New Courses and New Play Things

Thought VectorsInteresting days here on the fourth floor of the Academic Learning Commons at VCU.  Today was the roll out of our institution’s first MOOC – Thought Vectors in Concept Space.  CogDog (Alan Levine) and Tom Woodward have been creating magic side by side for the past week – developing a single platform in which six professors, their students, and the world can interact and build learning networks – within a class, within VCU, and within the world wide web.  For an informative “behind the scenes” look at what it took to make this happen, see Alan’s blog post – “Under the Hood of ThoughtVectors.Net.”

On Twitter, people lined up to emulate Douglas Engelbart’s pose.

The Pose.

This course is open to the world … and in talking to some of the faculty teaching it, they truly desire the world to come in and interact with their students.  Check it out.

Today is also the first day of my summer course – ADLT 640 – The Theory and Practice of eLearning Integration into Adult Environments (and no, I did not make the course name up…just living with it).  In keeping with the “thought vectors” firing around our floor, and in keeping with the practice Jeff Nugent and I have done for the past two years, I am also running my course on the open web, rather than using Blackboard.  The website is http://rampages.us/adlt640/. My students will also be blogging weekly, so check out their links in the Learning Journals tab in about a week.

eLearning is nearly as old as the web itself, but as with any innovation, there have been both early adopters and skeptics. As publishing and managing content on the web has become easier, and as providing online training and courses has become increasingly more popular, interest in providing elearning is high in government, the corporate sector, and education. A common (mis)perspective is that moving instruction online is primarily about designing and sequencing the content. This is wrong.  Rich content is already out there.  Changes on the web in the last decade – toward a more open, social and interconnected space – have necessitated the rethinking of what it means to teach and learn online.  eLearning is not about content…it is about connecting people – as our new MOOC stresses.  New theories are emerging regarding teaching and learning online. We will explore these theories (with a focus on connectivism) and the new practice of eLearning in my course.

This course explores the theory and practice of integrating eLearning into adult learning environments and addresses the many factors that need to be considered in the design and delivery of eLearning.  eLearning offers a great deal of promise to both adult educators and learners, yet eLearning must be implemented appropriately; its use integrated into well established and well-researched pedagogical practices in order to be effective.

ADLT-640 will (hopefully) provide learners with a theoretical foundation and rationale for the successful integration of eLearning into formal and informal adult learning environments. This course begins with an overview of educational theory and social constructivist teaching philosophy before addressing the fundamental issues instructional designers should consider when designing, providing, and assessing eLearning.  This foundation coupled with the practical issues associated with eLearning will set the stage for exploring digital media in ADLT-641, which is taught by Jeff.

My course is a hybrid one, with us meeting face-to-face the first two weeks to explore the theories, then going totally online for a month to apply the theories, and then reconvening face-to-face for the final two weeks to analyze what we do and look at emerging trends.  It is a fast 8 weeks!

3D Lion WeightAs if a MOOC and my own course were not enough, Jeff and I met with Benard Means today to set up our own 3D printer.  Benard and his students have been doing some amazing work digitizing artifacts they recover from the Jamestown / Williamsburg area.  We have a new MakerBot Replicator 5 which Benard helped us set up, and we immediately … and by immediately I mean over the next 45 minutes … printed out a replica of a Jamestown brass lion counterweight.  3D printing and instant gratification are not co-equal terms…but it fascinating to try.  Having a 3D Maker Space on our floor might open up new learning opportunities for faculty and students.

Over the afternoon, Jeff and I played with downloading scanned files from Thingiverse.  Shown below are some practice prints we are doing with Minecraft gear.

3D Printing

{Graphics: Tom Woodward, Alan Levine, Britt Watwood}

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Thought Vectors Firing Up

A grand experiment is launching today at VCU – our first cMOOC.  As it notes on the About page:

Starting June 9, the official course opens for six sections taught at VCU, and the rest of the internet is invited to join along as open participants.

The official name of this course at Virginia Commonwealth University is UNIV 200: Inquiry and the Craft of Argument. Starting June 9, the official course opens for six sections taught at VCU, and the rest of the internet is invited to join along as open participants.

Our special digital engagement pilot name is “Living the Dreams: Digital Investigation and Unfettered Minds.”

thought vector rocketWith the awesome team of Gardner Campbell, Jon Becker, Jessica Gordon, Jason Coats, Bonnie Boaz and Ryan Cales, the course site launched today … with help from Tom Woodward, Alan Levine, and Patty Strong.  Enoch Hale posted on his blog about this experiment.

I am looking forward to observing this thought experiment unfold … and engaging with summer students in the process.  Join us as well!

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30-Day Challenge – Day 28 – Class Knowledge Sharing Paradox

Harold Jarche blogged about the knowledge sharing paradox today.  He defined this paradox as one where:

“….enterprise social tools can constrain what they are supposed to enhance. People will freely share their knowledge if they remain in control of it because knowledge is a very personal thing. Knowledge workers care about what they need to get work done, but do they care about the organizational knowledge base?”

pair of docks

A “Pair of Docks”

He went on to suggest that the more someone in leadership attempts to control knowledge-sharing, the less knowledge gets shared.

“The only way to build useful organizational knowledge is by connecting it to individual knowledge-sharing…The responsibility for knowledge-sharing must remain with the individual, but the organization can collect, collate and redistribute what is shared…The organization’s role in knowledge-sharing then moves from being directive to facilitative.”

I think there are interesting parallels to classrooms…and educational organizations.  My 30-Day Challenge question:

Day 28 – Can I create more sharing of student-generated knowledge or faculty-generated knowledge by working less at controlling it?

The Educause Learning Initiative released this month “7 Things You Should Know About Web Syndication.”  It noted that:

“Web syndication applies the principles of discovery and distribution to the online environment, offering content producers and readers a flexible, powerful, and largely automated means of accessing and distributing content…Information coming from a wide variety of sources may broaden student learning horizons as it inspires discovery, curation, and sharing.”

Six years ago, I led a brown-bag discussion here at the Center for Teaching Excellence on Personal Learning Environments.  Interesting to go back and see that this slide deck has been viewed over 3,600 times.  In a micro way, it suggests how distributed learning has progressed…and how knowledge has been shared  My point in this slidedeck was to use RSS to build an automated way to access and distribute content.  Fast forward six years, and one can now build customized class websites with WordPress that allow for this automated means of accessing and distributing content.  Last week in GRAD-602, we discussed content creation and curation…and we sometimes have a hard time separating the two.  As Jeff Nugent noted in a conversation this morning, we have gone from “personal” learning environments to group learning environments.

The technology is easy…it is the practice that may be the harder nut to crack.  As my colleague Enoch Hale noted in “We are all mutants,” we need to help “…faculty (like our students) imagine new possibilities.”

Part of that hard nut is developing a digital community for faculty that thrives and grows.  We have attempted that in the past with Blackboard, Ning, Canvas, and blogs.  All took off initially and then died within a few months.  The time commitment and return on investment just was not there for most faculty… and perhaps we were trying to control it too hard. For some, though, a loosely formed community did grow – but ebbed in and out – within Twitter.

In our Office of Innovation, we are trying a new space – A Third Space – as a place to aggregate digital exhaust from any of us in the office.  It is a form of web syndication…but is it community?  Would a similar space within a “class” help students take ownership of their digital work…and would it have legs to last beyond the single semester?

I would be interested in your thoughts….

{Graphic: New Wave Docks … but “pair of docks” stolen directly from Harold…) 🙂 }

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