Rethinking #etmooc – Towards the #unmooc

If you’ve been following this space, you’ll know that we’ve been considering and planning an educational technology focused MOOC to begin January of 2013. I’ve written on the development of this idea here and here, and there are a number of us who have been working on this collaborative #etmooc planning document and discussing possibilities in this Google Group. Progress has been intentionally slow, and very thoughtful.

Yesterday, I had a chance to meet with a few interested collaborators in a Google Hangout and the resulting conversation has me thinking about this project in a very different way than what was originally conceived. I think that this is a positive step, and I am sharing my thoughts here in hope that others will provide feedback on this reconceptualization.

Planning meeting with Alan Levine, Helen Keegan, Lenandlar Singh & Valeria Lopes. Sean Williams not shown.

Google Hangout planning meeting with Alan Levine, Helen Keegan, Lenandlar Singh & Valeria Lopes. Sean Williams attended, but not shown.

The Problem:
Each time I facilitated EC&I 831, a MOOC-like course, I was fortunate to have a core of 20+ registered students that took the course for credit. The approximately 200 other students, many who acted as mentors, had very loose responsibilities around the course, and came and went according to their commitments and interests. #etmooc, as planned thus far, would not have that core group. So, much of the discussion thus far around #etmooc has been around developing learner motivation, engagement & retention especially in light of the high drop-out rate for MOOC participants.

While I viewed the lack of a core group as a welcome challenge, until this latest Google Hangout, I hadn’t really considered the freedoms that a core-less MOOC also provides. For instance, the most discussed elements around #etmooc planning so far have been related to decisions around the specific content areas to be covered (see table), especially since our potential audience is somewhat uncertain. It took me some time to realize that I was planning this too much like a traditional course, focusing on a pre-constructed curriculum, scope & sequence. This is an unnecessary constraint.

I feel that it is the ‘Course’ element of the MOOC acronym that constrains our thinking (the ‘Massive’ is a close second), so this is exactly the component that I hope to avoid in moving this #etmooc project toward the vision of an #unmooc.

So what could our #unmooc look like? Here are some ideas that originated from our planning meeting.

The original content area for #etmooc was educational technology. This is such a broad area, too vast to cover in any one course, and certainly my bias has been towards social software, free and open content and connected learning. For the purposes of this #unmooc, I now propose that the general focus should be around supporting the creation of practical knowledge and experiences for developing connected learners. (It’s roughly worded – please help me idea/word-craft this)

The #unmooc could be appealing to educators of all sectors, preservice teachers, students, parents, or really anyone wishing to be supported in developing connected literacies & skills for themselves, or for others.

Rather than developing a long, defined list of topics, it would be ideal to have curriculum driven by participants – curriculum that is responsive to not only learner interests, but to current trends & events (while scaffolding within a historical context). Weekly ‘topics’ could be broadly themed with variations across interest groups, sectors, subject areas, and geography. I would suggest thorough, ongoing & recurring orientation to connected learning concepts (including tool orientation & #unmooc sharing protocols) so that participants develop basic literacies & skills necessary to share, discuss, and create.

There could also be a strong focus on creating learning artefacts (this was voiced loudly in our meeting). An Education adaption of the #ds106 assignments database could prove worthwhile. As well, as I did with my #eci831 course, it could be ideal to have any educators who participate in #unmooc to develop projects that could directly be applied to their own contexts. Thus, #unmooc could become an ideal testing ground (e.g., virtual lab) for teachers (or preservice teachers) to develop or facilitate presentations/projects with other educators before implementing elsewhere (e.g., in classrooms or with colleagues).

#etmooc was originally planned to begin in January, and end in April. But there are several of us beginning to question the need for an end date. I know from my own experience with #eci831, that many students became so immersed in the network, that it felt odd & unnatural (and sad for some) to have to ‘end’ the experience. For several students, the residual experience of the course has remained. If successful, the #unmooc could go well beyond April – and if not, we could pack up early. But since we are not bound by academic schedules, there seems little point in predetermining an end-date.

In our meeting, Helen Keegan raised a good point regarding her approach with her students. In her courses, students spend a portion of time sharing their artefacts and celebrating their successes in public spaces. In support of this, Alan Levine added that there should be a set of explicit milestones for participants. In my own experience, my students’ ‘summaries of learning’ have been wildly popular in the courses that I teach. So, even without an end date, it is likely important to establish milestones throughout an #unmooc experience to celebrate successes, share creations, and renew connections.

The type and format of participant interactions in the #unmooc could vary greatly. I believe there is still great value in large synchronous web-conference sessions/presentations, especially for introducing/advancing ideas and for tool demonstrations. However, deeper interactions are certain to occur through one-to-one or small group communications, both synchronously and asynchronously. Spaces could be provided via the #unmooc but as I’ve often stated, I believe that as much as we can use and control our own learning spaces (e.g., self-hosted WordPress blog), the better off we are in the future. Of course, with this distributed approach, proper illustration of the importance and utility of tagging is essential to aggregating networked conversations.

While interactions in the #unmooc would likely be more often serendipitous in nature, designing interactions would be key to the function of the #unmooc. Forums could be provided and/or we could setup a virtual helpdesk through a Twitter hashtag, or more directly, through a tool like Google Hangouts. As well, the nurturing of subject-area, sector-based or geographically-bound sub-groups would be beneficial to deeper interactions.

One of the most important comments from this recent meeting was from Alan Levine when he suggested that the #unmooc should help to encourage people to “do things out in the world”. While I have suggested above that activities in the #unmooc could directly inform what educators do in their classrooms, I think that this notion is extended by Alan’s comments. If we can nurture this idea, to enable participants to do (good) things out in the world, whether simple things or those of deep social value, I believe that this alone would justify the existence of this initiative.

Did I Just Describe Twitter, Classroom 2.0, or the World Wide Web?:
Some may argue that much of what I described above already exists in other spaces, and perhaps then, there isn’t really a need for this. I would argue that we should proceed anyways for at least two important reasons. First, much of what I see on Twitter, and elsewhere, can be quite shallow, lacking depth, and for many people new to these networked spaces, entry can be frustrating and difficult. This is not so much as a critique of the Twittersphere, but more so, of the medium. Educators need a rich set of tools and experiences to encourage deep learning, and I feel that thoughtful design and guidance can provide this. Second, spaces like Twitter are becoming increasingly controlled and restricted. We are losing the ownership of our own conversations and learning spaces. Though admittedly a grand ambition, I hope that the process of developing an #unmooc, while providing a rich place for learning, can help us become more thoughtful and considerate of our learning spaces and the control of our discourse.

So did you get this far? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Open Course: Social Media & Open Education

I will be facilitating an open graduate course this Fall titled EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education. This will be the 5th time I have taught the course (first time was 2007), and it’s different each time. It looks like I will have about 25 graduate students taking this for credit (which is well over the usual limit), and I’m also inviting anyone out there interested in the experience to participate for free.

If you would like to learn more about the course, go to If you’re familiar with the course (from past iterations), you’ll notice that I’ve abandoned the old wiki and moved over to a WordPress site as the ‘central’ space. If you are interested in participating, see the page for non-credit participants. In a nutshell, as a non-credit participant, you can participate as much or as little as you’d like. You are welcome to attend and participate in our weekly, online sessions where we often feature conversations with experts in the field. Or, we’d love you to participate in any or all of our asynchronous activities outlined here (and to be explained further throughout the course).

But most of all, my students could use your help. Last year, I announced a call for network mentors and I believe it was quite successful. We had about 200 people participate (in many different ways) and who helped, at times, to support, and in some cases, mentor my students. So, if you are interested in participating at all in this course as a non-credit student, please sign-up here on this Google form (this gives me a better idea of who you are). And, if you are further interested in taking on a mentorship role, please choose ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ when you are asked that question on the form. I’ll get back to everyone on the list with next steps via email.

For non-credit students, the course begins on September 20th at 7pm Saskatchewan time, and you’ll find us by clicking on this this Blackboard Collaborate link. The first session is an overview of the course, and how it all works. All sessions are recorded and will be made publicly available.

Thanks everyone, and I hope to learn with you soon.

Student Work – Fall 2010

Exactly one year ago, I shared some of the great work my students created in the Fall 2009 semester. This past year was another amazing year in that I was fortunate to have had some incredibly creative and hard-working students in my classes. So, with the possibility of creating a New Year’s Eve tradition, here again are two very short lists of notable work from my graduate and undergraduate students from the previous (Fall 2010) semester.

Projects & Portfolios
There was a wide-range of possibilities for portfolios and projects in these classes. In some cases, you will only be seeing a small portion of what was actually assessed. However, these pieces may be valuable to others.

Final Reflections
Both undergrad and graduate students were asked to produce or perform short final reflections of what they learned in their class. It should also be mentioned that a few of the best examples aren’t shown here, as they were done in ways that were difficult to record digitally.

So, that’s a bit of what my students did this past semester. Many of these students had very limited technical ability coming into the class, and I feel very happy to know how much many of them learned through the process.

Oh, and Happy New Year everyone!

Call for Network Mentors – Follow-Up

In my last post, I ran a “call for network mentors” for the open graduate course that I am teaching this Fall. The response was overwhelming with over 120 people volunteering to take on a guiding & support role for my students. Last night I emailed all of the mentors and students to help suggest their role in the early stages of this course. In keeping with the openness and transparency of this class, I have copied the email transcript below to give people an idea of what I am trying to accomplish for my learners. I am sure that I could have gone many directions with this, but ‘Plan A’ seems to be the right approach for the moment.

But before I drop the text, here’s a quick reminder. The weekly synchronous sessions are open to everyone on the planet. The first one is tomorrow (September 27, 2010) at 7pm Saskatchewan time (that currently equates to MST). Our guest tomorrow is Dr. Richard Schwier, and he will be talking a little about the history of educational technology and a bit more on his work with online communities. Dr. Schwier is one of my favorite people on the planet – he’s brilliant and inspiring – and he knows the field of educational technology better than anyone. You can connect via Elluminate tomorrow at

And here’s the text of that email …


Hey everyone!
If you are receiving this email, you are either a graduate student of mine or someone who answered the “Call for Network Mentors” found here: . I would say the call was a great success as somehow it enticed 122 individuals to consider giving my students some assistance in understanding the core content of the course – ‘social media & open education’.

I have spent much time contemplating the teaching & learning possibilities of having 120+ volunteers to assist about 17 students (possibly up to 19 before registration is done) and the approximate 6:1 ratio this provides. At one point, I had planned to see if I could accurately match the profiles of the volunteers with the needs of my students. While that may still happen (see Plan B), I have come around to consider that a) I’m lacking the algorithm and resources for an educational eHarmony, and 2) (and most importantly) I am thinking that a more chaotic approach *could* naturally lead to the formation of groups and supports that I could have never planned had I tried to be more intentional. Community formation is chaotic, but even in chaos, we do find order and meaning.

So here are my thoughts in what I will call for now, Plan A.

As I mentioned in my call, I am hoping that the mentors will

  • subscribe to the blog feeds of one or more of the students and being and active commenter on their posts (e.g.,
  • similar to that of a critical friend);
  • follow and support the learner(s) on Twitter;
  • providing advice, ideas, or support through other media (e.g., Skype); and,
  • support students when considering and completing their assessments in this course.

The first two points are fairly easy to do (I think). The third point would likely require the building of at least some trust, and only occur when necessary. And the fourth point could possibly occur through comments on student blogs or via Twitter. Of course, I don’t want to place any restraints on how people interact, but just remember that many participants (mentors and students) are new to this, so we want to make sure everyone feels comfortably challenged. My primary hope is that we develop some sort of distributed learning community that continues well beyond the end date of the course (mid-December).

For mentors – there is no limit in the number of students that you can help. You may want to choose a few, or just generally watch the feeds and tags for the course. The tag for this course is mostly #eci831 – please everyone, use it, and use it often (on Twitter, in blogs, Youtube, Flickr, etc.). More information on tags here:

OK, so let’s learn more about each other and get this learning party started!

Mentors – here is some information about the for-credit students:

Students & Mentors:

  • a) I have shared a complete list of mentors with information here: – take a look to find out more about these great people.
  • b) If you are on Twitter, or thinking about it – I’ve also created a TweepML list of all of the mentors who use Twitter. – This is also a good way to gain a bit more information about each person. Mentors may also want to use this list to expand their personal learning network – you can subscribe to all, or the ones you select.
  • c) I’ve also created a Google Blog Bundle with most of the mentor blogs (those who had blogs, whose feeds worked, or who had educational blogs). Both mentors and students may want to subscribe to all of these blogs (in one click). It will create a folder in your Google Reader, and you can always whittle down the list (unsubscribe) if certain blogs are outside of your area of interest. Students: I know many of these blogs are excellent and would be great sources of inspiration for the things that you write about in your own blogs. Here is the blog bundle.

Other students that could use encouragement:

  • I am also currently teaching a technology integration course to undergrad students (ECMP 355). If you are a mentor (or student) that would like to encourage those who are in their first years of teacher education, their blog bundle can be found at:
  • Zoe Branigan-Pipe is also teaching an undergraduate course at Brock University – she also has preservice teachers. I will follow-up with an email once I get her links. It would be great if we could include them. Update: You can find Zoe’s students here in this blog bundle.

Plan B?:
So, I want to give this rather unstructured approach a try for, maybe, about three weeks. Depending on the feedback (feel free to send me ideas anytime), we can decide whether or not to stick with it, or try something a bit more structured (perhaps, more specifically matching individuals).

Synchronous Sessions:
And, of course, I’d like to invite you to the synchronous sessions in Elluminate every week. The first ones are planned, and can be found here. . Our guest this coming Tuesday is Dr. Richard Schwier who will speak about learning communities – he’s done some great research in this area, and is a wonderfully experienced voice on the topic. The link to join is (the same link every week). The sessions are every Tuesday, 7pm Saskatchewan Time. Currently that means MST, but after the first Sunday in November, we are equivalent to CST. Saskatchewan is one of those rare places in North America that doesn’t observe Daylight Savings Time.

Other Communication:
Currently, most of the communication in this course is distributed – meaning, there is no CMS/LMS and the main wiki is mostly for content (not significant interaction). This is purposeful as to create multiple ‘centres’ of learning, each controlled by the learner. Typically, when this happens, conversations happen in a number of places – on Twitter, on multiple blogs, etc. However, if we need a place to centralize asynchronous conversation at times, I would certainly consider setting up some sort of forum (or similar tool) for more traditional, online communication. Feedback about this (and really everything) is more than welcome.

So, I am not sure what else to tell you right now other than I am incredibly excited by this opportunity. I am truly humbled by the number of people who signed up to help, and I do believe we are going to have an incredible learning experience together.

Thanks all, let’s stay connected and learn with each other for a long time to come.

All the best,

Student Work – Fall 2009

I truly enjoyed teaching both my graduate and undergraduate courses this past semester. There were a number of really hard-working students who produced some very meaningful work, and overall, I can say that I am increasingly excited by the quality of students I am encountering both in schools (my graduate students) and soon to be teachers (my preservice groups).

I thought I would quickly share a few of my favorite student reflections and projects over the past semester. These represent various forms of digital expression, and will help provide inspiration to my students in future semesters.

I hope these are useful and/or entertaining to you.

Oh, and seeing that it is New Year’s Eve, Happy New Year to all of you, and all the best in 2010! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit this space, and for connecting with me in other meaningful ways. I am truly a lucky person to be tied to such a caring and passionate network of individuals.

Pursuing the Elusive Metaphor of Community – Schwier

Dr. Richard Schwier was our guest in my open course, EC&I 831, on September 22, 2009. Rick’s presentation, similar to the talk that he gave at Ed-Media in Honolulu this past June, raised some incredibly important questions regarding the role of informal learning as it pertains to those teaching (and learning) in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. And if you’ve never seen Rick present, you certainly owe it to yourself to do so. He has been a great teacher, mentor, and friend to me, and I learn something new with him every time we connect.

Greater detail of the presentation within the context of the course can be found at the EC&I 831 wiki. The presentation was facilitated via Elluminate and the recording of that session, including the chat, can be found at this location. Slidedeck, video, and MP3 versions are also available below. Enjoy!

“Teach Us Something” – Submit Your Microlectures

As part of the open graduate course discussed in my last post, I have put out a call for microlectures to be included as a resource on the course wiki.

From the wiki:

As an experiment in this course, I am attempting to solicit short, five minute or less, recorded microlectures that will benefit the course participants and hopefully, will also benefit those individuals who submit them. The basic request is simply “teach us something” in a style and media format of your choosing (screencasts, talking-heads, lectures, presentations, hands-on, audio, music, animation, drawing, machinima, etc.). While the course is focused on topics related to social media & open education, I also welcome other subjects as I believe it is important that the power of social media is not in simply teaching about social media.

If you would like to submit a microlecture, please fill out this Google Form with the appropriate information including a web link to your media. Once submitted, the information will appear in this Google spreadsheet.

Thanks to all who consider this request. The course runs from September until early December, so you will have several months to participate. I am hoping that this will become a useful resource for others.

Open Access Course: Social Media & Open Education (Fall 2009)

I will be facilitating an open access graduate course this Fall titled EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education. I expect about 15-20 registered (for credit) students, but I am opening up the experience to all other interested not-for-credit participants. This will be the third time I have run the course, and it has been quite successful in the past. I have rethought a few pieces, and I am hoping that this offering will be the best yet.

The course wiki is available here: The “synchronous sessions” page is slowly being filled out as I work to schedule presenters and appropriate weekly topics. Additionally, I have set up a Google Form to gather information about those who would like to participate as not-for-credit students. Quite a few people have already signed up, and we’d love to have you participate as well!

Participation is quite flexible. This can mean simply joining in on the weekly synchronous sessions (these run every Tuesday from Sept 15/09 to December 08/09, 7 p.m. Saskatchewan time). You could also help inform our reading list by tagging relevant articles & media as ‘eci831readings‘. You could respond to the weekly lectures through your blog, or whatever media/site you choose, and tag these as ‘eci831responses‘. Or, you could comment on student blog posts (feed/links will be available after Sept 8) and expect other participants to engage you in your writing spaces. And, I am sure there are many other ways to participate, create, and collaborate that we have yet to discover.

If you have any questions about the course, feel free to contact me. And if you are interested, we would love you to join us in this upcoming, collaborative learning experience.

Seminar: Social Media and Open/Networked Learning

I am very fortunate to have been asked to teach a seminar this summer with UBC: Okanagan in Kelowna, BC, as part of their Summer Institute in Education. The seminar runs from July 27 – July 31, and I will have 15 hours in total. I am looking forward to meeting my new students, learning with them, and pushing the possibilities for immersion given such a short time-frame. My goal is to provide much more than a ‘taster’ for social media & open learning, but to help nurture a passion within these learners: to foster genuine interest and active participation through social learning, to nurture critical producers & consumers, and to convey the benefits of media sharing in education & society. I believe that the success of a workshop/seminar/course can only be measured in its effects on learners well after the official experiences are complete. I hope to someday know that this summer experience made a difference for all of those involved.

I am currently working on the course wiki (btw: quite enjoying the use of Wetpaint) and I would be happy to receive input from critical readers. Also, if anyone would like to suggest readings or media that could be shared with this group, I invite you use the tag edst499k in your Delicious links. That will automatically add your suggestions to the Readings & Resources page of the wiki.

Thanks for connecting.

Feedback and Support for My Students?

As many of you know, I am teaching two online courses this semester. These courses are ECMP 455 (undergraduate) and EC&I 831 (graduate), both which are focused on educational technology. My students are all blogging, and I’m starting to see some real improvement in their writing and reflecting on topics related to the course.

I have tagged my student blogs in Google Reader, and shared the public pages below:

I know that many people in my PLN have already begun engaging my students, and commenting on their blogs. Several of my students have commented on how inspiring and motivating this interaction has been for them.

For those interested, I would love if you could subscribe to the feeds above and follow my students through their journey. They could definitely benefit from your encouragement and insight. And, interactions like these are important for them to understand the benefits of a personal learning network.

Thanks if you are able, and always greatly appreciated.

Media Literacy Presentation

Tonight I presented “Popular Issues in (Digital) Media Literacy” to my EC&I 831 students. The presentation covered various topics such as: offensive content (bad taste, sexuality), viral videos & memes, misinformation (satire, hoaxes, scams, phishing), safety & cyberbullying, hate (racism & violence), social networks & privacy. It was very much a survey approach to the topic in hopes that my students will understand the broad scope of related issues.

The slide deck is available below:

The Elluminate recording is also available for viewing.

Social Learning & Sharing

The learning continues in EC&I 831, and since I haven’t had much time to blog, I though I’d offer a 2-for-1 post with links to the most recent presentations for the course.

On January 27, I offered a session on the Age of Social Learning. The full Elluminate session is found here, and my slide deck is available below.

And, last night, we were very lucky to have had Dean Shareski join us as he presented “How to Be Lazy and Still Get Paid” aka “The Value of Sharing”. The recorded Elluminate session for Dean’s presentation is available here, and his slides are available below.

I really want to thank Dean for his excellent presentation last night. The participants (registered students & everyone else) have expressed gratitude for Dean’s time and wisdom on the topic.

The above presentations work well together, as do the concepts of social learning and sharing. These are ideas, when implemented, that have enormous potential for changing the shape of (online) learning. And, I’m happy to say that these are ideas that continue to shape the courses I teach and that support my ongoing belief in the power of open education.