I really appreciate your list and the underlying principles, Asif -- that people invest more in their learning in an online course when there's a social presence that evolves from a public self-assessment, goal-setting, and commitment as well as expectations that they accomplish group work that is personally meaningful. And just once, I'd love to see the "chatboxers" talking on the mic and the facilitators/presenters in the backchannel.
I had high hopes for making my university course open this semester and succeeded to some degree but not as I'd hoped. Of the 40+ teachers and librarians who responded enthusiastically to the invitation, I have only 4 who are regularly attending and contributing to the class. That's probably not as good a rate of participation as a MOOC with thousands.
I plan to poll the 40+ to find out why they didn't follow through. I suspect it was fear of unfamiliar social media tools. And something we've been talking about over in the Digital Storytelling 106 MOOC -- course culture. I worry that no one takes a course seriously anymore if there's not the ubiquitous discussion board. I think that blogging and tweeting seem much more demanding and revealing than posting to the discussion board. Could it be a fear of commitment?
It's a Catch 22 that if you worry that you'll be too busy to commit to something extra that you'll not commit enough to gain what you need from the experience to warrant the sacrifice.
Some things I plan to do differently next time:
1. Visual Overview -- Create a flow chart that clearly shows the format of the course with tutorials for social media contributions through tweeting, social bookmarking, and blogging. These are all in the course now but a visual with links could make everything easier to take in.
2. Mandatory Orientation -- Linda from Educause who spoke with us mentioned a "best practice" of mandatory orientations. Now I know that's not possible synchronously with an open course, but I wonder if open course students/auditors were simply required to watch an introductory video and respond to a questionnaire that I could then follow-through with a second video to clear up any confusions.
3. Social Presence -- My class meets in Second Life but I stream it into UStream for those not interested in learning to use Second Life. It's amazing how close the students in Second Life have become. I'm convinced there's an intimacy that comes from putting oneself "out there" in a new, foreign space and learning with others to feel at home. How to create the conditions for that to happen for potential open students? I'm still working on that one. Perhaps beginning the class with a big event that draws open students to our Second Life space. Now our big event comes about a month into the class.
4. Professional Development Credit -- Only a couple of my open students successfully negotiated with supervisors to earn certificate renewal credit for the course. I explained my requirements to earn a course certificate of completion and encouraged those interested to seek prior approval before they began the course. Perhaps there's a disconnect and school systems are reluctant to accept open course work for renewal credit. This is something I hope to learn from the follow-up survey.
Whew! That was helpful for me to think through, Asif, so I appreciate the prompting. Please do keep in touch and let me know how your strategies work out and I'll do the same.
Take care and until our next MOOC . . .