I recently tried to present something on #ds106 and MOOCs in general at VSTE. It’s probably best it wasn’t filmed. I’m going to try to present something more coherent in writing.1 This will be a description of what made this course work for me although I believe it could be generalized at least some to the world as a whole.
My description of #DS106 was essentially an online course2 meets Woodstock. You take a guided online experience and mix it with both chaos and, more importantly, community.
At the core, this is all about community. I’ll play out a few of the things that seem to indicate that to me.
DS106 seems to have the semi-mythical eduglu working. People are writing in all sorts of places with a variety of clients and it’s being captured in a way that encourages both commenting, community, and creativity. The synchronous aspect of this course is important and one that is encouraged and leveraged by being able to display both content and comments in one space with very little effort on the user. It’s a really interesting world when we can both have a “room of our own” and aggregate to communal place.
It doesn’t take a room of Java developers or a million dollar a year site license for the shiniest LMS ever. Martha’s work and her description of it makes it accessible to educators without the bottomless budgets or in-house development teams. That’s important, partly because that’ll probably be everyone after the next few rounds of budget cuts, but mainly because the idea that we don’t have to wait for someone else to build what we need is an important concept. Too often, I hear people waiting for things to be given to them- be it training, PD, or some tool or another. Don’t be passive participants. You are not helpless pawns.
The Ego Boost
Audience matters. Comments matter. Jim does an impressive job of encouraging and promoting the kind of work he wants to see. In another life, I’ll go and track pre and post publishing rates for the people he mentions on his blog.3 Guliaforsythe was kind enough to find some classic Jim Groom comments and pass them my way. Bottom line, people want to know people are engaging with their work. People want an audience. That’s, in part, why the synchronicity of DS106 is important. These comments and conversations have to play out in real time for them to impact what people do. Encouraging and modeling that kind of culture is good and important to building community online.
One of the main things that made DS106 attractive to me was that I could play something other than a subservient role. I’m a bad student for normal educational models. I don’t respect people for their degrees. If the assignment seems boring or stupid, I tend not to do it and I’m not really interested in being “assessed”. I’m an adult. I want a strong role in determining what I do and how I do it. DS106 offered me that ability. The fact that any student could submit an assignment was a big deal to me. The ability then to choose from those assignments which were presented as equals with the ones that were designed by the course creators was important.
A slight throw back to the mechanics piece, but a major part of what seemed to make the projects work was the aggregation of submissions under the project itself. Much like comments on posts, seeing that people really voluntarily did your assignments and watching them stacking up was a real motivator. Those kind of feedback cycles keep people engaged and participating.
Once again, the community would take an initial assignment and then start iteratively redesigning it, building on the work of other students and making something new. It be interesting to see if you could guide that without forcing it. One particular example of how it played out is below.
The initial prompt was to read and respond to Gardner Campbell’s “No Digital Facelifts”.
I remixed the talk with Nas and expected that to be the end of it. Another of a series of stones thrown into the vast abyss of the Internet. the song
There’s even a Neil Young version out there someplace.
Tim Owens built a whole kinetic text movie out of the speech. I recognize Tim’s work is not a direct outgrowth of the previous work but it is indicative of people gaining momentum in terms of how they might respond to the prompt with a variety of media in ways that probably weren’t intended initially.
I think a number of these concepts could be integrated into how we do online PD for teachers, how we structure courses for students in K12 and HE, and just how we conceptualize what ingredients we need to build online community.
Anyway, probably enough for now.
1 I’ll skip my pitch about how there might be some lesser revenue streams in the model that would encourage HE institutions to start doing this more. Maybe I’ll do that later just to see Jim’s reaction.
2 I know the slide says OER. I’m still thinking about why I did that other than online course was too long.