My offering for this year’s 12 Apps of Christmas shindig hosted by eTUG is Canva.
What is it? What can it do?
Canva is a free (with a Pro upgrade available) mobile and web app (iOS for a while and Android just in the last few days) that allows those of us who are maybe less artistically sophisticated or experienced than others in our community to create really nice graphics for web and print. Canva does this by providing a boatload of pre-designed templates that users can then edit with their own text and graphics.
Canva provides thousands of free images, shapes, fonts, icons, and graphics and also allows you to upload your own images. The app also provides premium content items for $1 each. I have been using Canva for multiple years and have never purchased a premium item. This is one app where the free version is robust enough that you can use it and not feel terribly deprived.
How it works.
You can download the app for your iOS or Android device from the appropriate store, sign up for an account, and start creating! I appreciate how simple Canva makes the whole process.
Launch the app and log in
Pick a template
These are Instagram templates, all sized perfectly for an Instagram post (800x800px). The top two have a ‘1’ and a ‘2’ in the bottom right corner indicating that those designs as you see them contain 1 and 2 premium elements respectively. Choosing the first option will show you which item will cost you $1. In this case (most cases) it is the background photo as indicated by the cross-hatched watermark. Don’t worry though, because you can upload your own image, replace this one, and you can use the rest of the elements as they are.
Edit your creation.
Again, Canva does an excellent job of making both the app and the web interface extremely easy to use, with guiding bubbles along the way. Some people may need more guiding bubbles than others.
You can add elements to the template by clicking the ‘+’ in the bottom right corner. Notice that the image below doesn’t have the cross-hatched watermark, meaning this design is free.
Share your work!
When you click the ‘Share’ link in the top right corner, Canva will put its magic web ferrets to work…
…and provide you with a set of sharing options, including downloads. I don’t have screenshots of the Android experience as it is very new and I don’t have access to an Android device.
Teaching with Canva
Canva is going to disrupt higher education as we know it!
Oh how I wish I had access to Canva when I was going through my entire educational career. As someone who has a difficult time accurately drawing stick figures and dreaded colouring assignments (even the Anatomy Coloring Book in my undergrad), any help that I can get in the ‘making-it-look-like-I-know-what-I’m-doing’ department of graphic design is most welcome!
While there are likely many assignments that could be done specifically in Canva, my approach would likely start with showing my higher ed (or K-12) students that Canva is a thing and how to use it, then tell them that if they want to use Canva to create graphics for any assignment, they are welcome and encouraged to do so.
Some assignments might be:
- creating featured images for blog posts
- illustrating ideas and concepts
- telling visual stories with a photo collage
- summarizing complex data in an infographic (that template is available on the web app, not mobile)
To practice and get yourself started with Canva, go download the app and sign up, then create a social media graphic (you pick the template) that you can share to encourage a new (or old) teacher and share it on the hashtag #12Apps!
opening education by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
I was privileged to be able to present at the ICDE World Conference for Online Learning earlier today. It was unfortunate that I couldn’t be there in person, but my friend and colleague, Ken Monroe from TRU was on the ground to manage the bulk of the logistics of the presentation. I had 10 minutes in a 50-minute session shared with 3 other presenters, so there wasn’t any time to fiddle-faddle around.
Knowing that the default information projector is PowerPoint but that there are far cooler tools available, made me want to try something a little different this time around.
One of the things with PPT is that your slides are a static resource after the presentation, and it is generally useless to have a list of bullet points (even if they are animated) in a file somewhere. Fortunately, @cogdog exists; not only the site, but also the guy who barks and growls on that site. Alan is one of the most generous people on the web, and one of his gifts to us is SPLOTpoint; an alternative to the one from Redmond.
SPLOTpoint (based on the SPLOT idea) is a modified WordPress theme (Intergalactic) set up to create a click-through site for you to host your presentation. Remember that thing with PowerPoint, about it being a static resource after you are done? Well, SPLOTpoint allows you to create an open repository of all your presentations that anyone can access both during and after your spiel, and they can leave comments, ask questions, seek clarification, and share their own ideas because the whole thing is just another WordPress site.
Alan has made SPLOTpoint open and super easy to install on your own site, at least if you roll your own WP install. It’s not going to work on wordpress.com. Just head over to the repo on Github and click the green ‘Clone or download’ button to download the .zip, then upload it to your theme folder or use the automatic theme installer to upload. You’ll have to ensure that you have the Intergalactic theme installed before you activate SPLOTpoint because SPLOTpoint is a child theme of Intergalactic. From there, you create your presentation in a more bloggy format than a typical PPT slide deck, and you can style your site with huge header pics with text below, or just use the header pics as your complete slide and off you go.
Alan’s GitHub repo includes detailed instructions for getting the theme set up, so I encourage you to do so. It is worth noting that if you are reading this and you have a site at create.twu.ca, SPLOTpoint is installed and ready to go!
I did encounter one difficulty, predictably about 45 mins before I was set to present. I made a small edit to one of my slides, saved it, and went back to check that everything still worked (always check!), and something had borked. When I tried to navigate to that particular slide, the presentation went back to the homepage of the site. Obviously, this wouldn’t do for a presentation that had to run smoothly with such limited time. I couldn’t see anything wrong with the URL or with the sort order of the slides. Updating, logging out, and other such things that sometimes reorient the web ferrets didn’t work.
Knowing that there was a reason that this was happening, I decided to change one of the variables just to see what would happen. Changing the sort order would be silly, because that would ruin the flow of the presentation, so I decided to change the name of the slide and the URL. I don’t know which one of those things worked (oops…confounding variables going uncontrolled), but it did.
All in all, I’m really pleased with SPLOTpoint as I now have a super easy way to share my presentation that doesn’t require me to upload it to SlideShare, I can display it as it was intended to be displayed, I can link to it from my other domains, and I can update it as needed.
opening education by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
I’m a little more than a year into this gig at TWU and feel that I’ve accomplished some important things, though not without some significant assistance along the way.
My first major priority was to upgrade our LMS from Moodle 1.9 (released in 2007; shelved in 2010 IIRC) that we have been running as is since we installed and customized it a decade ago. The thing with customizing Moodle is that you don’t get to keep those customizations if you want to upgrade.
It didn’t make sense at all to upgrade our current system on our own current servers, so we decided to sign on with the EduCloud service offered through BCNET. This is a great deal where our Moodle instance is hosted on UBC servers and is managed by TRU. We provide tier 1 support for our users and tier 2 support comes through TRU.
For a relatively small school like TWU, this frees up a lot of energy and capital for us.
I am the first login recorded on the server at 8:45 am Monday, March 22, 2017 and as of September 1, 2017, all new courses are being offered in Moodle 3.1, and the transition has been pretty nice so far.
We did two major rounds of faculty training in preparation for the move. The first was in May and June and we had a modest turnout of faculty who wanted to get a head start over the summer. This was good to see, but the trouble was that we hadn’t fully provisioned faculty accounts yet, so we created 30 sample accounts and 30 sample courses for faculty to sign in and go through the motions of backing up their course from 1.9 and restoring it into 3.1.
Surprisingly, this backup/restore between the two systems was pretty painless. The only real trouble we had was courses above our 256MB upload limit (usually courses with hundreds of MB of PDFs…). To work around this, we could either run the backup without the course files, or run it in several stages.
We created all the Fall 2017 courses on June 21, then provisioned faculty accounts and enrolled them into their courses on June 26. Notably, this was a manual enrolment process using a CSV file upload, as we were still thinking through the details of how to automate user creation and enrolments.
July was predicatably slow with a few training sessions for individual faculty and departments, but most people are pretty scarce during July and into the first couple weeks of August.
On August 17, we enrolled all students into their courses using the same CSV upload that we used for faculty. This would become a bit of a problem in the first couple weeks of September. More on that later.
Our decision to run a manual upload was driven primarily by the need to get students into their courses by the time faculty were due back on campus in mid-August. At the time, we didn’t yet know how we were going to manage automating enrolments, and i was getting a little nervous.
Next day, August 18, we had a working database pulling data from Jenzabar and feeding it into the Moodle (forgive my non-computer-sciency descriptions). Awesome! Wow! Now we had a process that could update enrolments twice a day. Students who dropped courses would be pulled from Moodle and those who added courses would be added a tthe next sync. Or so we thought…
The last two weeks of August were a blur of training, welcome back events, retreats, eclipse watching, training, and more training. In all, by the time the first all-faculty meeting was held, about 80% of attendees indicated that they had been to at least one training session!
Classes started on September 7 and we started to realize the implications of having had enrolled students both manually and through the database. Every student had two enrolments in each course. Some students, those who dropped a course after Aug 17 had only one enrolment (manual). Others who registered after Aug 17 had only the DB enrolment. The trouble was that the DB enrolment process wasn’t changing the manual enrolments, so course lists in Moodle didn’t match Jenzabar and students weren’t seeing courses disappear from their own course overview after they dropped.
Then the Office of the Registrar discovered that waitlisted students still had access to courses. That one was solved when we discovered a typo in a script. But it led to further aggravation of the problem of not being able to remove manually enrolled students in a bulk process.
So it was a few days of ‘hemming’ and ‘hawing’ until we decided to identify all of the students enrolled in courses with only a manual enrolment and to suspend their enrolment in those courses. Worked like a charm. Actually, better than a charm. Charms don’t work well with tech.
All in all, inside 6 months of signing into a fresh install of Moodle, we had all new courses launched for Fall 2017, as well as all users in their proper courses.
I call that a win.
opening education by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
I’m currently on a short retreat/vacation with my wife (or I was when I wrote this) and had the opportunity to get out and about for a walk in the woods. Being the end of March, the spring thaw is in full stride and so the sights and sounds of spring are plentiful. While the green hue of the first grass and leaves is still buried under snow, the sound of runoff is everywhere.
On my way back up the hill to our little cabin, I stopped to record some of those runoff sounds and ended up recording in four different places with four very different sounds. Then I got back and was ready to show off my compositions, and realized that the ‘failed to upload’ warning that I got meant that the clips were gone.
So, I turned cellular data on for the app and headed back out. This time I was going downhill and I noticed the pattern more clearly than before. When I recorded just outside our cabin, the sound of the water is faint and almost lost in the sound of the breeze, but as I got further down the mountain, the sounds became much louder, more varied, and dependent upon the local conditions.
It occurred to me that this is why David Wiley talks about the importance of downstream effects when resources are openly licensed.
Initially, my little contribution to the commons is easily drowned out by irrelevant and external forces, but as it is joined to other similar contributions, together, they make more of an impact. As more and more contributions are added to the commons, they become a more cohesive stream and a more powerful force in the world.
Every once in a while, on their way down stream, they go over a sharp incline and their combined effects become even more profound. But notice that if it had only been my one little contribution, it would have quickly been soaked into the ground or evaporated. It is really when other people begin to contribute their own ideas to mine that the magic begins to happen.
Each obstacle or different local condition creates a different sound. The waterfall is a higher pitch and a more frenzied sound than where the water runs deeper through a narrow passage. And the sound is more muted but still loud and clearly recognizable when the little stream runs under a snowbank.
Open resources are much the same. The open license allows for localization, meaning that individual faculty are free to adjust the resource as they see fit, creating a slightly different, and better-for-them resource than existed before.
Word has gotten around that I’m proposing changes.
That could be the end and enough to strike fear in the heart of any introverted educational technologist. But last night, I was invited to speak to the faculty of the program which is up for review and revision. Some of them are worried, and I certainly don’t blame them for that. But I do think that the concerns being voiced, while valid, are not fatal to what I hope to do.
Changing a teaching and learning paradigm is not something that happens overnight unless that is something that is built in to a teacher’s practice. Keeping up is a lot easier than catching up.
I recognize that I’m proposing a model of online teaching and learning that is quite different from a traditional ‘online’ model that grew out of either a f2f or a correspondence model. But I do think that the difficulty in changing will be overshadowed by the benefits gained by rethinking how we invite students to engage with the program.
But, if we are going to be different; if we are going to become leaders in the field; if we are going to have broad impact, we need to do things differently.
The two primary concerns voiced today were around privacy and digital literacy.
I used an example of a student’s response to a discussion question in Moodle. The response was detailed, well-articulated, properly cited, connected to an authentic problem, and exactly what should be expected of a graduate student in an online course. I asked if it would have been appropriate for that response to have been shared on the public web. The answer to that was a rather emphatic ‘No!’.
The reason for that response was that the student was an international student writing about a former employer ‘back home’ and if the post was public on the web, the student could have been in significant trouble with the government, including being disallowed from returning home.
It’s hard to argue with the severity of those possible consequences. So I didn’t. I acknowledged them as real and relevant. However, should such a clear case example of the consequences of students working on the open web stop us from allowing it? I don’t think so.
One thing that became clear in the ensuing conversation was that we must not require students to do their work in the open, and I agree whole-heartedly. But we don’t need to require students to do that in order to see the benefits of working in the open. It was pointed out that this was a ‘fringe’ example, and not the norm with our students.
What we can do, instead of requiring certain modes of interaction, is to invite participation that is more open, in situations where doing so is appropriate. And that leads directly to the other concern, digital literacy.
Our students are studying and practicing leadership as they work towards an MA in Leadership. At times, the content of the classes can be intensely personal or confidential, and if students are required to participate in the open, they could be at significant risk of breaching confidentiality. However, what I suggested is that that shouldn’t lead us to avoid the web at all costs, but that we need to be intentional about giving our students the digital skills, awareness, and discernment to be able to interact in a connected world.
Predictably, Audrey Wattters says it better than I
Giving students their own digital domain is a radical act. It gives them the ability to work on the Web and with the Web, to have their scholarship be meaningful and accessible by others. It allows them to demonstrate their learning to others beyond the classroom walls. To own one’s domain gives students an understanding of how Web technologies work. It puts them in a much better position to control their work, their data, their identity online.
Knowing how the web works seems to me to be foundational to being able to interact with discernment and wisdom on the web. And to quote Papert again
The scandal of education is that every time you teach something, you deprive a [student] of the pleasure and benefit of discovery.
You could also say that every time we make a decision that affects students, we remove an opportunity for students to learn. If we say that all students’ work must be protected by a login because some students’ work might put them at risk deprives the majority of students of the ‘pleasure and benefit of discovery’. It deprives them of the pleasure and benefit of exercising agency over ‘their work, their data, their identity online’. It also deprives the vulnerable students of honing their skills in protecting themselves online, which may be even more important than protecting those who are not vulnerable.
In advocating for open practices, it is critical that we are inviting participation, not mandating specific requirements and practices. By inviting participation, we are respecting each individual’s right to either participate in the open or not. We invite them to participate on their terms, not ours. It means that we design our platforms and learning environments to include as many as possible, and not exclude.
It means we need to do things differently.
The more I dig into Gitbook and Github as a platform for online course design and delivery, the more I think that it is going to be a great way to reduce the hassle of typical course design projects that rely on MS Word files emailed back and forth and to and fro.
What I discovered this week is that, in order to sync a Gitbook project with Github, it works best to initiate the project with a README.md in Github first, then connect Gitbook.
In another universe, I would have found this out the hard way because I had a project initiated in Gitbook that I connected to an essentially empty repository in Github. I then found out that Github is considered the master and it overwrote my work in Gitbook.
That’s usually a bad thing.
This was kinda bad, but not horrible. It would have been a loss of a couple thousand words that could have been rewritten without too much trouble. But still.
Fortunately, and here is one of the advantages of Git…I was able to recover, because I had the history saved in Gitbook.
I realize that there are recovery tricks for MS documents and such, but it was so very easy with Git.
Another thing I’ve realized, just today, is that the connection between Gitbook and Github is such that Gitbook can essentially be used as a text-based authoring environment for a Github repository. Well, duh, you might say. That’s what Github is; a text-based authoring environment.
True, but Github has grown around the needs of people working with programming code, and for the uninitiated (read: everyone I will be working with to design courses), the Github interface is very different from what they are used to, and that is very intimidating.
Here is what a user encounters in Github.
For someone who is just used to working in Word, the language here might as well be Greek. ‘Pull requests’, ‘Branches’, ‘Commits’, ‘Forked’. And not only that, but what do they edit and how?
Let me be clear that this is not a criticism of Github for what it is designed for. Simply an observation, that, to the uninitiated, it is confusing.
Compare that with Gitbook.
This is the same level beyond the homepage and the first page a user sees after they select a project.
Obviously, its not the same as Word, so there will be some learning involved; it’s actually much simpler and cleaner than Word. It’s also simpler and cleaner than Github.
The file structure of the repository is hidden, and it is clear what the user needs to do to edit the file.
And once you get into the editor (two clicks from here in GH, one click in GB). Things are different again.
Github. How many learning designers would like to teach their SMEs to write in markdown?
Gitbook. WYSIWYG for the win! That toolbar is all you need, and none of the bloaty crap that’s in Word.
And here’s the kicker…you can have your SMEs compose in GB, which is designed for narrative text, and everything is backed up to GH, where you can serve out to Jekyll.
But…does that scale? (Seriously, does it? I need to know.)
There are numerous ways to get higher ed faculty riled up, and talking about plagiarism or intellectual property are two of them. And for good reason. Plagiarism is a significant problem in higher ed (although there are many faculty who can’t be bothered). It is important for students to present their own work as a demonstration of their own learning in the course. That’s a no-brainer.
And although ‘intellectual property’ is somewhat oxymoronic, it is an idea that animates many conversations, especially when one scholar uses the work of another scholar without appropriate credit. That sounds a lot like plagiarism, doesn’t it?
The trouble, as I see it, is that a popular solution to the problem of plagiarism (Turnitin, or other ‘plagiarism detection’ software) is a direct threat to the idea of intellectual property. Here is why.
When a faculty member requires a student to submit their assignments through Turnitin, they are compelling their students give their intellectual property (and personal information) to a third party for the sole financial benefit of the third party.
Turnitin’s business model and financial success is based entirely on the unpaid work of students who are compelled in one way or another to give their work to the company.
Imagine if researchers or authors were required by their employers to give their work to an external, for-profit business for the sole financial benefit of the business? But isn’t that what we do with publishers, you ask? Well, no. When an author gives their work to a publisher, they do so with an expectation of compensation, whether that be direct financial compensation or indirect compensation via tenure and promotion or other career boosts.
Turnitin does nothing of the sort. Students are required to turn over their data and their work for zero compensation, monetary or otherwise. That seems unjust to me. If we are going to insist on retaining the rights to our own work to be used as we intend, shouldn’t we do the same for our students?
I know that many faculty like to use Turnitin. I heard one justification today that now has me writing this post. The rationale?
It makes students fearful.
Yup. Here it is again: ‘It makes students fearful’. This was given as a good reason to use turnitin.
How can a student possibly do their best work if they are afraid that what they say might be flagged by an unintelligent algorithm as plagiarism?
If instilling fear is actually a good way to motivate students, why don’t we do more of it?
Imagine an analogous scenario where we used fear to motivate students to dress ‘appropriately’. Everyone on the staff and faculty know that ‘appropriate dress’ means that you don’t copy anyone else’s wardrobe. We publish policies like
- Students who violate the dress code will be expelled.
- Students are responsible for knowing the rules of the dress code.
- The dress code will be monitored by a for-profit company contracted by the university to place video cameras throughout the campus and analyze the video using an algorithm.
- This company reserves the right to share video of our students with other companies for their own profit.
- We don’t tell students what the dress code actually is.
- We don’t talk about different cultural expectations regarding appropriate attire.
- We don’t tell students that the algorithm is wrong more than 30% of the time. Sometimes it will flag students who are dressed properly (false positive), and sometimes it will not flag a student who is not dressed properly (false negative).
- We design our campus (somehow) to encourage a very narrow selection of garments.
We would almost certainly consider this system to be grossly unfair to students, who would be constantly under suspicion, whose daily living patterns would be recorded and analyzed, and who wouldn’t know from one day to the next if they would be expelled or not.
Would the fear of being caught wearing the wrong thing and being expelled be real? Of course. Would it be helpful? Not even maybe.
It wouldn’t be helpful because students would be powerless to do anything to avoid being caught copying someone else’s clothing, and those in power have set them up for failure by designing an environment that encourages students to wear similar clothing.
This is very similar to what we do in trying to deal with plagiarism.
- We tell students that they can be expelled if they violate the rules.
- We tell students that they are responsible for knowing what plagiarism is.
- We think it is ok to hire a private for-profit company to surveil all of our students and run their data through an algorithm.
- We tell the company that they can use our students’ work and personal data for their own financial gain.
- We don’t really teach them enough about what plagiarism is or how to avoid it.
- We don’t consider different cultural expectations.
- We don’t tell students that the algorithm in turnitin is wrong at least 30% of the time, indicating both false positives and false negatives
- And we design our courses and assignments to ensure that plagiarism is more likely to occur.
Clearly, we could do a lot to reduce the amount of plagiarism in our courses if we would simply start doing more of the things on the list of things we aren’t doing. We need to have open and honest conversations with our students about what constitutes plagiarism and how they can avoid it. We need to consider in those conversations the fact that different cultures view the teacher/student relationship very differently from how we do and that those different views have radical effects on how some cultures view plagiarism. Finally, we need to design our courses and assessments to reduce the likelihood of plagiarism.
Another way to think about Turnitin is to consider the message that it sends to students. When we require every single student to submit their work through turnitin, we are telling every single honest hardworking student that we do not trust them. This is just as bad as using fear as a motivator. Why would we intentionally set up a confrontational relationship between ourselves and our students when we know that learning is fundamentally a social process. Why do we presume guilt and require the accused to prove their innocence?
One situation that I have heard several times is that Turnitin is most useful for catching students using each other’s work for the same class. I don’t think that this is an argument that faculty should be using because it seems to betray a lack of engagement with what our students are writing. Either that, or that we are still using the same assignments for our courses that we have used for however many times we have taught the course. Either way, it is one poor excuse among many for giving our students’ work and data away.
If you’d like to read a little more about why you should ditch turnitin, click here.
As I look into the ether of what is to come in my professional life, it is hard to not feel a little giddy at the opportunity that I have. It will, however, be too easy to get distracted by what could be done, but with little impact, over what should be done to build a truly transformative learning environment and experience.
My colleague and friend, Marie (who just completed her MA in Boss-iness….er…leadership) talks about the dangers of ‘Management by Shiny Things’. She has seen good and capable leaders get sidetracked by trying to keep up with the latest tech bling, with little discernible impact on student learning. That isn’t to say that tech bling never impacts student learning for the better, just that its deployment matters.
So, what will I do to avoid MbST?
It’s the Network, silly…
One way to avoid clickyclickyblingbling is to focus relentlessly on the people who will ground this initiative. Initially, that network will be those who I know and from whom I can learn and seek advice. Over time, that will change with the addition of people on campus at Trinity (current students, faculty, and staff) who will need to help me contextualize my plans and visions. Then, as the initiative starts to gain traction, I will need to build a team of people to work their own magic, whether that is wrangling the web ferrets, working with faculty to design learning experiences, or supporting students. These people will also add their own experience and network to the mix. If I don’t get this right, this goes down with little more than a puff of smoke.
Assessment of/for Learning
I know of a web-based system that is designed to mimic as closely as possible a paper form. I won’t get all judgy here, because the system (mostly) works. But there are some artifacts from the paper system that are absurd in the web system. The point is that using digital learning technologies to prop analog practices (some of which are grossly ineffective anyways) leads to absurdities.
One of those practices is assessment. Too often, students are graded (I didn’t say ‘assessed’) on ‘one and done’ disposable assignments. If you’ve been to school, you will recognize the ubiquity of disposable assignments. These are assignments that are imposed upon students, they are likely related to the content of the course, but they are not necessarily meaningfully aligned to any learning outcomes. They are written or created for an audience of one person who has graded thousands of the same assignments. They are given a letter grade and sometimes some comments, returned to the student and either filed in a binder to be forgotten, or they are tossed in the bin.
And that is why I call them ‘one and done’. They are written for one person to read and graded, and then both the teacher and the learner are done. A letter grade is too often a final judgement. It’s the end of the conversation, not the beginning.
Another significant problem with one and done assignments is that their use encourages plagiarism. If a faculty member uses the same assignments year after year, it will not take long for responses to the assignment to be readily available either online or from past students.And we know that when students are stressed (before a deadline) and it is easy to access a shortcut, that shortcut is very difficult to ignore.
There is a better way.
Renewable assignments are those which rely on OER as well as students doing meaningful, scholarly work, often on the open web. Think about it.The purpose of higher education is to generate and disseminate knowledge. If students are doing their work as a contribution to knowledge in the area, it can’t be a one and done assignment. How is the purpose of a university served by having student write yet another descriptive essay or other disposable assignment that will be binned? How much more is it served when students are working on the open web, contributing to the field, and doing it on a domain that they own and control?
Alan wrote yesterday about the fact that simply owning a domain doesn’t guarantee engagement and persistence. Only 6 (or maybe 7, or maybe 8) of his 81 former DS106 students at UMW are currently active on blogs hosted on their own domains. Initially that seems like a small number, but it is 6-8 more students who have a voice on the web than if DS106 were locked away in an lms. And since Alan’s students were involved in a pilot initiative, there were bound to be difficulties. In the last three years or so, we (by that, I mean Reclaim Hosting, and SPLOTs and the EdTech Collaborative and others) have progressed so that we are much better at deploying and supporting students and faculty as they venture into the world of creating on the web.
Creating on the web.
That is, in my mind, what I’m at TWU to accomplish. To build confidence and capacity for students and faculty to learn by and through creating on the web.
What if you had the opportunity to build an online learning department focussed around graduate programs, and you were starting from scratch? No legacy LMS. No staff. No vendor agreements.
What you do have is a mandate from all levels of senior administration, from the board, president, provost, deans all the way down the line. You have strong support from the library and the teaching and learning centre. There are some faculty and departments who have been offering online courses, mostly off the side of their desks. Faculty are engaged, but unfamiliar with either online or open learning.
Where do you start?
I’d love to hear what your approach would be, and what you would prioritize. I certainly have some thoughts bouncing around in my mind, but I know that there are a whole bunch of people out there on the interwebs who might think differently.
Feel free to leave a comment here, link to a video, link to your own post…whatever suits your fancy.
I have, along with my wife and kids, made the rather significant decision to resign from my position as edtech coordinator at TRU, and accept a position as director of TWU Online at Trinity Western University.
It’s one of those positions that doesn’t come along very often at all, represents a meaningful professional challenge, and will allow me to extend and expand on the work I’ve been involved with at TRU.
I think it’s relevant to note that I wasn’t looking to leave TRU. There are some extremely talented and passionate people there who are doing amazing work with shrinking resources. I’m sad to leave.
TWU represents a huge opportunity. They don’t really have a coherent online strategy other than a few faculty and departments offering ‘online’ courses off the side of their desks. If you follow the most obvious links from the main page of the site, you will find a list of courses with links to year-old syllabi repurposed for online by adding required online discussions.
Suffice it to say that the task before me is huge, but I’m excited. The potential is huge. Since TWU doesn’t have a history in online learning, they don’t have any ties to software systems or vendors. No Blackboard. No Brightspace. Just an old, rickety version of Moodle (1.9).
So, it is my sincere hope that I’ll be able to leapfrog the last couple decades of increasingly bloated LMSs and build an open infrastructure, with open tools to allow open pedagogies and an open invitation to participate in a vibrant learning community.