I just finished writing a blog post describing the VCU approach to the Intersection of Connected and Open. It made me feel better about my ability to organize my literature review for my dissertation, so I made myself a cup of tea and I’m going to keep going.
What would a course look like at the intersection of Connected and Open?
This is a bit challenging, since “open” and “connected” are approaches to education rather than a cookie-cutter template for instructional design. VCU is also going for an approach rather than a template, since it is a large, diverse university – a template would not work. However, there are frameworks to consider, specifically open teaching, connectivistMOOCs, and the connected learning framework. Let’s do that and then move on to my proposed VCU framework.
The concept of open teaching was defined by Alec Couros in 2010. He described it as “the facilitation of learning experiences that are open, transparent, collaborative, and social” (p.115-16) Typical activities would include some or all of the following:
- advocacy and use of open source tools and educational content when feasible
- educating students on and encouraging their use of open licensing for their learning products
- seeding students’ personal learning networks
- development of learning environments that are inclusive, diverse, responsive, and student-centered.
- Modelling of open philosophies and practice
- Advocacy for participation and development of collaborative gift cultures.
The first Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) took place in 2008 at the University of Manitoba (Canada) as an effort to study and develop connectivist-aligned pedagogical approaches. The course was “not simply about the use of networks of diverse technologies; it [was] a network of diverse technologies” (Downes, 2008, para.2).
The best connectivist learning environments contain too much content distributed across too many platforms for anyone, including the instructor to master (Fini, 2009). When learning environments meet this threshold, participants are forced to develop the mindsets and skills required to organize and wield digital workflows to their advantage. As more c-MOOCs took place, observers began to notice the emergence of common learning activities across the most successful of them. These were identified as:
- establishing a personal learning network;
- curating, critiquing, and organizing data;
- connecting or coordinating concepts over space, time, and spheres of learning;
- transforming data into new products; and
- sharing new products with the personal learning network.
The Connected Learning Framework
The DML Research Hub agenda for research and instructional design included a pedagogical framework. The framework consists of three learning principles and three design principles. Core learning principles emphasize the diverse spaces in which youths learn while the design principles identify specific approaches or strategies for inspiring deeper, more engaged learning (Ito et al., 2013).
- Interest-powered (i.e. personal hobbies)
- Peer-culture (i.e. social activities)
- Academically oriented (i.e. formal academics, professional experience)
- Shared purpose (social learning)
- Production-centered (hands-on learning)
- Openly networked (use of online platforms to increase access to information and people – as resources and audiences)
My Proposed Blended Approach
I designed a table to describe connected courses at VCU. Big disclaimer here – I am not an institutional policy maker. I am a closely situated and interested observer. Do not take this as anything resembling “official.” It breaks down course design along the qualities of:
- Online Status (is it web-enhanced?hybrid?fullyonline?)
- Opportunities for digital self-expression
- Opportunities for discourse
- Student Agency
These qualities are characterized on a spectrum, with a baseline (minimum) requirement to be considered a connected course at VCU. If you are interested, click the link to the table – there are descriptions.