|George Siemens (Photo credit: heloukee)|
I participated in George Siemen's and Stephen Downe's MOOC, "Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2008" (CCK08). And unlike other education classes I had taken at the graduate level, this one was taught using the method it was teaching. Each week, there were blogging assignments, discussions in Twitter, Facebook, the discussion forum in Moodle, and even in Second Life. There were weekly guest lecturers as well as presentations by the course facilitators. The real heart of the course was the groups of students who would meet virtually, using the collaborative tools of their own choosing, who would discuss the presentations and readings. These groups were self-organized, leaderless, and informal. Yet, there always seemed to be someone in the group who would carry the discussion back into the course to have questions answered by the facilitators. And the facilitators would sometimes participate in the discussions. This experience was highly interactive. There was interaction with the facilitators, the content and between the students. Interestingly enough, the research shows that interaction is one of the primary measures of success and retention in online classes: the higher the degree and opportunity for interaction, the more successful a course will be. This course completely changed how I think of course design. Giving students the opportunity to apply what they are learning to their learning experience, workplace, and previous knowledge is a powerful experience. This should be at the center of our learning design and course outcomes.
Another experience that I think ties the two course models together was my experience in Jim Groom's DS 106 - a digital storytelling MOOC from Mary Washington University. In this course, there are detailed instructions on how to do each assignment, and more importantly, how to create your own assignments. There is also a degree of networking and collaboration that I don't think has ever been attempted before. Students don't just participate in the network - they literally become the network. Each student is asked to create their own domain on the web. Each one becomes acutely aware of their status as a node in the web. This is the way it should be. Students of digital storytelling should know their media as well as any painter who creates their own materials. Again, the network created in DS106 goes far beyond the idea of a classroom. The twitter hashtag #DS106 basically has a life of its own with past and present students, artists, media professionals, and followers from around the world all participating, collaborating and sharing art, video, and projects.
So given these experiences, what should connectivist instructional design look like? Based on the principles of connectivism, learning should:
- Provide for a diversity of opinions
- Allow students to create connections between specialized nodes and learning sources
- Foster their capacity to learn (teach metacognitive learning skills)
- Increase their ability see connections between fields, concepts, and ideas
- Teach students to build networks that will allow students to keep current in their field
- Allow students to choose what to learn and how
Aditionally, in a presentation that George Siemens gave on instructional design for the MOOC "Connectivism and Connective Knowlege 2008" he said that learning should be designed for adaptability, for "patterning, wayfinding, and sensemaking" and focus on "content, context, and connections." He says that it is difficult to take all of this and try to build some mechanistic formula for creating learning experiences. I agree with that - but this is also a teaching philosophy. The best way to help students get this is to model it in our teaching. This is exactly what MOOCs can do that traditional classes can't. In this blog, I will be collecting assignments and activities that model these principles, that have the connectivist principles built into them.
If you have some that you would like to share, as a student or as a teacher, feel free to add to the comments below.