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What an interesting post - not least because I was one of the T171 students in (I think!) the active, 'happy' group. I was curious about your question that "Did the nature of the dialogue have any effect on outcome?" and I have the feeling that maybe the outcome you can study - the course results - isn't the long term outcome which was most powerful for the students involved. For me, it changed the way I thought about learning and engaging with learning. It was refreshing, interesting, exciting, frustrating, fascinating, complex - and gave rise to a longer term interest in online education.

Maybe the change isn't one that can be constrained within the measurable bounds of the course itself? Maybe the change learners experience is something deeper and more long lasting? Sometimes if you're concentrating on measuring the splash a stone has made when dropped into water means that you miss seeing how far the ripples went...


Hi Sarah,
yes you were in the happy group - and one of the reasons it was happy I think. Yes, you're absolutely right - measuring academic performance would be a very crude measure. Which only adds to the butterfly thing - we don't know the starting variables, are unsure of the process and have a multitude of outcomes. So we tend to simplify it to lectures, notes, exams.


Nice to see your example Martin, there always seem to be personal experiences that support the Butterfly Learner view but not measured data. Actually this feels right maybe a related effect is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle where if we try to measure something we change it! Hmmm - I remember making a slide about this for a talk maybe I can reproduce a blog version as my next homework :-).

Tony Hirst

The new digital photography course (T189)had to split the forums, I think, so it may be worth talking to some of the CT to see how the dynamics of each group compared there, and whether 'group happiness' was in any way correlated to average marks across the group...



I was in with the whingeing northerners, but it changed my life too ;-)

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