I want to attempt to address two questions posed as prompts for week 1 of Teaching with WordPress:
- What can you do in the context of open that you couldn’t do before?
- What’s your biggest challenge in designing for open?
Both of those questions meet me right where I am at, at this moment in time. I am just completing teaching the second of two sections of MSLOC 430 – Creating and Sharing Knowledge, a course that attempts to focus on innovative ways in which organizations might utilize enterprise social networks (ESNs). This past year I experimented with popping the lid off of the course and opening it up a wee bit – first by attempting to run a six-week “open” subset of the course in parallel with my on-campus course and more recently by running a working-out-loud week in conjunction with the course.
I now have a little space to decide (and design), what next? I’ve set up a hosted WordPress site and new url under which I may begin to start hacking. In taking Alan Levine’s tour of connected courses and learning from Christina Hendricks’ experiences I am making note of a lot of really interesting ideas.
But I need to step back a bit and work out the “whats” – not only what can I do in the open, and what are the challenges, but what is the experience I want to create for the course.
I think the experience bit gets down to two key things. I’d like to create an environment where participants:
- Personally experience what it is like to share – and potentially collaborate – in an open, networked space where “learning trumps perfection” (as one MSLOC graduate student put it).
- Actively work on innovating ways in which we might use ESNs and social media to learn and to do the work that we do in organizations. For this part of the experience, I see things like working-out-loud, MOOCs, personal learning networks, open design, crowdsourcing, etc. as “inspirations.” They are models that have utility on their own – but they also provide sparks for new ideas and innovations.
I am sure I have blindspots on the possibilities presented by open pedagogy’s potential contributions to this “experience” vision. But at the moment, I see a few:
- Experiential. The graduate course I teach consists of working professionals with an average 12 years experience primarily in corporate settings. Open courses, working in public – all of that is new territory for them. And valuable territory.
- Continuity and permanence. The course focuses on an evolving field that will continue evolving. A public, open course site can be used as a persistent and continuously updated resource.
- Contributions from the network. If the course environment is successful, it will provide a space where dozens of practitioners who share interest in the topics we cover can interact with “enrolled” students to contribute thinking, sharpen ideas and share experiences.
- Potential – assessment from the network. I see a possibility where the network might assess ideas and innovations proposed by participants in the course (or vice versa – where students might assess ideas an innovations proposed by anyone).
The challenges? Two practical ones:
- I teach in an environment where we use an ESN as the foundation of our learning environment. It is private to students in the graduate program – but it has been tremendously effective in providing a safe, well-designed space in which community members develop their ideas and their capability to work in a networked environment. We model the type of environment I describe above as the vision for the course. Students in each section of the course I teach (20-25 students) can share ideas in a private “class” space or openly with the full ESN community (about 225 students and faculty) – and they do. There is a tremendous lesson here in how privacy and trust and community can exist in layers, and how to nudge individuals from one layer to the next. Because of the care with which we lead the full ESN community, there are topics addressed and questions asked that I know would never make it out to a more public forum. I don’t want to change this. I just want to extend it. That’s a challenge.
- Deciding on the architecture of the public course site. At this point, it seems like I have two distinct user/learner scenarios: 1) Open, general discourse and 2) idea generation and evaluation. Idea generation and evaluation is more process oriented; open discussion is more emergent.
Before I start hacking away in my new WordPress space, I think my head is trying to wrap around the implications of those two design challenges.