Landing : Athabascau University

Participatory Culture

The idea of the Landing is to spawn and support a participatory culture at Athabasca. We have been trying to do this with faculty and talking (but doing little) to encourage this with tutors and doing nothing at all to allow the majority of our self-paced learners to engage and participate in our academic culture.

Jenkins et al. (2009) describe a participatory culture as one:

1. With relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
2. With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
3. With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices
4. Where members believe that their contributions matter
5. Where members feel some degree of social connection with one another (at the least they care what other people think about what they have created)

But culture change -especially for education institutions is very hard to accomplish.

I see that we are over 700 members on the Landing now, but many are not active, I would be interested in a discussion (please respond by comment here) of the major barriers you feel prevent AU from developing a thriving participatory culture?  Or are we on the way and only need more time for cultural change? Is the current Landing software up to the task??

Comments welcomed!


Jenkins, H., Clinton K., Purushotma, R., Robinson, A.J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Chicago, IL: The MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved Feb. 20, 2010, from


  • My barrier right now is lack of time and the enormous volume of email I have to deal with everyday. The Landing posts in my inbox often get either ignored or deleted outright as I am constantly prioritizing my limited attention to other matters. This is, hopefully, a temporary condition and I believe I will be in a much more participatory frame of mind in the near future.

    I think we are getting closer to a participatory culture at AU but participation must somehow become habit. Using email is a good idea as that is already a strongly embedded habit with most of us. From there it is to be hoped that the messages draw people in to discussion (as it did for me with this one).

    Rodger Graham April 7, 2010 - 7:15am

  • My barrier--in addition to the time one that Rodger mentions--is that I can't figure out the site. I find it very confusing and non-intuitive. I will be participating in the workshop starting later this month, and I hope that at that stage, things will become clearer. Note that I'm still using me2u with my students--I figured that out--but this site seems more difficult.

    Veronica Baig April 7, 2010 - 11:33am


    Hi everyone!

    I would like to respond to Terry's five points -- one by one.

    1. With relatively low barriers to artistic expression  and civic engagement -- I think that Athabasca Landing is gets high points for point one, but until people find that they are engaging more habitually, there may be limited sharing yet. I'm optimistic for the future.

    2. With strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others.  -- I would give the format -- heads-up here, but as I see it, we will have to gain confidence in how to use the various options afforded on the site, before there is "best practice" and maximum participations which then can receive support.  I find that I tend to be a high responder, but only when something feels like it will sparksomething more (continuity) or when I intuit that my post will be potentially valued by at least one others

    3. With some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices4. Where members believe that their contributions  matter.  -- I think that there is lots of action in this regard -- people are very responsive and to me they are interesting and stimulating..


    5. Where members feel some degree of social connection  with one another (at the least they care what other

    people think about  what they have created) But culture change -especially for education institutions is very hard  to accomplish. -- I sometimes wonder if  people think my contributions  add to their  scope and/or  that I am connecting to them. I'm always delighted  -- and imagine others are too  -- when someone  takes time to respond, as the two people  prior to my post  have done.

    Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers April 7, 2010 - 12:10pm

  • I think culture is a big part in participation or not. What is the purpose of the Landing - what makes it different, better, useful etc.?

    I was speaking to a peer at a university in eastern Canada about online environments and this individual was very adamant about the purpose of an LMS versus the purpose of other tools such as social networking software and it was clear that "school" takes place in the classroom (the LMS) and idle, social chatter takes place on social networking sites such as the Landing - the two worlds are mutually exclusive. I have attempted to have this conversation with others and it appears that there are significant paradigmatic concerns that the academic world needs to resolve concerning the use of environments for learning.

    Like most issues that involve change, individuals move when issues become personal and they begin to see that their world can benefit from these changes. I guess the Landing needs to be seen as having personal value which then extends beyond to one's day-to-day involvement. We need to see places like the Landing as part of our daily academic interaction and then its use gets slotted into our daily routine and does not become some side issue or chore we have to go off and do.


    Stuart Berry April 7, 2010 - 12:22pm

  • I think there might be more cohesion and interaction between the different groups if there were fewer perceived boundaries between the learning spaces. Stuart referred to a peer's observation about the separation between the use of the LMS and the social network site. This is a common perception: students don't have permission to enter the learning spaces of other groups, and refrain from interacting with others rather than risking committing a social blunder of over-eagerness.


    Now although I agree that there need to be clearly defined rules about what an outlsider (defined as a learner not enrolled in the course like the others) can and cannot do within a specific class learning space, there are still many opportunities for interaction, for engaging and sharing experiences with others. As long as the outsider "guest" does not engage students about course content, draw from those restricted resources allocated for the paying course participants, the type of learning through shared sense-making and giving can still occur, particularly with these guests exploring the affective dimensions of learning, still significant, but not directly part of the courses objectives.

    To what extent would faculty feel surprise and concern if a group of unenrolled student observers begin "running through the course home backyards and jiggling the locks of the toolsheds and content silos?" Although intended in some way as an extended cheeky metaphor, the question is quite serious.  What about students? Would they appreciate a group of non-fee-paying students muddling up the course discussions, dropping extraneous content and reflections unrelated to the course assignments?

    Would the students feel a bit overwhelmed with these intrusions? Or would these other students act as informal mentors, guiding and showcasing through example how to use the AU Landing for one's own goals, not just to pass courses, but to engage in independent, self-regulated learning?

    Evidence? All very intuitive, at this point. Guest learners generally don't have the extra motivation to generally mentor others when the roles are blurred, and expectations are unclear.

    Glenn Groulx April 7, 2010 - 1:57pm

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