More on Learning Formations

In the last post, I talked about the characteristics of these learning formations. To summarize, these ad hoc formations are characterized by:

  • life cycle – duration and phases
  • interaction frequency
  • interaction depth or complexity
  • extent of formal structures
  • formation size

There may be more characteristics, but these seem to be key. By life cycle I mean both the length of the interactions but also the progression from one stage to the other. Interaction frequency is the index of user participation in the interactions in terms of frequency and interaction depth or complexity is the index of user participation in terms of the quality and inter-relationships in the interactions as also the quality of knowledge and its complexity that is a resultant. Formal structures, democratic and open as they may be or maybe completely non-existent, are again a characteristic of these formations. Size plays an important role (not necessarily a sufficient condition) because it brings with it diversity of opinions and perspectives.

The diagram above attempts to show two things. Firstly, there seems to be a predominance of a large number of formations that are ad hoc, small, low interaction frequencies and potentially low complexity of knowledge generation as well as formations that rarely make it past the storming phase.  Actual complex learning scenarios would perhaps be encountered at the other end of the curve and would possibly include formations focussed on achieving common goals and objectives, but these would be smaller in numbers and more structured. These would make it to a performing formation phase.

Secondly, the same individuals may belong to various formations at the same time with different individual behavior depending upon motivation, trust, interest and other factors.

The first segment (Ad hoc) is characterized by a high level of diversity of opinion, open-ness, ad-hoc relationship creation and a very utilitarian workflow or just-in-time type of interaction. Examples include a twitter, IM or facebook notification, simple sharing of photos or videos or presentations, quick queries through services such as Yahoo! Answers for example.

The second segment is where I would place traditional learning and some part of the learning 2.0 style. Formations  that occur here are typically those who will get to some extent to the performing phase (and thereon to organizational or institutional excellence), but I think everyone agrees that these modes have not really been very effective in the past. A degree of formal structure starts becoming visible here, whether it is an LMS controlling enrolments or an instructor leading a class.

The third segment is where things start getting complex. These formations are tightly focussed and driven by commonly accepted goals. Examples include CoPs (Communities of Practice) and massively multi-player on-line role playing games (MMORPGs) and where gaming, simulation, e-portfolios and immersive learning environments would fit naturally and play a great role. These formations would be highly structured and would move all the way up into the performing stage very quickly.

As you can see, I am attempting to connect learning to stages in development for groups or learning formations to technologies that are available and as they are used today. However, this diagram could be too simplistic and we may need multiple dimensions instead of the two I have here.

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