Over the last 18 months, I have been party to producing two xMOOCs for the edX platform for the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Fine Arts, Dr. Daniel Bonevac’s Ideas of the Twentieth Century and Dr. John Hoberman’s Age of Globalization. They are both amazing projects to be involved with, from the instructional technology and design perspective, but also, because of the real global connection that all the members of the team have felt with the students, primarily through the discussion boards.
As we are preparing to launch these two courses again, we’ve been rethinking discussion boards and automated essay grading (something that we were among the first, if not the first to do in edX, not without considerable troubles and set-backs). And the primary thing that keeps rising is the desire to keep dialogue, to keep writing, to keep the sharing going, even if there are not fully viable ways to automatically assess analysis, synthesis, and higher order thinking through computer aided technology at this time. I think a few on our teams do believe that if we keep developing the technology for computer graded essays, it will, over time, get better… but also, that we must to start look for other ways of creating meaning social engagement in large scale online courses.
Another thing that we are doing is repurposing our MOOC instructional content for a new platform, Canvas, to be offered through our University Extension program. It will use much of the same content, but we have to create a substantially different assessment schema, both because of the tool, and because of the requirements to award actual university credit.
As Paul Signorelli posted recently in the NMC blogs, There are many ways to use the MOOC content that we’ve been developing in other instructional settings. We also produced two enchanced ebooks, for AOG and IDEAS, which are primarily transcriptions from the lectures...with MUCH revision and editing.
While I know some people are not crazy of the promotion of the sage on the stage, I for one am glad we've had a chance to record these two remarkable teachers at the top of their games. When I think back to some of the teachers who infuenced me, and I deeply wish I had video of some of their lectures today. Even though I so appreciate the access to knowledge that technology has given me, I still believe that fundamentally, great teachers are the most important element in great teaching. And watching a lecture is different than reading, and a transcribed lecture is different than a textbook or a scholarly monograph. All have a different voice, and different value.
The thing that I’m focusing down to lately is not the content, or the platform…but what are the social and organizational structures that support learning? How can we create, re-create, and cross-create them between the digital and physical worlds?
I hope you’ll come see what we’re up to with our MOOCs both at edX, and through our University Extension service. They’re still free to take on edX, but if you know of any students who might need transferable core Liberal Arts credit for these courses, we’ve set up a mechanism to do so…and we’d love to have them involved, and find out what they think.
And, I'm personally interested in your thoughts about discussion boards in MOOCs...we've been reading up on applying rubrics for online discussions, and these seem to be a helpful idea. But all ideas, suggestions, and comments most welcome.