I wanted to take a moment to highlight a recent post by a colleague of mine, Dr. Chris Conway. Chris is a true EduPunk at heart that does a large amount of out-of-the-box thinking. He did a presentation recently at the Focus on Technology conference here at UTA. His session was called Asking the Wrong Questions of Instructional Technology. The blog post I linked to is a copy of his notes from the presentation.
One of the many things that sticks out to me about this presentation are the three principles that define innovative teaching: contact, collaboration, and creation. The last two will probably be familiar with most readers of this blog – in fact, you probably would have lost interest in this blog if you weren’t already in to online collaboration and having students create or actively construct their learning (if you aren’t familiar with the last two, go read those points right now. I’ll wait until you get back. Really – I will). The first principle is one that seems to get missed today in online learning. It’s not that we don’t believe in contact – we just that we sometimes get stuck in the rut of the same-old, same-old and don’t consider it very much.
Chris’ point about contact is that students should get to have meaningful contact with what they are studying – beyond just reading about it. The Internet is giving us as instructors or instructional designers a much greater opportunity to do this. You don’t have to just tell students about ground breaking research – you can actually send them to read the paper that was published to introduce the research. Or, you can even read the journals or blogs of the researchers themselves. Sometimes, of course, finding this kind of contact can take some extensive searching and digging. Or maybe even creating some opportunities ourselves. In other words, we may have to suggest to that researcher that they start a blog about how their research is going. If a good chance for making contact is not there – why not model collaboration as an instructor and see what you can get going? You would be surprised at how many people don’t do more online just because they just never thought of it, or don’t know how to get started (yep, that means you might have to set up a blog for a technically challenged person – but wouldn’t it be worth it? I can see you laughing mockingly at me – but you know its true).
So, if are not sure exactly what to tell people when they ask “what do I need to to do to create an online course?” – send them to this blog post for some ideas. Of course, if you are also like us and are stuck with a certain learning management system, you might not want to have them reading that last section where Chris talks about how we think the current LMS programs need to change. Let them discover that concept on their own :)