Hybrid Academic Collectives

A virtual presentation for HASTAC 2013: “Building an Academic Community for the Digital Age”

The changing landscape of education in the digital age asks us to reconsider what, how, and where we learn. It asks us to rethink how we build scholarly networks and who we bring into those networks.

The acts of teaching, learning, and research depend increasingly on collaboration. Collaboration, though, both in teaching and learning, is rarely institutionalized at an administrative level. It is still customary to have only one instructor of record assigned to each class. It is still customary for students to take tests by themselves. This practice obscures — and discourages — the collaborative work of colleagues, teaching assistants, and students. Likewise, the emphasis on scholarly monographs, particularly in the humanities, obscures the dynamic nature of the work we do as academics.

In their book A New Culture of Learning, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown write, “Embracing Change means looking forward to what will come next. It means viewing the future as a set of new possibilities, rather than something that forces us to adjust. It means making the most of living in a world of motion” (43). Thomas and Brown offer a useful exploration of the notion of a “collective,” which they contrast with the notion of a “community.” For Thomas and Brown communities are built around a sense of belonging, whereas collectives are built around participation. Collectives are “content-neutral platforms” with facilitating peer-to-peer learning as their reason for existing (53). According to Thomas and Brown, “collectives scale in an almost unlimited way” (53), because they are built around shared practice and are inherently nodal.

Hybrid Pedagogy, the journal I helped launch in January 2012, resists totalizing definitions of its mission and audience, working instead to methodically reveal itself and its function, over time, through the contributions of its community. Our proposed audience for Hybrid Pedagogy is vast: educational technologists, higher ed. faculty and adjuncts, K-12 teachers, the #altac community, digital humanists, the open education community, online instructors, on-ground instructors, student services, and students. We recognize that it is almost impossibly ambitious for us to build a space equally for each of these groups, especially without the work devolving into general interest vagueries; however, we need all these groups in the conversation, because the conversation doesn’t have the right shape or context when any strand of this audience is excluded.

Pedagogy starts with learning as its center, not students or teachers. It is a conversation we have from whatever place we occupy in the collaboration (and ideally that place is always shifting). Teachers must be vulnerable to perform as learners, and our classrooms must become sites of intrinsic motivation, networked learning, and critical practice. Hybrid Pedagogy imagines a community in which pedagogy is the domain of every learner and teacher, in which participants collectively engage the intellectual strengths of everyone in the room, wherever the room.

The learning collective is a space that bridges teaching and learning — that bridges teaching and scholarship. And we must work together to make everyone an equal collaborator in these new academic collectives, including students, administrators, full-time faculty, and contingent faculty. We must work especially to build space from which we can advocate for the most vulnerable among us. We need to gather together in number so our pedagogies, politics, and scholarly work can be safely laid bare.

Some questions to consider:

  1. Why and with whom should we collaborate in teaching and scholarship?
  2. How can we find ways to bring teachers and learners into conversation about scholarship and pedagogy?
  3. What new sorts of hybrid networks must we build to facilitate these conversations and collaborations?
  4. How does technology hinder and how can it help us build learning collectives?

On May 3 at 1pm EST, Hybrid Pedagogy will host a #digped discussion about peer-to-peer learning and how we can shift from thinking about educational institutions toward learning collectives. Hope you’ll join us. Read the announcement for more details.

Text adapted from several sources:

Pete Rorabaugh and Jesse Stommel, “Hybridity, pt. 3: What Does Hybrid Pedagogy Do?

Jesse Stommel, “Collaborative Teaching, Shared Pedagogies

Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel, “Co-intentional Education

Lee Skallerup Bessette and Jesse Stommel, “A Scholarship of Resistance: Bravery, Contingency, and Higher Education

[Photo by Fio]