Is your course schedule full yet? Some great offerings (Wiley wikis)

July 20, 2008, [MD]

When I took Wiley’s course Intro to Open Education, it was something quite new for me, and I learnt as much from the design (both the things done well and the things that could be improved) as I learnt from the contents. Turns out his course has inspired a following, who have kept learning both from his example, and from each other, experimenting with different ways of conducting classes online, often blending it with for-fee credit students.

I first came across Teemu’s course on Composing free and open educational resources. This was conducted on Wikiversity, which was also interesting to me, because I had been considering Wikipedia a repository of course materials, rather than a site to conduct teaching and learning (which I would think would require different functonality, etc). I was excited to see this, and even wrote to Teemu asking that the lessons from conducting such a course be written up.

Otago Polytechnic has conducted the two courses Designing for flexible learning practice and Evaluation of e-learning for best practices on WikiEducator, and in about a week the new course Facilitating online communities run by Leigh Blackall will begin. This looks very interesting, and I am considering joining, even though it would be very difficult since I am spending the next six weeks in India and China. I might follow the course and the discussions, without being an active participant.

Finally, Stephen Downes and George Siemens are offering what is going to be a “megacourse” on Connectivism and Connective Knowledge. Although there is no detailed course plan available, they have attracted a lot of attention, and over 1000 people have already signed up to be informed when the course starts (of course, not all of those will participate actively). This means that the course will function quite differently from a smaller course with 30-50 participants where everyone - even though it takes a lot of time - can still read everyone else’s blog posts.

What is exciting is that there seems to be growing up a whole ecosystem of services and projects based around this course. Not only is it being translated into Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese (we’ll have to see how this will happen once the course actually starts, but it’s tremendously interesting to see someone even trying to facilitate such a course for multilingual audiences). They have a Google group that is active with discussions, and there are proposals for local learning communities, interactive chats, etc. I will be following this course very closely once it starts, perhaps participating actively, to see what new ways of interacting that develop.

In addition to the sheer amount of new courses that are explicitly orienting themselves in a “Wiley” tradition, and learning from each other, to the extent that Leigh Blackall coined the term “Wiley wikis”, there is also an emerging conversation taking place about what we can learn from these different attempts, how we should structure future courses - in terms of instructor load, participation of students, managing paying and non-paying students, trying to provide credit to external students through different institutional arrangements, etc.

Leigh Blackall, Teemu Leinonen and Bronwyn Hegarty conducted a conversation about this topic, which is available for download. Leigh Blackall and Sarah Stewart also discussed preparing a paper for a conference on their experience, and I love how they have documented all their discussions online - including three blog entries (1, 2 and 3), an audio recording of a meeting, and the script of the presentation.

I am very encouraged by this willingness, not only to experiment, but also to reflect, connect with others, discuss, and share the discussion and open it to everyone. It’s a discussion I am certainly hoping to participate in, both as a student, teacher, researcher and advocate.


Stian Håklev July 20, 2008 Toronto, Canada
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