I am currently sitting in Dallas Fort Worth airport hoping to escape the ice storm that hit Dallas during the MOOC Research conference. Despite the atypical elements, this is one of the best conferneces I’ve been to in a while, right up there with OpenEd (kudos to George Siemens, Amy Collier, and Tanya Joosten for a job well done). The quality of people was amazing and the vibe, as Mike Caulfield already mentioned, was almost dreamlike. I also had the distinct pleasure of finally meeting a number of awesome folks who I’ve been following on the internet for a long while now, in particular Bon Stewart, Martin Weller and Martin Hawksey.
I also met a whole bunch of new folks, and attended a wide range of sessions in hopes of moving beyond some of the MOOC-hype (which I think this conference did quite well) and look at what we’re really starting to learn from this phenomenon. And while I’m not convinced that large, corporate MOOCs are educating the world and feeding the children, I do have a better sense just how variegated coporate MOOCs can be in their approach thanks to Weller’s research. It was also apparent just how much this moment has served to reinforce the fact that online learning has arrived in the hearts and minds of administrators everywhere.
It still befuddles me just how quickly big brand, research 1 universities have been to give away the farm to third-party, for-profit platforms. Especially as the MOOC hype has been somewhat tempered by Saint Sebastian’s recent pivot (which I think was very good for the tenor of the conference more generally). At the same time Bon Stewart’s admonitions for some kind of organized response to start filling the temporary void of direction with alternative narrative still rings in my ears—and it is very much the lesson I took away from Audrey Watters keynote at OpenEd.
Finally, it was cool to see the O.G. triumvirate George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier representing their frankenstein-like brainchild 🙂 I have to take a moment to hand it to all three of them, they’ve weathered a pretty intense hi-jacking of their ideas from back in 2008 with a tremendous amount of class (lesser folks, like me, would have crumbled). What’s more, they’re stewarding the conversation in ways I think do the entire field a great service. What’s more, Stephen Downes was really happy. I mean really happy! I guess that’s a result of him getting the well-deserved and long overdue credit and resources to really start making his orginal vision of the technological aggregation of these disparate networks a reality. Congratualtions!
As for me, well, I slayed them!
More seriously, for my last few talks (since my University of North Florida presentation in September) I’ve been trying to narrate the progression of the work I’ve been part of more broadly at UMW. In particular, I focus on the development of projects in UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technology from the BlueHost Experiment to UMW Blogs to ds106 to Domain of One’s Own and beyond. The narrative is a compelling one, and it is an honor to represent the work we’re doing at UMW to folks from around the world. It’s also cool to situate ds106 as a creative alternative within the MOOC discourse. At the same time, I’m becoming more comfortable with my role at UMW as an ambassador for the work DTLT, our faculty, and students are doing. It always feels a bit awkward, but at the same time people are beginning to recognize and understand UMW as a hub for the “Digital Liberal Arts” in part because of these presentations—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Anyway, below is the abstract for the talk as well as the slides for the presentation. If and when there is a video I will share it here as well. [Update: there is a video recording and here’s the link.] Now if I could only make it home.
This presentation will examine a decade worth of experimentation and development at the University of Mary Washington that has resulted in a series of innovative projects such as UMW Blogs, ds106, and Domain of One’s Own—not to mention its recent spin-off Reclaim Hosting. What all these projects have in common is they operate from a shared ethos of supporting an open environment for teaching and learning online by helping faculty and students alike exert control over the digital spaces they learn, teach, and ultimately live in.