A New Wave of Open

NewOrderBlueMondayDavid Wiley rules for many reasons, but one that I want to point out in this post which was inspired by his most recent post is how well he distills how empowering students and faculty to truly own their work online can radically change the way we think about publishing more broadly. He understands the value and focus of the learning management system for so many, and uses that as the example wherein using the POSSE model (or publishing on your own site an syndicating elswhwere) can start to change the way we imagine these systems. The LMS as a syndication hub, not a vertically integrated destination for all our learning needs.

The question immediately arises – when will we be able to POSSE into our formal learning environments? Could it be done today? For example, could we write a Known plugin that would let us POSSE into Canvas? Knowing what I do of their API, I think we could.

How would that change students’ relationships with their courses and institutions? Maybe this is already where the Reclaim folks are going, and I’m only just catching up, but give each student (1) their own domain, (2) a Known install, and (3) the ability to POSSE into the LMS – and just think about the implications. What does “submitting” homework mean now? What does an e-portfolio mean now? How do assessments need to change when there are worked examples of assignments everywhere? And where was I ever going to point the Evidence metadata in an open badge before students had this?

Here at UMW Tim Owens and Martha Burtis have already been experimenting with Canvas’s API over the last few months, and what David is suggesting in his post is right inlien with what we’ve been imagining. And we could do something like what he’s imagining here in the very near future. We’re a Canvas school, and we would love to start pushing hard on some of these frontiers alongside others to see how Domain of One’s Own and Canvas integrate more cleanly for this kind of “reclaim personal publishing” approach.

Like David, I am really excited for what I imagine as a new wave of open that actually positions that term in direct relationship between the person publishing online and the work they produce within a variety of personal, social, and institutional settings. Open as in control is interesting to me because it takes these two ideas that have been imagined as diametrical opposites in regards to the LMS, and pits them in a seemingly natural juxtaposition when it comes to owning your work.

What’s happenign more broadly right now is folks all over the world are re-thinking this very question of control when it comes to their own work. The move to re-decentralize the web is afoot, and it makes sense we start digging into the implciations for higher ed of this emergent online consciousness of the value of having some control over one’s own digital trace. What if open is focused on being able to manage your contexts and share outside of pre-determined commerical structures? I’m really excited to see where Wiley takes his exploration of “the relationship between POSSE and ‘open'” in a future post. It’s time he reclaimed open, if you will 😉

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11 Responses to A New Wave of Open

  1. Tom Evans says:

    A big fat yes!

    In order to survive/thrive/not-suck the LMS must embrace transparency and the importance of enabling & promoting open learning avenues that exist outside its constricting confines….especially if those avenues are discovered and/or published by students!

    POSSE, positioning the LMS as a syndication hub, Reclaim, and DoOO are in a wordtwo words: ‘strategically essential’

    • Reverend says:


      Exactly, I am excited about jsut this idea of think about how we can imagine one version of the LMS, as we were talkign about this morning at DTLT, as a lightweight syndication hub that also does some of the management fuctions in an unbundled way. Unbundling the gradebook, quizzing, assessment, as well. Enabling a distributed approach to this stuff that honors the necessities of managing part of your class, but also honoring this idea of ownership and different contexts for publishing. The POSSE perspective gets at this beautifully.

      Jon Mott and David Wiley got at something like this a few years back with unbundling the gradebook and quizing, I think we can now introduce the vision pf where we publish the work to the LMS orginates and is utlimately archived. And this reconnects directly with Domain of one;s Own, blogging, and the social web mroe generally,. and as Maha recognizes below, it also can distinguish between private and public spaces for individuals.

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  3. Maha Bali says:

    Hey Jim, thanks for posting about this. What you’ve written here as well as what David Wiley has written (+Mike on Indiebox) is pretty exciting stuff. Not only the LMS part but all of it. Looking forward to reading more on this while i get my hands dirty.
    I like this most because while it gives students control and ownership of their content, it still (indirectly)accepts that faculty/students may want to keep some things private and limited to the LMS, outside this whole POSSE thing, but keeps the “open” POSSE option available, and that could make a lot of folks out there much more comfortable.

  4. Reverend says:


    OIne of the coolest things we’ve done at DTLT, thanks to Martha Burtis, is begun to honor that claim of control. In other words, when a student publishes to their site we given them the control to decide what syndicates and what doesn;t—that was a real limitation of our aggregation system up and until now.

    In Domain of One’s Own there is now a content management feature where students and faculty alike can determine what’s public and what’s not. That idea of distinguishing between this modalities is no longer simply lip service, we are actually (Martha is the “we” here) working to make this a reality that honors this idea of controlling once digital identity.

  5. Pat says:

    I worry how much of the content is owned though – and not just hosted. WordPress, Tumblr and so on allow a mediated ownership.

    I think a bank looks after your money, but you can take it out easily. You still own it.

    I guess money has the gold standard to back it up. Perhaps I’d feel more comfortable if there was an open blog standard, and say jumping from ghost to tumblr to wordpress to blogger was basically switching theme. I guess the syndication to me needs to be predicated on an abstraction level? I worry that the LMS criticism loci will shift to external systems instead?

    Individual content becomes some form of gestalt entity when a course is created (to me) and that aggregation isn’t just the parts, but something more. The removal of the content (if you own it) would weaken / damage the collective element? I wonder about a morality of sharing, or if sharing leads to some consensual agreement not to remove yourself?

  6. Reverend says:


    I don;t disagree, and I think one of the ideas that has fascainted me is Kin lane’s notion of a kind of application translator API (for lack of a better word) that enables you to easily move your content from one application to another, and still maintain a backup of sorts. I think the POSSE approach—at least in my mind—is not about a broader criticism of out applciations but a focus on how you think through managing your own work over time. THat shift in focus starts to defang the us vs them mentality of being with the LMS or not. And I think that’s why Wiley’s notion of the LMS being yet another application to point your work to and syndicate (whether using RSS, APIS, or soemthing else) is a nice take on this.

    • Pat Lockley says:

      I feel POSSE is tied to a freedom, and that freedom is a criticism of the LMS, or the fact it is hard to take content from. Mahara as a plugin for example, allows you to take LMS stuff off out to Mahara (I see POSSE as eportfolio like?).

      I wonder if “publishing” is half the argument, and that curating or librarying (my word, copyright me) is the answer. If you could log onto the LMS, or any site, take all the content you’d like (and keep it / 5th R it) with a click. So you aren’t publishing content directly, but curating, and sometimes curation is adding comments to share.

      I also wonder how POSSE (as Wiley says) starts to change assessment. Could there be an entirely portfolio-ed course? Knowledge demonstrated through aggregation or creation?

      • Reverend says:

        Yeah I think this idea of publishing as a means of curating is right on. And I find I am doing that mroe and more with sites Tummblr, my rss reader, my blog, and my courses. I still haven’t finetuned the integration, but that would be a portfolio, life stream, you name it, trace of my multi-faceted publishing aroudn the web. Tie in things like Known and you start to have a compellign archive of everything from long blog psots posts to microcontent (status updates/tweets) to comments. I’m really ontrigured by this, and I still think a Tumblr-like dashbaord would be an awesome way to explore it.

        • Pat Lockley says:

          I wonder how though, and RSS – does it remain as it is the dumb API / basic standard for getting at stuff. I wonder without this if it will end up being screen dumps as export and it’ll all be very messy.

          I also wonder how well freshers are in this – I guess they are used to fb, twitter, tumblr and then for these to become educational may lead to resistance, or how a movement from online fun, to online content ownership is a substantial jump for them? Especially if setting up own systems and so on.

          I am wondering how logically we are moving to something seamless – if we take lifestream as a term – and how the University transition (into or out of) would interfere with that? Not in a bad way, more of it as an introduction of a burden.

          Sort of feel it is heading back to linked Data or FOAF – triples and so on.

          I wonder if the problem is there is still a destination, and what we want perhaps is not to have destinations, but for destinations to come to us. Newspapers go to twitter, and then we go to the newspapers – a sort of didactic relationship / time overhead.

          I guess this is the old verb argument – do I want to publish to places, or do I want places to come to me. Do I want to publish? Or is a tweet a question? Or a blog a first draft?

          I like the idea of a destinationless course – seems almost cMOOC mesh like / ultra scalable / appeals to me invisible theatre / invisible education plan – but does it lack a flag to rally around? Perhaps the LMS is basically border control? You check in, then it does all the rest for you.

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