Tag Archives: Dave Cormier

Thoughts on the Curtis Bonk MOOC and Learning Management Systems

Recently, I have been pretty actively engaged in some coursework about blended and online teaching. While I have been teaching in both arenas for few years now, I am always on the lookout for new wrinkles and developments. Plus, I am just a learning junkie.

Were it completely up to me and I didn’t need to chase graduate credits to climb the wage scale for my teaching position, I would almost certainly focus a significant amount of professional development efforts on Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). For the past few years I have been following and continuously fascinated by the work that George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier have been doing. While I have never been able to stay completely focused on one of their MOOCs for the entire run, I have been following along in one way or another since the  CCK08. I was quite excited for year’s Change11, yet have been only able to dabble a little here and there, pretty much for the aforementioned credit chase. I am hoping to spend some more time this summer poring over more of the change11 weeks that I was too busy to investigate.

Still, timing was ripe and I was well primed to start following Curtis Bonk‘s attempt at a MOOC, called Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success. I first discovered Bonk a few years ago during one of my forays with the Flat Classroom Project. Since then I have gotten a lot more familiar with his work. He is one clever and comic professor. So his presence and the topic were instantly interesting.

As week 1 wraps, the course has me reflecting on a few things. It has reminded me of just how much I dislike Learning Management Systems (LMSs) in general. Bonk’s course is using Blackboard’s new CourseSites product, which is their new free application. In what is kind of a product debut, this course has already exposed not only its flaws but the flaws of an LMS being used for an experience that includes so many people. Currently this course is at over 3000. These kind of tools are really just built to scale like that. This product is particularly feeble in its ability to handle this kind of load. As in all MOOCs the discussions are enormous and overwhelming. Despite participating pretty strongly, that aspect can be pretty dissatisfying. Clearly others have felt similarly, because the discussion board for week 2, at least check on day 3 only has 30 posts.

All of my previous MOOC experience strengthens the notion that some of the best online learning happens across distributed networks. Even for Bonk’s course some of pretty interesting conversation is already happening outside the course itself, here and here. Even Dr. Bonk, himself, jumped into the fray of the Comments sections for both blogs’ rich exchanges. After all, LMSs are a whole lot more about management and whole lot less about learning, to be sure. Even the idea of blogging within an LMS seems to defeat the whole purpose of the activity. Yet somehow the CourseSites folks have served up that possibility. Truth is, threaded discussions might be the only real value added by an LMS and mainly because they simply act as a single repository. Even Siemens, Downes, and Cormier have gradually angled away from linking to an LMS.

An LMS is by its very nature closed . Also seemingly closed is the content or resources.  As much as I like Bonk and his work, I am a little disappointed that essentially all of the resources for the course are written or produced by him. That belies a little of the openness, despite Bonk’s clear open nature. This makes participating a bit like being an outside observer in one of his Indiana University classes, which is certainly worthwhile to me. However, I can see how that limits the appeal and weakens it claim of MOOCness, if there is such a thing.

I am going to stay with it, in part because I am interested in the content. Plus, it weaves nicely with some of the other PD on which I have been working deeply. However, were that not the case, I am not sure I wouldn’t be feeling a little like some others. There definitely seems to be some serious criticism flying around the blogosphere, which I have joined. Still, in spite of any criticisms I am still fascinated and want to continue.


Gearing up for Change MOOC 2011

This week begins the latest phase in the great Siemens, Cormier, and Downes MOOC adventure. It is the longest and most ambitious to date, which is saying something considering the nature of the Massive Open Online Course is by its nature a pretty ambitious effort.

Change MOOC 2011 looks to be a remarkable investigation and exploration into the evolving space that is education, learning, and technology. Scanning through the course schedule, I couldn’t help but being excited at the prospects of where this will go. The roster of thinkers and topics is impressive indeed. I have to credit the three Canadians for turning me on to many of the names. I have been following the work the work of Cormier, Siemens, and then Downs now for a few years and because of that I now find many of the guest participant names far more familiar as a result.

I remain most fascinated and interested in the MOOC as a kind of phenomenon, albeit a seemingly small one. The course content is intriguing as well, but I can never help but feel that there is something remarkably powerful about the very nature of a MOOC. I have participated, more or less, in all but the first efforts of these three individually or collectively. I hoped to jump in the first time and very quickly lost track of it before I even truly got started. Consequently the second offering presented my first real deep dive into the experience, which I relished to the point of kind of drowning. Learning how to function and best participate in a MOOC creates its own unique kind of experience and knowledge.

Now after thrashing around in a few of them, I have found them to be extraordinarily rewarding and valuable, despite not feeling as though I have alway been completely successful. While goal-setting and determining success might be most purely individual within the context of a MOOC, but I can’t help being hungry and endlessly fascinated by so much of the material that is offered. I seem to always feel a bit hopelessly overwhelmed, even though I intellectually understand keeping up with it all is impossible, and I even make thoughtful choices to manage and try to avoid that feeling. I simply get so interested I wish I could remain submerged in the material and the learning.

Essentially, I am actually quite excited about this new course and the sheer scope of it. Since it will span over 35 weeks, it provides a range of topics that may be more or less of interest. So from that standpoint, this offering may very well be a bit easier to manage with longer rhythms that hopefully will not feel so fleeting. My hope is that I will find a way to simply make the course a part of my daily routine for the better part of the academic year. It should be fascinating if nothing else.

Thoughts on an NWP MOOC

One of the charges for my Flat Classroom Certification was to begin designing a project. While I have a couple  of other ideas that have been taking shape in my head, in the last month or so one idea has been taking serious root. So while it is not an exact fit with the course, the instructors were generous enough to allow me to pitch the following as part of the course. It definitely an idea that has taken hold of a lot of my thinking of late, as I investigate it more. I welcome any and all feedback as I continue developing the idea.

Last year began a genuine fascination with the Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) concept, courtesy of George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Despite my better efforts my initial efforts to participate fell short. Regardless the concept was a fascinating one to me. When this year’s Personal Learning Environments Networks & Knowledge MOOC ran, I jumped back into the fray and this time participated more fully. Participating to the end was considerably more satisfying than my previous attempts and it got me thinking about the applications of this new learning model. Additionally, a team including Siemens, Dave Cormier recently released The MOOC Model for Digital Practice wanting to experiment with them.

I would love to try it with my high school English classes, but there are some limitations when working with minors. Plus, it is harder to imagine as many participants being interested in a course geared toward fourteen to fifteen year-olds. Then it ocurred to me that National Writing Project (NWP) might be the best place to experiment with a modified MOOC application.

The National Writing Project already offers an extensive network of educators across disciplines at all levels, early childhood through university. Moreover, the network is comprised of teacher consultants (TCs) that have already experienced the formative Invitational Summer Institute (ISI). However, there are over 200 local sites offering an ISI, which is the official introduction to the network, and beyond that what local sites can offer is considerably uneven, depending on available resources. While all sites offer some kind of follow-up continuity events, these are point of continual struggle for all local sites.

Consequently, my idea is to adapt the MOOC framework for interested NWP TCs. The idea would be to offer a kind of synthesized packaging of some of the work that affiliated NWP channels are already doing into an Advanced Invitational Summer Institute, of sorts, where the invitation to participate is essentially open. While the target audience would really be designed to appeal to existing TCs, already familiar with the NWP model, and looking for another ISI like experience, it could potentially be a way to enlist and introduce new participants to the NWP network, as well as potential international connections.

There are a lot of potential advantages to this approach, it seems to me.

On a fundamental level, the open nature and scale of an effort like this provides an additional means for interested TCs to be involved in the network on their own terms, pursuant to their own personal interest and goals. Of course, this already exists with available resources, but it is only possible through considerable individual effort navigating all of the various NWP channels and initiatives. Not all local sites have the capacity to provide large-scale guidance throgh the deep resources that already exist and are constantly emerging. One of the goals of an effort like this would be to provide some relatively focused guidance and curation for participants navigating and making sense of their journey with them material and resources.

Due to the great diversity in what each local site can offer in addition to the mainstay ISI, it allows TCs who would like to deepen their experience and connections within the network a chance to do that with a grander set of resources and appeal, while still attempting to emulate aspects of the ISI models of professional development. While a virtual experience, another real advantage is the fertile ground that can emerge for cultivating new and interesting connections that may not have previously been a available or known. It is another step toward extending and strengthening the “National” aspect of the network.

Also, being a virtual experience, it would advance and even explore many aspects of teaching the “New Writing” or “Digital Writing,” an area where NWP has been a clear leader in professional development. A MOOC of this kind would then serve as a grander hub of activity, that would build upon and bring together some of the best offerings of NWP, for example like the work that is done in the E-Anthology, Digital Is, Teachers Teaching Teachers, current Initiative strands, in a guided or facilitated way geared more for the “advanced user” but open to anyone interested. It would provide some focused inquiry on elements of NWP work that many TCs might not know exist or don’t yet have a strong grasp until they have made a more concerted effort to investigate.

The benefits would be in the participating. More than that, I see it as a valuable enhancement or enrichment for interested TCs that may not feel as connected. The open invitation has a lot of appeal to me, and the prospect that people outside NWP or even internationals  might participate is a genuinely exciting possibility. With a variety of ways to participate, individuals have enormous flexibility on the amount, degree, and interest in participation. Additionally, it potentially offers an alternative way towards continuity for building capacity on a larger scale that could benefit the local sites where participants are affiliated. The open nature of it also offers potential to not only eliminate geographical boundaries for existing TCs in larger rural states but enrich already existing efforts in those contexts. The potential content and knowledge that an effort like this could create is worthy of investigation, as well as being a potential boon for NWP related activity and awareness.

If anyone else is interested in this idea, I would love to hear your thoughts.