Participation Guide

The following sections outline the nature of the learning ‘experiment’ behind this iteration of 522.  Please consider this carefully to understand the impact of your participation.

ETEC522 is designed to operate as a "professional network" - a place where social networking techniques are applied to foster individual and collective professional advancement.

One of your instructor's innovation interests is network effects in peer communities, or "peer analytics" for short. Don't worry, no robot is counting your syllables here, but in 522 we encourage you to carefully consider the value of your every keystroke. Your primary avenues of presence here will be to raterecommendreview, share, and author content.  Even the simple act of rating a piece of content adds value to that content and to you. A natural byproduct of any peer community that collectively appreciates knowledge is that the knowledge returns the favour and appreciates every peer individually.

The essence of a professional network is that all participants are peers.  Your "instructor" created this learning vehicle, but will act as fellow peer passenger rather than the driver.  Your instructor has specialized knowledge and experience that they are eager to share, but so do you.  "Primary author" may be a more appropriate term to describe your instructor's role.  Therefore the first participation guideline concerns your expectations of your instructor:  they will monitor, guide and contribute, but not dominate.  Treat them as a resource that you can reach out to whenever and however they might support your success.  Reach out to your other peers as well.

As indicated elsewhere and as you'll discover, 522 is an experimental implementation of WordPress with beta-level implementations of content streaming, open publishing, regenerative curriculum, faceted search, ratings, reviews, etc, that we are going to explore together. So please have patience for things that don't work completely well yet, and provide feedback whenever you see something that doesn't work at all, or could work better. You are a co-author of the content and design of this course, as well as a co-researcher into its experimental ideas and functionality.

We will be distinguishing between two forms of artful participation:  Discussion and Content Curation.   These will be your primary avenues for creating valuable presence here. The first is informal and the second formal.  The formal 'zone' of 522 is the Forums - everywhere else is informal discussion. You already know about Discussion but we will provide a few guidelines anyway. Formal Content Curation may be less familiar, and we will be expecting you to ratereview, recommend, share & author content as part of collective professional curation of the course materials.

A critical difference between Discussion and Content Curation is that the former is primarily social and the latter professional.  For example, within any real world discussion, even with our best friends, we quietly rate, review and author (everyone is a curator within a great discussion), yet we contribute with cultivated social finesse.  It would be awkward and asocial for anyone to publicly rate or review a real-world discussion in progress.  Equally, it would be sloppy and unproductive to apply social niceties to Content Curation - that is where greater professional finesse is required.

The following additional guidelines will help you grow your 522 presence effectively.

Discussion Guidelines

The intent of Discussions is to enable a contexted, informal learning benefit for all participants.

Most of you are familiar with blogs, but the experimental nature of 522 necessitates some additional orientation.  522 uses WordPress's Pulse plugin together with the Evaluate plugin to replace the traditional comment experience.  This allows better forms of collective feedback.  So below any Post you'll see a box with a "Discuss or Review" prompt where you can make a contribution (we aren't using tags, so you can ignore this part if you wish).    Two social guidelines stand out:

  1. Add Concise Value: Given the number of people in the course, be deeply respectful of the volume of discourse we collectively generate.  It is likely impossible for anyone to read everything carefully, reflect on everything fully, and respond to everything with great intelligence.  Therefore develop your own strategy for consumption and contribution.  When contributing, focus on being deliberately concise and distinctly valuable.  “Me too” and derivative contributions amplify the noise, not the signal, and will be counterproductive to your peer presence.
  2. Stay on Track: A blog is like a live conversation, so your participation needs to be timely to add value.  For example, posting your thoughts on one group’s discussion topic when the next group is already fully underway isn’t helpful because it breaks the continuity for everyone – it is like speaking out about a dormant topic in a live discussion when everyone else has moved on.

The intent of Recommending any element of Discussion is to collectively identify the most worthwhile contributions, as a benefit for yourself and peers.

When someone responds with great intelligence to any Post please signify this by clicking the Recommendation tool (thumbs up symbol) on that response.  This is analogous in a live social conversation to a smile or a quiet 'bravo', and it is somewhat the same as a 'like' in Facebook, but the intent here is for you to use it more deliberately and professionally to identify exceptional contributions by others.  The big difference here is that Recommendations are entirely anonymous, so you can be entirely professional (there is no social pressure).  However, your Recommendations are remembered by the system so that you can change your mind later if need be (which also means that your Ratings can be audited by an administrator, so that unprofessional behaviour is unwise).  Three Recommendation guidelines are offered:

  1. Click:  when a contribution is particularly excellent and when you are recommending it highly to your peers.
  2. Don't Click:  when you have not read the contribution, or it is just good, OK, or even poor.
  3. Maintain a High Standard:  even though they are anonymous, your Recommendation clicks build your credibility, somewhat like a credit rating.  So if you click too often, or randomly, or never, you will have less impact.  As a 'rule of thumb' if you are Recommending more than 1/10 responses, or less than 1/week, or click your own work, or click within a clique, or otherwise attempt to 'game' the process, your Recommendations will have less value. Try to establish a behaviour that works best for you, perhaps akin to having a highlighter in hand while reviewing an important book or manuscript.

Content Curation Guidelines

Content Curation is confined to one part of 522 – the Forums.  All of the links under the Forums menu selection will take you to curated content.  Everywhere else, the course works in Discussion mode.  You can think of Curated Content in 522 as a structured, hierarchical form of academic peer review.

Yes, you will be reviewing the work of your peers.  However, the intent of this review is to help future peers find the most worthwhile content, not to judge your current peers.  None of your curatorial activities will have any impact on the grades your peers will receive in this course, so please aim to be both honest and professional, for the sake of future students.

It actually quite simple – here’s how it works:

The intent of Authoring is to create original content as a benefit for yourself & peers.

The highest form of creation in 522, and presumably in the broader world, is to generate original value - this is the most critical Authoring guideline.  This includes artful sensitivity to presentation, narrative, substance and brevity, as well as requirements for integrity, copyright, etc, that are foundational features of all professional and scholarly environments.

An inherent part of traditional scholarship, and now the whole Internet, is enabling other people to add value to any original content you create.  Most entities that are "closed" to such social or peer participation have a shorter life expectancy than those that are "open".  So when you post something original in a curated content area of 522 you are explicitly opening it for Review and Rating by other members of our community.

Given that 522 is a publishing environment, please give careful attention to the best title and category for your post:

  • Clear Title:  The appeal and clarity of a book's title has great impact on whether you will open it, and the same is true here.  Especially in our Forums, where you are publishing your work for broad peer consumption and review, compose a title that accurately conveys the essence of your work.
  • Single Category:  You will be able to select multiple categories when you publish a post, but in most cases selecting more than one can be unwise (e.g., if somebody encounters your work in a category where it doesn't really fit, they may give it a poor rating only because it wasn't what they were looking for there).   Also, please don't select "Forums" as your category - find the right home inside the Forums.

The intent of Sharing is to post (copy & paste, and/or link) externally-discovered content into a Forum because it has relevant, original value to existing content, and for yourself & peers.

For any topic we cover it will be natural, often important, for you to conduct independent searches online for current, relevant content. Sharing is simply taking the extra curatorial step to post excellent content in our Forums for everyone's benefit.  Creating a post about such external content allows it to be curated (with reviews, ratings, etc) so that other peers can add better value, and get better value, from your contribution.

Please be mindful of copyright issues when you copy & paste as part of sharing.

Please also don't just post a "link" all by itself - that isn't inviting for other people to follow it.  Provide your own title and introduction if that's the best way to make your post serve as a launchpad to that external content, and/or provide your own review of your post to kickstart the curatorial process.

The intent of a Review is to add distinct value to existing content as a benefit for yourself & peers.

Content may be Rated (see below) immediately and/or Reviewed to offer in-depth value.  A great review deliberately elaborates upon the original content to add substantial new value - this is the only Reviewing guideline.

Please note that while Ratings are anonymous, Reviews are not, so Reviews build direct reputation value for their author, and can be part of your graded Participation Portfolio.   Reviews can also be separately Recommended (see below).  So please Review content when you have something of substance to add, and when you can do so succinctly (if a Review is less than 10 words, or more than 200, perhaps reconsider whether it is really a Review).

Also, as in a threaded discussion, in 522 it is possible to Review a Review (reply to a Review).  Please try to keep in mind the peer review intent, so don't allow reviews to devolve into a discussion: only Review a Review when you can elaborate upon it to add substantive new value.

The intent of Ratings is to collectively identify the most worthwhile content as a benefit for yourself & peers.

Immediately below each Post in the Knowledge Mill you should see a 5-star rating function, which you can easily activate just by clicking on the appropriate number of stars.  Ratings are fast and anonymous, but they are remembered by the system so that you can change your mind later if need be (which also means that your Ratings can be audited by an administrator, so that unprofessional use is unwise).

Two basic Rating guidelines are offered:

  1. Don’t be populist: don't dumbly support an existing rating if you don't agree with it - independent thought is the hallmark of every respected professional; and
  2. Don’t be altruistic: you add better value for everyone when you rate selfishly, as follows:
    • 5 Stars:  Essential – This is a core resource for me: 5 stars is about helping me find it again quickly.
    • 4 Stars:  Good – Solid value for me; I'll look for it again when I browse this topic.
    • 3 Stars:  Spotty – Some good stuff, but harder to find.  I’m unlikely to recommend it to a colleague.
    • 2 Stars:  Marginal – Not quite dumpster material, but something I’ll probably rarely use.
    • 1 Star:    Avoid It! -  I won't use this again.  It is outdated, biased, or otherwise forgettable.
    • Unrated:  Unknown – I haven’t looked at this (in some professional networks, when content is ignored, like email you trash without reading, it is automatically given the lowest-possible rating, but in 522 the assumption will be that you haven’t had the opportunity to consider it).

There is professional risk, without any prospective benefit, in rating content indiscriminately, so as your grandmother might have said, “if you have nothing worthwhile to say, say nothing”.

The intent of Recommending a Review is to collectively identify the most worthwhile Reviews as a benefit for yourself and peers.

A Review Recommendation (thumbs up) is like an instant positive rating.  As above, the same three Recommendation guidelines are offered:

  1. Click:  when a Review is particularly excellent and when you are recommending it highly to your peers.
  2. Don't Click:  when you have not read the Review, or it is just good, OK, or even poor.
  3. Maintain a High Standard:  even though they are anonymous, your Recommendation clicks build your credibility, somewhat like a credit rating.  So if you click too often, or randomly, or never, you will have less impact.

Review Recommendations are anonymous once again, but are tracked by the system so that you can change them later if need be.  And as with Ratings there is no benefit and some risk to a pattern of indiscriminate Recommendations.

522 will offer you multiple opportunities to Discuss, Author, Rate, Review & Recommend as contributions to the conduct and curation of the course.  The 'experiment' is that we're trying to understand how a few, structured, formal elements of curation can blend - seamlessly and effectively - with informal discussion to foster a professional learning experience.  The formal elements we've selected range from something quick and easy like a Rating or Recommendation to something more intense and involved like Authorship.  The point is that, whether simple or intense, every single one of your contributions is a measure of your knowledge, competencies and professionalism that ultimately account to the value of your presence.

Remember that you own your presence.  For example, you can make any post you author "inactive" by disabling the pulse and/or ratings check-boxes in the post before you publish it.  This includes content destined for the Forums.  The consequence of deactivating content in this system is simply that it becomes much harder to find.  Even if your content is discovered later by a search, if it has no ratings, reviews or recommendations it will be more easily lost among similar content.  In other words, more than ever before, the immediate value and durable impact of your ideas depends on their social-professional life.

Your feedback, questions and recommendations on these guidelines are most welcome.