CALRG Conf: Learning in Public

More liveblogging from CALRG Conference – Tony Hirst on ‘Learning in Public – from Uncourse to Short Course’.

Short course – T151 – started life in an unusual way. Originally mooted 3 years ago. Several false starts, not clear whether it’d be a real course, but started to write it anyway, in a blog environment.

Blog set up on WordPress.com – many constraints on what you can and can’t embed, similar to the VLE. Now ‘Digital Worlds’ course. Can see evolution in series of blog posts. 100 hours study, over 10 weeks, aims was to write in 20 weeks.

Topic was around designing game environments – was new to Tony. Developed a mind map as a skeleton outline. Got about 80-90 blog posts, each about 5-800 words, about 1-4 hours to write, provide contexts for 20min-2h study. Tried to write 5h content a week.

(Several Digital Worlds presentations done previously – see this one, and also in Tony’s Slideshare account.)

Focus on the VLE – several audiences: developers/maintainers; authors/editors/workflow managers – was just him, except he had an extended course team in the people who followed the process and engaged with it, granular, real-time commenting (not the traditional OU process!); course team/ALs – he was expert with the tools so could do lots with it; students/learners.

Was written on WordPress, but used other technologies, especially YouTube videos (could curate them there). Some audio, but a lot of overhead, hard to use sensibly within a course. Designed to be modular, hot-swappable, extended. This approach does have a maintenance overhead, but saves you time in production – and is easier to update and develop.

Creating content, linked to it, embedded it, syndicating out, and curating content in YouTube (via playlists) and Delicious.

Structure of course developed over the process of writing. WordPress.com made it easy to disaggregate/restructure. Traditionally, do a lot of work scaffolding and structuring the material. Uncourse approach is much more ad-hoc, developing/weaving webs of narrative linking little content blocks in to a story students can understand – but students don’t have to find the same way through.

T151 the OU course has a very rigid structure! About 4h study time, 4h practical exercises. But informal learning style, can answer questions at many levels, use resources to explore a topic. The course at the moment encourages students to bookmark on delicious – several students are already doing that, but not heavily used. YouTube has curated playlists (currently on Tony’s personal account, but will set up an official one); single widget with playlist curated to make a half-hour programme. Looking at SlideShare but not used in anger yet. Course view makes a lot of use of syndication and feeds – delicious and blog RSS feeds.

Course has/is a lot of RSS feeds gathered together and tagged – so can reuse that bundling in other contexts, e.g. Pageflakes (Tony not longer recommends) or Netvibes. Benefit of having content in RSS-enabled form.

Thinking about feeds – OU XML is a well structured format. Give students a FreeMind view of the whole course (XML as the underlying format).  Would like to organise topic explorations in a circle, rather than as a numbered list. Have been designed to be study-able in any order (though issues in synchronising student activity with that approach).

Has a T151 Custom Search Engine – generated automatically by scraping the uncourse blog version of the course for all third-party links, made a Google Search Engine over content linked to from that course.

OU Forums now have an RSS feed – Tony can monitor via feed reader (but needs to do security behind the scenes).

Analytics – much been written – can’t have Google Analytics but do get a view from WordPress.com. VLE has some analytics – which you can visualise as an animated chart (Google Motion Chart) – very easy to do. Also uses Google Forms for course surveys

Content in public means exposing it for a long time, and to a lot of views over time.

This work by Doug Clow is copyright but licenced under a Creative Commons BY Licence.
No further permission needed to reuse or remix (with attribution), but it’s nice to be notified if you do use it.

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Author: dougclow

Academic in the Institute of Educational Technology, the Open University, UK. Interested in technology-enhanced learning and learning analytics.

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