Identifying Connected Learning Courses (Continued)

Since my last blog post, I have continued to think about how we in formal, higher educational contexts might identify “connected learning courses,” as a type of instructional design or format.  I can think of several, very practical reasons why this might be important:

  • It helps move universities that have embraced a connected learning agenda towards a tracking system – for the purposes of watching growth across and within departments and programs – identifying what you are trying to promote an essential part of any needs analysis or progress report
  • It helps with educational research and development.  How am I supposed to provide evidence that connected learning is useful (or that courses are triggering connected learning) if we can’t agree on a viable definition of connected learning?
  • It helps faculty understand what we mean by connected learning in the context of designing their courses.
  • Once they understand what we mean by “connected learning course,” it indicates to students what to expect within a course.  There may be times when students would prefer to sit back in a lecture rather than work as hard as they have to in connected learning courses.  We should acknowledge and respect that.

So, here goes.

If you read that last post, you know that I am working on defining connected learning through the lens of syllabi/course document review – the sort of thing graduate fellows like me might do when trying to identify “connected learning” courses to study.  I don’t think you’ll find my table too different from the Connected Learning Alliance definition of connected learning.  Beyond this obvious connection, my thought process in creating Version 1.0 of my “How Connected Is It?” table was shaped by the following things:

  • I’ve spent the last three months buried in my own obsession with the overlaps between open education, connected learning, and networked learning fields.  If you are familiar with these three bodies of literature, you will recognize certain things.
  • I’ve spent the last weekend pouring over the course documents for the five “connected learning courses” that my university piloted last summer – I am using them as the sources of data for my dissertation research, which is on the documentation of connected learning.  None of the courses are the same – in fact, in some ways, they are all over the map – and I have (personal) opinions on just how “connected” they actually were. I’m going to have to explain all this in my dissertation and in any future research I might pursue, particularly in this stage of connected learning development.
  • I love the format of the PLOS “How Open Is It?” This very useful pdf outlines the spectrum of open access journals. In the old days when I was working to start an open access journal and I was trying to explain open access to faculty, I found that this one pdf spoke volumes – they looked at it, and they got it.  THEY GOT IT.  They ALL got it.  And, trust me, I’d tried everything else to explain it – even interpretive dance. The caveat was that some faculty thought you had to be on the same level (in the same row) for all of the categories, and of course you don’t, but that’s easy to explain away.  I feel like “connected learning courses” are very similar to “open access journals” because they both have a variety of key elements that can be expressed along a spectrum.  Therefore, because of my past experience, I am dead-set on making one of these tables.

Here’s the first draft.  Please remember that the purpose of this is to help people identify connected learning course designs through the process of syllabus/course document reviews.  It does not actually speak to whether connected learning occurred – that’s the purpose of course evaluations and student assessments.

Many of you are going to hate it. That’s ok – dig in.  My biggest problem with it is the ordering of the items in the columns…why are some of the things considered more open than others? Right now, my order is based partially on my reading and partially on what I’ve seen in my own course document review. I freely admit that it’s not right yet, and I am hoping you are going to help me make it better.



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