Crowdsourcing assignments for ds106

Image credit:D’Arcy Norman‘s ds106 Skull and Crossbones says it all

One of the things I mentioned about a month ago about ds106 before I stole away on vacation was the possibility for crowdsourcing assignments over the span of the semester.

It was an idea born by Tom Woodward last semester, and something that I talked with Martha Burtis about more recently—and her hacking magic made it so. As of right now anyone can submit an assignment under the 6 broader categories the course will be covering—namely visual, design, audio, video, mashup, and fanfiction. And while Wesley Fryer asked how this works more specifically, I can only answer more generally. I’ll leave the technical post to Martha, who did all the heavy development lifting with this, but I can explain the basic idea, which is pretty cool.

The technical workflow goes like this:
*Using a Google Form embedded in a WordPress page, allow people to submit an assignment
*Do some magic in Google Spreadsheets (there is a formula you need) to create unique tags/categories for each assignment submitted (and I believe some custom fields that will be syndicated into WP)
*Then feed the spreadsheet back into WordPress using FeedWordPress
*Visualize the assignment in WordPress under each category in a cool way so that people can both vote on and choose an assignment
*What’s more, each assignment has its own unique tag users will add to their posts so that all the posts for this specific assignment can be seen together
(Do I have this this right, Martha?)

Great, but how does this work in relationship to the class?
The class will have a series of assignments and guidelines that I follow with both my UMW courses as well as the open course. However, the folks in the open course 9and the UMW courses for that matter) need not do the assignments I specify, rather they can choose from one of the many assignments that various people have submitted—or they can choose to create their own and submit that. What’s more, each assignment submitted has a unique set of tags that when associated with the assignment post will actually group all the posts for a specific assignment onto one page so they can be seen together easily.

Why do it?
It’s a way for an open, online course to harness the ideas and creativity of everyone involved, not just “the professor,” while at the same time giving those involved the ability to choose which assignment they want to do. And by using the categories, folks can loosely follow the structure of the class if they choose—while easily discovering the posts of others who choose the same assignments. What I like about this is it doesn’t prevent anyone from doing the “official” assignment, but it gives everyone the freedom to explore other things they may be more interested in—and hopefully share it back in kind. What’s more, it makes everyone involved in the class potentially an architect of it.

Over the last month we have had a ton of posts with assignment ideas, and I think we could easily have anywhere between 10 and 20 assignments ideas in each category rather quickly—at least that is the hope. I am going to return to all those posts and push people to submit the assignment idea and see what we have by the end of week 1.

My thoughts are that it might allow us to integrate several smaller assignments, and a wide variety of them, for the various people in the class. Not everyone is expected to submit an assignment, and all assignments won’t be created equal, but I have faith we will get enough good stuff to buoy a number of folks over the course of a given topic, like audio, design, video, etc.

What do you think about this?

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9 Responses to Crowdsourcing assignments for ds106

  1. rowan_peter says:

    Sounds like a plan. So, when do we get to vote on and choose an assignment?

  2. Yes, I like this idea of participants coming up with assignment ideas. I think that most of us may be unsure at the moment about submitting ideas given that this is very early in the course and we’re not sure about the direction it’s going in.

  3. Reverend says:

    Peter and Colin,

    Yeah, this is still a model, I’ll be integrating it more neatly into the course over the next few weeks. What I am glad to hear, though, is that it makes some sense, and may even be useful for some experimentation.

    And frankly, you can check out the visual and design assignment entered already, they are pretty cool, and may give you something to chew on.

  4. Reverend says:


    Hahahaha, you already did submit an assignment. Love the Unscene Story assignment for Fan Fiction. Brilliant!

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  6. Jay Mair says:

    looking forward to first assignment, I think, still getting my head around it but still hanging in there

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