Not quite a course, but more than a conversation

Coming soon: A good, draft design for opening up my Winter quarter course #msloc430. And I’m going to ask for feedback (as in, would anyone participate?). I am at that point where I need to put structure to the whole event and see what people think.

But let me share a design bit that I am noodling.

One of the challenges of what I am trying to address is finding that good space between a course and a conversation.

I am not quite offering an open course. No badges. No certificates. No “instructor” feedback. But I’d like to offer more than just open conversation. I’ve had success with Tweet chats associated with my course. And they’re great. But I want to build something more than a one-hour conversation.

What does that look like?

I think that the topic-every-two-weeks pacing is right. And I really believe that providing a problem challenge is key: How might we combine meta-use-case models of networked engagement (MOOCs, crowdsourcing, communities-of-practice, working out loud, etc.) in innovative configurations to address organizational challenges? I can imagine a cMOOC style course design to do this.

But that design would be a course. A separate event that happens to run along the same time as my enrolled-student course. Two streams. Lightly integrated.

So where I am at, at the moment, is thinking about how you design something where “open” participants of different experience levels and expertise can:

  1. Weave in and out of three, two-week topic segments. Maybe they don’t need week 1 or 2. But that wouldn’t matter.
  2. Whichever of the first two week segments they participate in, participants get some value. Like dropping in on a live, enthusiastic conversation with a group of people.
  3. Be motivated to participate in the brainstorming, let’s-innovate-around-a-problem section that is the final two week segment.

I’ll share my thoughts on how to do this in my next post.

Hitting a productive point for #msloc430 course design

Have slowed down a bit on writing things down as part of my design update to my course. But it’s because I think I’ve hit upon a productive reframing of one key element of the course – how to glue together many apparently lightly connected concepts about enterprise social network (ESN) uses.

And so now, I am in that phase where a pretty clear outline of the course is emerging. I need to step back, shuffle some things around in my draft syllabus (which is a bit of a mess at this point), and take the design to the next level of done-ness.

The reframing was to shift the focus from understanding models and use cases for ESN and networked collaboration to innovating with models and uses cases for ESN and networked collaboration.

You still have to understand to innovate. But my pedagogical gut tells me the innovating approach will add a different level of energy to the class and the learning. This will work well both for the enrolled students in my Northwestern MSLOC course as well as anyone who might participate in the “open” segment of the course that will run in parallel.

My thinking is outlined in my updated post from yesterday morning. Here is a summary of the key insights.

Clustering concepts

Assume there is a connected, networked enterprise. Or extended enterprise. Or network of connected individuals who work or learn together out on the open.

What if we looked at different ways that people are using those networks as meta-use-case models – and potentially the building blocks of innovation? This approach helps to cluster some classic concepts (CoPs for example) with newer emerging in-practice ideas (working out loud).

Here are the variety of models on my short list at the moment:

  • Communities of practice and networks of practice (emergent, social learning)
  • Communities of inquiry (communities with an intentional learning purpose)
  • Connectivist MOOCs (networked learning model that biases relationships over content)
  • Personal learning networks (self-directed learners, leveraging a networked environment)
  • Crowdsourcing (wisdom of the crowds innovation)
  • Open design (design process leveraging wisdom of the crowds – think Open IDEO)
  • Working out loud (structured serendipity)

The “how might we” question

Hat tip to my colleague Ryan Smerek for really helping me understand how powerful this type of question can be in a course context. He’s been leading the way on this in a course we co-teach, and it has changed the tenor of the course over the past two years.

In the MSLOC 430 case, the questions are along these lines: How might we combine the models in innovative configurations to address organizational challenges? How might we apply models in different ways (i.e., connectivist MOOCs for idea generation)?

Pacing for the open segment of the course

This would be a participate-if-you like, self-directed, open learning event. Modeled somewhat after what was done in Exploring Personal Learning Networks. It would run parallel to the two times I teach MSLOC 430 (January – March, and March – June). Participants would connect in activities using Twitter, blogs and a Google Community.

Over an initial 4-week period, we’d explore the models noted above. What do we know about them? What makes them work? Where do they seem to be useful vs. not useful? This would be split into two, 2-week segments.

In a final 2-week segment, participants must work on and propose an innovative adaptation or combination of the models described above (e.g., community of practice, MOOC, crowdsourcing, working out loud) applied to a challenge of your choosing. An additional constraint is that the challenge (and resulting innovation) must somehow span the boundaries between internal networks and external ones.

The what’s-in-it-for

My intention – for open participants – is to see if MSLOC 430 could provide a brief time period and structure to step back, maybe learn more about some unfamiliar meta-use-case-models, and think out loud with a few others about how ways to innovate using the models.

Is there value there? Experimenting with it will tell me. But that’s the design intention.

For enrolled students (and for me) the opportunity to make direct connection and engage in an on-going conversation with many more practitioners is an appealing value proposition.

And the point of networked collaboration.

Deering Library

Half-baked thinking: Content and structure for popping the lid on #msloc430 course

Day 3 of #WOLweek.

I was walking home from campus today (I live a little over a mile from Northwestern University) after a pretty energizing day. But it is ugly cold for this time of the season and when I left the office about the only thing that I was aware of was the weather.

My walk takes me through some amazing parts of campus. The photo accompanying this post is of Deering Library. I took it in January last year. I walk past that building every day. It changes you as you walk past it.

And today – in a cold that was reminiscent of last January – I think I had an insight that started as I walked past Deering.

I have been thinking both about the pacing and the content that could be part of an open section of MSLOC 430. Half-baked thinking here but am sharing it in an attempt to define it, and to maybe elicit some feedback.

Content

The course I teach is really an exploration of enterprise social networking for graduate students who are people-change-learning geeks (and I say that with the utmost admiration). If I am successful in this course, I am providing an opportunity to develop new language (about technology) and a point-of-view of how social technology fits into a more strategic understanding of people, organizational culture and organizational performance.

Because we bridge many disciplines in the way that we teach and try to understand issues of people, culture and performance, we value the innovation that comes from boundary spanning.

Here is how that plays out in regard to enterprise social networking (in my half-baked thinking during my walk).

Assume there is a connected, networked enterprise. Or extended enterprise. If we had that, what are the variety of models we can overlay on that network to see (and perhaps facilitate) value in different ways?

  • Communities of practice and networks of practice (emergent, social learning)
  • Communities of inquiry (communities with an intentional learning purpose)
  • Connectivist MOOCs (networked learning model that biases relationships over content)
  • Personal learning networks (self-directed learners, leveraging a networked environment)
  • Crowdsourcing (wisdom of the crowds innovation)
  • Open design (design process leveraging wisdom of the crowds – think Open IDEO)
  • Working out loud (structured serendipity)

I am beginning to think about selecting content that provides an introduction to each of these models of ways to activate the network. Some of it I already have – and much of it is already open.

Structure

I am starting by thinking about six weeks for the open section of my course. At two weeks per topic or question to consider, that gives me room for three big questions.

Wondering if I can structure the open section so that anyone participating in it takes a co-learning-inspired tour of the various models for four weeks (split into two, two-week sections). Each two-week section would include introductory content; community discussions; Twitter chats; etc. For me, this means adapting the structure of Exploring Personal Learning Networks.

In the final two-week section, we look at innovating using the models. How might we combine the models in innovative configurations to address organizational challenges? How might we apply models in different ways (i.e., connectivist MOOCs for idea generation)?

Need to sketch this out a bit more. Maybe on my walk into work tomorrow morning.

MORNING  UPDATE (Thursday, Nov. 20):

Mapped out during my walk, listening to this Ted Talk podcast: My Architectural Philosophy? Bring the Community into the Process – Alejandro Arevena.

If you participate in the open section of the course, you are presented with this as the  problem to address during the course:

By the end of the six-weeks, you must propose an innovative adaptation or combination of the models described above (e.g., community of practice, MOOC, crowdsourcing, working out loud) applied to a challenge of your choosing. An additional constraint is that the challenge (and resulting innovation) must somehow span the boundaries between internal networks and external ones.

For four weeks, we get familiar with the various models. The last two weeks are spent innovating out loud, with final proposed innovations shared openly at the very end of the course.

And yes – it is still cold. 19 F at the moment.

A detour to consider pacing: Opening up my course #MSLOC430 #WOLweek

Update on day 2 of #WOLweek.

My plans today were to make some headway in identifying new readings for my course, and I had a wee bit of success. More organizing and reacquainting myself with a few of articles that I had saved as potential readings. See my updates to the Google doc syllabus that captures my work-in-progress.

My day included finishing up a proposal to present at a conference next April; working on an evaluation framework for upcoming student proposals for a project-based course; re-connecting with someone who is a candidate for our adjunct faculty team; and reviewing plans to complete a research project that will be the basis of another conference presentation.

But I did have some thinking time to noodle one of the two questions I am working on as I retool my syllabus:

  • What is a good design for the “open” part of my course (in which the goal is to integrate other enterprise social networking enthusiasts with students enrolled in my face-to-face class)?

Paul Signorelli hit on it in his comment on an earlier post – there is something critical about pacing when you design an open course. So while on the one hand finding open content is an important exercise that should require, well, less exercise – pacing sets the stage for engagement.

Paul notes that Connect Courses is working on a pace of one topic every two weeks, and it seems to be working well. We ran Exploring Personal Learning Networks on a pace of one topic every week, and part of what we experienced was learner lag. Many learners were engaged but the pace of activities led them to lagging behind at times.

So a key decision for me is to declare a pace for the open segment of my course: One topic per week, or every two weeks? I am leaning toward one topic every two weeks, with structured activities (e.g., Tweet chats, Google Community, possibly webcasts). Which means I have time to do two or possible three topics within the context of my 10-week course if I work off of a model where the open segment occurs in the latter half of the course.

Interested in drafting a structure based on that model. Let’s say it’s three topics: So – what are those topics, and the questions that make them come alive?

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Challenge 1: Finding open content to open a course

This is not a surprise.

In a perfect world, I would be able to share – in an open course – a selection of both academic and thoughtful practitioner readings that point to common themes and/or raise questions about our thinking or assumptions concerning enterprise social networking.

It is easier for me to pull off this trick – at least, to the best of my own limited abilities – in a closed course. I have available to me the tremendous resources of a top-notch university library, which pays for my (and my student’s) access to leading journal articles.

All of my friends working hard in the open education field know this all too well. I’m just running into that first level of frustration today, in my first day of #wolweek, attempting to design an open segment of my course on enterprise social networking.

But in working out loud, there were some, uh, helpful nudges:

Ok. So I have that option.

Actually, am thankful for the connection to Kai Riemer. Not a surprise here, either. That in day 1 of working out loud, the activity leads to potential new relationships.

But at this point I am planning on leveraging the network to see if I can find an alternative path to the work that I see as most interesting to share in the open segment of my course. in the next couple of days I’ll try to post a reference list of articles I really like – contemporary, good research on enterprise social networks in organizations. But the list will be based on articles published in journals that I have access to – only for teaching in my “normal” MSLOC 430 course.

I’d like to see if there exists open-access versions of articles that build off of this reference list, in the way that good academic pieces do.

This week. That’s the goal – to live up to the words in the lobby of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago: Learn, Discover, Read.

photo credit: Chris Smith/Out of Chicago via photopin cc