Saturday, March 28, 2015

DML2015: Here I come........!!!!

So, here is some big news: for the first time in ten years (!), I am going to a conference — DML (Digital Media and Learning Research Hub) in Los Angeles, June 11-13. Hashtag: #DML2015.

Here is the conference site:

And the main DML site:

I got to know some of the DML folks thanks to the fabulous experience that was Connected Courses in Fall 2014 (#ccourses).

When Alan Levine contacted me and asked me to be on a panel along with some other fabulous people, I obviously could not say no (Alan Levine!!! my hero!!!), and then it was really exciting when we found out the panel was accepted (long wait; I was thinking we had not made the cut).

Then, even more exciting, I got some funding from my school for the travel, thanks to the VERY NICE people in the Arts & Sciences Online Course program and to our wonderful Dean (yes, he's on Twitter!). That was a huge surprise; going to a conference is insanely expensive (eegad, the hotel, it makes my head hurt), so it really makes a huge difference to have my school's support in doing this!

In future posts I'll have more to say as I get ready for the conference, learn more about all the good work the folks at DML are doing, and on and on. It is going to be really fun to meet some people I have known only online, including people like Alan whom I have followed for over a decade online but whom I have never met in person. The whole Connected Courses experience last fall was such a great experience, and I am looking forward to DML goodness in June! :-)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thoughts about SUSTAINABILITY for this week's chat

Gearing up for our #OpenTeachingOU Twitter chat on SUSTAINABILITY tomorrow morning (Friday, March 27 - details), I wanted to write up some quick thoughts about concepts and questions that come to my mind as I think about sustainability.

My guess is that when most people think about sustainability in the context of education, it is at an institutional or program level, which makes perfect sense. Sometimes sustainability is even just shorthand for costs, revenue streams, income, business models, etc.

In our chat, though, I hope we can broaden that out to think about sustainability on all levels, big and small, institutional and personal, going beyond just business models. Rather than an implicit or explicit business model, I'd like to appeal to an ecological model.

If you look at the Wikipedia article on Sustainability, here is how it opens: "In ecology, sustainability is how biological systems remain diverse and productive."



As a teacher, those are concepts that resonate with me in a very powerful way, much more so than talking about just economic sustainability, although obviously the economy is part of the big picture in ecology just as it is in education.

So, if you have a few moments, I'd urge you to take a look at that Wikipedia article; it is very clear, very informative, and full of all kinds of concepts we can use to extend our thinking! For example, just look at this nifty Venn diagram which I found there:

In terms of education, thinking about our educational "environment" is a good way to ponder all the RESOURCES that we need to do our work. Everything that we do as learners and as teachers will require resources... and if we want to be able to carry on with our work, whatever our work might be is, those resources must be sustainable. That is, they need to exist in an abundant supply and/or they need to be renewable. Ideally, the resources would be renewable as a natural part of our workflow!

So, for example, there is the personal ENERGY we need just to do what we do and to keep on doing it. If we don't have enough energy, our work will suffer. We are at risk of burn-out.

Another crucial resource is TIME. I would guess that finding enough time to do our work and keep on doing it is  one of the biggest challenges of all. I know it is a challenge for me, and I can tell that it is an even bigger challenge for my students.

There are also MATERIALS that we might need. That can be content, or it might be tools, along with the spaces (physical or digital) in which we do our work.

On a systems level, we need FEEDBACK so that we can monitor and improve the system. I need detailed, reliable data to make strategic decisions about how to use all available resources.

Also on a systems level, we need to think about processes and strategies. For example: REUSE. The more reuse I can get out of anything — reuse of my work, reuse of my students' work, reuse of other people's work, etc. — the more productive and sustainable my courses will become.

As someone who has been teaching the same online courses for over 10 years, I have thought A LOT about these topics on a micro-scale (i.e. at the course-level, in terms of what the students and I are doing), and I have been constantly improving my courses to make them more productive, more resilient, etc. My goal is to design courses that are sustainable and sustaining for both me and for the students.

So... just for fun, I decided to use HTML5 Word Clouds to make a word cloud of the ideas on my mind here, a sort of snapshot of what I think about when I think about sustainability in education:

I've tried to brainstorm some questions that reflect these ideas, and if you have ideas for questions to help propel our chat on Friday, that would be super - let me know here at the planning post or here at the GoogleDoc.

And I'll see everybody on Friday, 9AM, Norman time. :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Storify: March 13 Twitter #OpenTeachingOU Chat

We had our first #OpenTeachingOU Twitter chat on Monday, March 13, 2015. I created this Storify just using tweets tagged with #OpenTeachingOU, so some conversations may be missing a tweet or two. Here is the Storify page.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

OpenTeachingOU: An Open Friday Twitter chat!

I'm creating this post today, Thursday, to brainstorm some ideas and strategies for a Twitter chat fest that Rob Reynolds, Stacy Zemke and I will be enjoying on Friday morning, March 13, at 9AM Oklahoma time (and that's 10AM for me in NC)... hopefully with the participation of others also. Rob's got a Google+ post here to get the ball rolling! We'll be talking about open education in general, and specifically our experiences with open education efforts at the University of Oklahoma.

Yes, I know it is Friday the 13th!!! But we won't let that get us down! :-)

I've volunteered to Storify the event afterwards, and we'll be using the #OpenTeachingOU hashtag, along with whatever hashtags emerge. We were prompted to do this in honor of Open Education Week, and that hashtag is #OpenEducationWk with the related #AllAboutOpen tag. And the #OER hashtag is always hopping!

In addition, I've set up a publicly editable GoogleDoc where we can use to store and share stuff that doesn't fit in a tweet: OpenTeachingOU Google Doc. If this turns into a recurring Twitter event (I hope it will!), we can use this document, or a series of such documents, as an ongoing repository across multiple events.

I'm not sure if we want to run this like an organized type of Twitter chat with Q1 Q2 and so on, with people responding A1 A2, etc., but it might be good to give that a try just so that we behave! If we swap questions out every 10 minutes, that gives us time for a half-dozen questions. (More ideas and tips for Twitter chats.)

Here are some I would suggest, and hopefully both Stacy and Rob will chime in with ideas about that. I'll be glad to watch the clock and tweet out the questions at 10-minute intervals if we decide to try to be that well behaved, ha ha. How do these questions sound?

Q1 How is "open" important in your work as an educator today?
Q2 Who are some of your open heroes and heroines?
Q3 How has your own open presence online evolved over time?
Q4 What specific problems can the open approach help us to solve?
Q5 What can we do to promote open education at the Univ. of Oklahoma?
Q6 Do we want to keep using Twitter chat for more open-fests?

Later today, I'll make up a new Twitter list of people doing open-related work at OU; I've got a huge Twitter list for OU faculty/staff and OU programs, so I'll run through those looking for people who are using blogs, websites, Twitter, etc. to share their teaching and learning, and I'll let them know about this chat. Meanwhile, if you have people to suggest for that list now, let me know! Just tweet me (@OnlineCrsLady) with their names and Twitter handles. That will be great!

Okay, here is first run at a Twitter list: OpenTeachingOU Twitter list. I'm sure there are lots of people I have forgotten... let me know! :-)


Leave comments here at the blog, at the Google Doc, or over at Google+. Here's the Google+ post embedded:

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Memes from Review Week

This past week was "Review Week" in my classes, and people shared so many good memes in the posts. I picked a few of the memes out here, and you can see all the posts in this stream from Inoreader. There are so many good suggestions and ideas here that will help with next semester! For more about Review Week, see: Anatomy of an Online Course.

Be Prepared! Online Courses on Autopilot

I've been out of the loop for the past three weeks as you can see and, sadly, it is because of a family emergency: my mother, who was on hospice care, died last week. I've started a separate blog about that, both to work through the hard times of the past few weeks and also to share with others what I learn about death-with-dignity legislation: Morituris Omnibus. I've always felt strongly about each person's right to choose the manner and time of their dying, especially when facing medical calamities like my mother was facing; now that cause is much more urgent and personal, and I will be using that blog to share my involvement in this movement for change in our medical and legal systems.

Meanwhile, in this blog post for #OpenTeachingOU, I want to share what I learned about my online course design and how in some ways it was flexible enough to accommodate my sudden and unexpected absence, although I now know that I should also make some improvements for the future.

Communication. By relying on the class announcements blog along with emails, I was able to keep all the students informed about what was happening. That felt very solid; I don't think I need to make any changes there, and I was incredibly grateful to the students for their patience and understanding during this hard time. Of course, if I were really out of action completely, I would need the director of the online course program to communicate about that to my students; see note below about planning for a really serious emergency like that.

Assignment Readiness. This was the main problem I need to fix. In the past, I used to have all the assignments 100% ready to go before the semester started, but over the past two years I have been tinkering with my classes a lot, which means I have been writing up some assignment instructions and declarations during the course of the semester so that I could be really responsive to student suggestions and feedback. To accommodate emergencies like this in the future, I need to be more careful. Before the semester starts I need to have every assignment ready to go; that doesn't mean I cannot tinker with them and improve them. Instead, it just means that in case of an emergency like what I faced this semester, I would not have any doubts about the students being able to carry on in my absence. Because I did have some Internet access during this crisis, I was able to get the assignments ready this time — but in a different kind of emergency (if I were in the hospital or something myself), the students would have been missing some of the assignments that they needed.

Project Feedback. The bulk of my time each week (appx. 30 hours) is spent giving feedback to students, and the week by week assignments are structured such that the students have my feedback from the previous week in time to do their work on the next week's assignment. Over these two weeks, however, I was not able to keep that up given my limited Internet access. Out of the appx. 160 projects students turned in while I was gone, there were 25 where I could not write my reply in time, so I gave those students an extra free pass for that assignment. This strategy assumes, of course, that I have Internet access. If I were completely out of the loop, I would need a different strategy so that the students could keep on working ahead to develop their project, while postponing all the revision work until my return. So, I need to write up a kind of "emergency plan" which will explain to the students how to carry on doing the work for their Projects in my absence, catching up on the revision process later.

Administrative Coordination. I contacted the director of our online course office when I had to leave town to let her know what was happening, and because I did have some Internet access, there was really nothing that she needed to do or worry about. If, however, this had been an emergency where I was incapacitated, it would have been very hard for her to figure out what needed to be done in my classes, especially if the emergency were to occur at the end of the semester when grades are due. So, at the beginning of each semester, I need to write up an "emergency plan" not just for my students but also for the online course director so that she would be able to easily manage any emergency that might come up at any time during the semester. Besides the Projects, everything in the course is ready to run on its own, student-driven, in my absence. Even in a really dire emergency (if I were kidnapped by space aliens in Week 2 of the semester, for example), the courses would still be viable. Not optimal — but viable!

Overall, I am really pleased about how my classes are very much the result of the students' own work and their interactions with each other. So, while I am definitely a hands-on instructor, heavily involved with my students' work every week, my classes really can survive a disruption like this — and what a big relief that was over the past two weeks! I am very grateful about that: it meant that I could hang up the phone with hospice and immediately go online to get a plane ticket without a moment's hesitation, knowing that my students would be fine without me. At the same time, this is the first ever emergency I've faced in 10+ years of teaching online that meant I had to be "absent" from class for more than a just a day. So, I learned a lot from the experience, and I will be sure to do a better job in future of making my classes emergency-proof.

Yes, we can all use the help of Otto the Auto-Pilot in case of an emergency!

And here's an Airplane click featuring Otto at work: