Nicholas Fair

Nicholas Fair

I'm a Web Scientist and Digital Educator interested in Personal Learning Networks and their impact on higher education.

Location Southampton University, UK


  • Hi Veronica, thank you for posting and welcome to the course.

  • Hi Miguel, nice to meet you too, welcome to the course!
    By the way, I love the part of Mexico I have been lucky enough to visit - Tulun in the Yucatan - its beautiful!

  • Hi Georgina, good to know you're keeping active and still learning, welcome to the course!

  • Hi, this is exactly what I feel and how the Personal Learning Network mapping activity in step 1.15 is designed - every interaction (with humans AND non-humans, such as websites) is a learning event.

  • Hi both, I agree entirely with you! Do you think the impact of Covid-19 will accelerate this change in how we teach?

  • Hi Miguel, thank you for your post. I had a similar experience when at secondary school in the 1980's - my history teacher actually locked someone (not me!) in a cupboard for getting the dates of the Kings of England wrong!!
    Can you imagine that today, when we can just look them up on Google (so why remember them)?

  • Hi Melissa, I agree with you - different topics, different situations and different learners call for different approaches. Thanks for your post.

  • Hi Elena, some good points here, thank you for posting. It sounds like you might be interested in the area of Learning Analytics:

  • Hi Graham, I tend to agree with you that the Web has changed the way we learn and that a 'new' learning theory, such as Connectivism, adapted to the post-internet world is really important.

  • Hi Graham, these are 2 brilliant resources - thank you for sharing them with us all.
    I have pinned your post to the top of this comments section, as I'm sure many others will find them as interesting, informative and useful as I did, thanks!

  • Hi Graham - if you reached step 1.15 earlier today (before 18:30 on Monday 15th June) you will have found the link from the survey to the PLN map was down. Our apologies. We have fixed the problem and you should be able to login using your ID number now.
    (If you've yet to get to step 1.15, great!)

  • Hi Michael, welcome to the course and thanks for your balanced and interesting comment. Will look forward to more.

  • HI Tina, welcome to the course! In a post-covid world maybe cash will quickly disappear to reduce touching/infection between people (in the UK anyway)? In that case, unless you had a job specifically requiring it (e.g. a darts player or a market trader) how often would we actually use mental arithmetic?

  • Hi Elena, welcome to the course. Thanks for posting your ideas, especially concerning emotional intelligence - can you 'learn' that, do you think?

  • Hola Jonathon, ¿Podrías escribir en inglés por favor? Gracias!

  • Hi Graham, it is great to have you join us on the course, welcome. We'll look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

  • Hi Joanne, welcome to the course, thank you for posting. What is the best way to retain knowledge, do you think?

  • @RobertBaird I second that Robert, many thanks! Looking forward to continuing our discussions...

  • Hi, early analysis suggests that for those under 25 (regardless of any other demographic feature) about 46% of interactions with their PLN is through their smartphone. For those over 65 this drops to 24%....

    How might this impact the development of modules, activities and assessments for a first year undergraduate class when compared with an MSc course...

  • Hi both, I think that, to summarise your discussion, you are suggesting that a combination of:
    - technical functionality
    - personal preference (based on context, appearance/identity, and available resources)
    - the wider social context (with whom/what you interact)
    all plays an important part in how your Personal Learning Network is structured and...

  • Hopefully now is the opportunity to begin to do so.....

    Looking forward to your thoughts on it all.

  • @JoDixon This is a good point and very true. However, English language bias leading to exclusion could be levelled at the entire Web really, it is not specific to MOOCs.

    Equally, there are some MOOC platforms, such as one funded by the European Union, which provides MOOCs in a wide range of (all?) European languages using a very clever 'translator' button,...

  • Hopefully you are right about the end of the siloed academic!

    For interest, within my silo (Web Science and Education) we make a distinction between the Internet (the hardware of the network, e.g. routers, servers, cables, satellites...etc) and the Web (the software which runs on the Internet e.g. http, html, css...etc).

    In reality, almost no-one else...

  • A perfect summary of many aspects of this which are impacting Higher Education (HE) today thanks!

    The marketisation of the HE sector in the UK and the way (many) students live, work and learn online is increasingly at odds with their experience of teaching and learning at a university. There is real tension here, especially in light of the changes to HE...

  • Hi Rob, agreed! Completely! Thanks for the very informative comment...

  • @DavidLeasure Thanks for this very eloquent and informative post!
    In answer to Jo, throughout the first three years of secondary school, if my maths classes had been taught in a way which let me learn from those around me (who were much better than I was at maths), like it was in the next three years, I would definitely have learnt more effectively...

  • While my current teaching context and subject material does not suit a behaviouralist approach (hence why I do not use it), I nevertheless have some sympathy for @RobertBaird 's position.

    I have taught the pronunciation of the 'th' sound in English using this model as it requires learners to move their tongue in a completely new direction (for many language...

  • Hi, it was also the way I was taught in the 1980's in the UK too. Many people who experienced this way of learning do not understand there are other ways, which, I think, is why sometimes HE can be slow to evolve...

  • Hi Simon, thanks for pointing this out - the terms are often used interchangeably by different fields, but you are right that the norm is Behaviourism in education. Apologies and we will correct it for the next run!

  • Hi Shahrzad, great to see you here, thanks and welcome. Perhaps we need to learn the digital literacies necessary to make learning with and through technology effective... What do you think?

  • Hi Lynn, welcome to the course.
    You are right that we need the digital literacies to be able to make best use of the Web (and avoid the negative parts). It is also true that 'knowledge' itself has been changed by the Web - we need to remember less than before, because we can find the information we need when we need it, but many people feel that this can...

  • Hi Antonio,
    a very interesting (and eloquent) comment, thanks. I think your key point is exactly right. If we do not equip ourselves and our societies with the knowledge and skills to make best use of the wonderful resource that is the Web, we do run the risk of being 'drowned' or 'out of control'.
    The Web can be empowering, but it can also be divisive and...

  • Hi, interestingly that mirrors my own school experience during the 1980's. I always felt 'stupid' in maths class because I couldn't get my head around some of the key aspects, but loved history, which was about patterns, people, societies and empathy.
    I went on to read history at university!

  • Hi John, I imagine that learning has changed very significantly during your lifetime, it is great to see you embracing the new approaches. Thanks for your comment.

  • @NeemaKamau it is not only students who sometimes struggle with that, but many lecturers too!

  • Hi Nataliya, thanks for your feedback!
    I agree with you that what 'learning' actually is in the network age is fascinating and there are many different views and opinions about that. Hopefully this week has helped to highlight some of those debates.

  • Hi Elaheh, it is true that different learning approaches are suited to different topics and contexts, but the poll asks which approach you personally prefer (ignoring context).

  • Hi Nataliya,
    age does have an important part to play, but I would argue that there are many old people who are good at using technology (e.g. me!), while there are many young people (especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, or with disabilities, or from many under-developed nations) who are not so good.

    Age is just one of many factors which affect our...

  • Hi Nataliya, I agree with you completely.

    However, in the next section we will discover that not all people have access to the web (still about half of the world's population do not access the web, and even in the UK, about 11-14% of people do not use it). Also, even those with access do not all use it in the same way, especially for learning purposes. Some...

  • Hi Robert, you are right that behaviouralist/instructionist approaches do have their role for certain learning items and some learning contexts (although I do not apply them in my teaching either!).

  • Hi Abdul, just a note for your and other coursemate's information - the order of the options changes every time you view it, so 'the last option' is different for each person who takes the poll.

    I assume you mean 'learning from a network of people, experts and technologies'.

    If so, 40% of the respondents (almost 500 people) agree with you!

  • @ElahehKargaranKermanifar hi, yes, there are a wide range of social, cultural, economic and political factors, such as age, gender, race, income, education level, geographic location, infrastructure, political climate, cultural practices and behaviours....and so on, which affect how individuals are able to learn and develop.

    These offline inequalities...

  • Hi Robert, welcome to the course.
    I too am frustrated by these oversimplified categorisations of people (especially young people) as digitally identical. A later section of the course this week will spend time exploring the ideas of digital differences, I hope you'll find it informative and look forward to further discussions on it...