Having been invited to do so by both George Siemens and Tom Whyte, I here note changes I would make if I were teaching this class (or a class like it) in future. This builds on my previous critique-y posts Environmental Engineering and Course Critique (week 9) and Network Control via Grades (week 5). Except for the first one, they are about form rather than content.
I am still struggling with taking a traditionalist, conservative role in my concerns about basing so much of our study in trends that only emerged within this generation.
I think for the future, it would be good to see some consideration of the larger view, the context that goes back beyond the last 20 years and beyond the formal field of educational research. I would have liked a much larger perspective into which I could fit contemporary theories of teaching and learning. Since I had to develop it myself, it seemed I was often jumping up and down saying “that’s not new!”
Redistribute the assigned workload
I would redistribute and revise the marking scheme. Putting 90% of the graded items into the last few weeks left too much floating time at the beginning of the class, and far too much work at the end, which didn’t allow for proper feedback along the way. Participation should be worth far more, and deterministic assignments (CMap, “papers”) far less. Most of the grade should be based on the overall blogging, if that is the central learning repository being tracked for each student (see Get Visual, below).
Improve participation in synchronous meetings
Set at least one synchronous weekly meeting as fully participatory.
Students should be able to “present” their ideas and perspectives to others at the synchronous meetings as part of the “presentation”. Student participation needed to be built in, not treated as a sideline/backchat/commenting thing. If the idea is that the teachers are learners too, then asking questions of them is not enough.
Create specific topics or questions, not just the topic of the week.
A set topic or question would level the field, with the instructor acting only as a guide. Students who took trouble to arrange time to be present would know what would be discussed, be more prepared, and feel a responsibility to participate.
No blank screens
Jeff’s multiple webcams using MeBeam, evident in a couple of UStream sessions, could have been used to bring in groups of students, who volunteer in advance to share their ideas. For more free-wheeling discussions in Elluminate, students could collectively record main ideas on the whiteboard. That space, like the chat, should be used (as Nancy White did so effectively). It would even be possible to show one of the instructor’s “talking head” videos right in Elluminate, and discuss during and after.
Use of images should be encouraged.
Things were way text heavy everywhere, even on the blogs. The metaphors for connectivism could be pictures rather than text and stories. And no, a diagram with connected text boxes doesn’t count.
Determine the pedagogical goal for each element of the course
Clear objectives are needed for the pre-set elements of the class: the Moodle forum, course wiki, connectivism blog, Google groups, etc. Discussion should take place about what types of content might be appropriate for the Moodle forum vs SL vs blogs. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each for forming community, sharing information, expressing individual ideas? There are norms already for these tools, developed collectively by those who regularly use them, but people don’t necessarily know these trends. Perhaps a list of suggested options by usage could be developed:
- posting reflections on course reading = blog
- asking questions of the instructors = forum 1
- arranging times and places to meet elsewhere = forum 2
- presenting or listening at live, instructor-led meeting on particular topics or questions = Elluminate
- tracking colleagues’ blogs = rss
- real time meeting with colleagues but not instructors = SL or elsewhere
Encourage a dynamic course wiki
Allow student access to change the main wiki, and have doing so be an expectation.
The course should grow organically. Instructors mark out the planting beds, and plant a few of the basic items (readings, assignments). Space could be made for adding other “found” readings each week, and inserting links to various discussions or other content.
Keep up with posting correct links and times for synchronous sessions.
Adapt the concept of The Daily
Limit it to what’s up for that week, and the RSS feeds from student blogs. No commentary or “special” posts noted.
Make assigned readings (and more) interactive
The basic readings are a focus, so they could be treated as such. Each could be placed in the Moodle forum as a place for focused discussion. If one didn’t want to put the talking head videos only in Elluminate, they could also be inside a forum. (In Moodle, I like the “single simple discussion” format for this, with the media item as the first post.) This provides an element of immediacy to content responses.
The approach used for CCK08 could be applied to many different types of classes. I could do everything I’ve suggested above and create a perfectly good history course! This class has provided an excellent model to build upon and, interestingly enough, the further application of connectivist tools is what can make it work even better.