detected. Finally, we will invite discussion from the audience as to how we, as instructors and course designers, can positively influence the emergence of patterns of relations conducive to learning within a sociomaterial class space.
Hine, C., 2004. Virtual ethnography revisited [pdf]. Paper presented at the Online Research Methods Festival, Oxford, UK: 1 July 2004. Available at: <http://www.restore.ac.uk/orm/background/exploringorms/rmf_hine_outline.pdf> [Accessed 18 March 2017].
Jones, C., 2015. Networked learning: an educational paradigm for the age of digital networks. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
Mol, A., and Law, J., 1994. Regions, networks and fluids: anaemia and social topology. Social Studies of Science, 4,(4), pp.641–671.
Sorensen, E., 2009, The materiality of learning: technology and knowledge in educational practice, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.