Sunday, October 19, 2014

How many and why not?

How many English Comp classes started at schools, colleges, universities, academies etc across North America this fall?  How many Pre-Calculus, Intro to Psychology, Intro to Business, Intro to Whatever Studies did the same?   How many world-wide?

Answer:  A lot did.

How many of the students and teachers in those classes would benefit from communicating with each other, sharing content, objectives, activities, examples, ideas?  Would not those be truly Connected Courses?

Why isn't there at least an informal network of students who have enrolled and those who are teaching these courses to do so?  What's getting in the way of that forming?  Who would benefit?  Who would be threatened?  

Inquiring minds want to know.


  1. I think the single best thing we, as teachers can do, is to share all our teaching materials online. I get ideas all the time from the teachers I interact with in different digital spaces, and I am always glad when I hear from someone who looked at my materials... yes, at least at my school, there is basically no support for that at all. Everything goes into the totally closed-off learning management system (we use D2L BS)... where even prospective students cannot see what a course is about. The default seems to me "keep it all locked down by default" ... how great it would be if the default were to have it be OPEN and only lock it down if/when needed (copyright, for example).
    I have been banging my head against the wall about this issue at my school for FIFTEEN YEARS NOW... and progress: almost zero. In some ways, we are worse off because back in 1999 we didn't have a learning management system singing its Siren song, luring people to put their materials online under lock and key only.
    Argh! I keep all my materials online, and always have since first learning to make webpages back in 1998. Yet here we are in 2014 and we have made soooooo little progress.
    Here's the UnTextbook I wrote for my students and shared online this summer:
    Mythology and Folklore: Online UnTextbook

  2. "Keeping it all locked down by default" is the paradigm to be overcome. Kim Jaxon said that 'without a significant shift in teaching practices, she worried that focus on open is just a form of techie solutionism.' Going open, beyond the LMS, and connecting both students and educators into a larger community greater than the institution or organization is an opportunity that we can't afford to squander. I worked as an instructional designer on the Washington State Open Course Library, building OER for high-demand courses, a great effort but with slow adoption for a variety of factors. The alternative to OER and Open Courses is to cede the content, the activity, the teaching and the learning to the textbook publishers and the branded institutions.

    Thanks, Laura!

  3. Hey Laura and Andy,
    I really like the model from FemTechNet: Interested faculty from many campuses decided on a "spine" to have as a common set of ideas, concept and activities. They use that spine in their various classes across the country, sometimes doing a similar assignment or working with a similar idea. I think this is completely possible, especially in a course like first-year comp. I often have peers from different sections respond across those sections (like a pen pal); how cool would in be if their peer responder was from another campus?

    And, our campus still uses BbLearn, but the comp faculty went rogue and did our own thing. Most of us use Wordpress. Luckily, we are not told we must use the LMS. As Laura says, I like that students can always see the class...even when they're not enrolled.

    I love this quote from Melissa Woo who is the CIO at University of Oregon: "Campuses are often self-contained businesses, supporting commodity services that aren’t core to the mission and don’t offer competitive differentiation. Technology now enables a shift to commodity service providers, freeing up local resources to focus on activities that bring higher value to students. Higher education needs to shed its prevailing philosophy of building and maintaining monolithic enterprise services in order to create an environment that can rapidly adopt, and just as rapidly drop, remix, and re-imagine services as needed."

    Happy Monday!

  4. "Higher education needs to shed its prevailing philosophy of building and maintaining monolithic enterprise services in order to create an environment that can rapidly adopt, and just as rapidly drop, remix, and re-imagine services as needed."

    Or, more crudely put, utilize 'plug and play' curriculum and then directing faculty (and administrators, including yours truly), to add value to the student experience by coaching, networking, creating an effective node on the Big Network by collecting and distributing content, knowledge, skills, values, providing feedback, assessing and credentialing. Schools tend to focus on the creation of content and squeezing it through bottlenecks, and then providing credentials to those who make it through the bottleneck and obstacle course. But, the real value that schools, instructors, etc., add to the students' experience is plugging them into a network of learners, opportunities, employment.....