Who cares about course completion?

In his blog, Courses or Learning Episodes, Steve Wheeler, provided much food for thought. The instructional design course that I facilitate online does not have as a goal course completion by all students. The goal is simply to provide a source of just in time learning experiences presented in a context that encourages learners to recognize the importance of remaining conscious of overarching goals; goals that far transcend any specific subject.
An essential question is how do we design learning experiences with the ultimate goal of progressively requiring less and less directed learning or structure from course facilitators? I think most teachers enter the field with the goal of helping students to discover and strengthen their voice by encouraging them to exercise their voice. However, along the way that goal becomes greatly over shadowed as we attempt to adhere to program and course guidelines that unnaturally restrict learning experiences by discipline or subject as opposed to teaching holistically. Of course teaching holistically demands collaboration and transparency, 2 things that are often challenging to implement regardless of the learning environment.
I think conversations related to education reform efforts should be more about identifying and exploiting the unique value different learning environments provide which support the design of authentic learning experiences. Thankfully, the options for how we present lessons is virtually endless. However, if the students are not engaged and actively interacting with the course materials; they are just that: course materials. Learning can only be exhibited as a result of the interaction.

Pleasant Surprise

Recently, we started exploring ways to use our learning management system to facilitate greater collaboration, particularly asynchronous communication. Today I was pleasantly surprised to see that a faculty member had opened a discussion post that inspired feedback from other members. With faculty being so over committed, being open to virtual discussion and collaboration will create so many more opportunities for interaction. It’s only the tip of the iceberg, but imagining the potential is very exciting!!

Co-Authoring Documents

The everchanging schedule of approved textbooks would be perfect for co-authoring by multiple authors. All responsible parties could take ownership of their curriculum’s textbooks and have the capability of making revisions to their portion of the document as needed. This would allow for version control and we would have a record of any revisions.

Plan B

Looks like SharePoint is a no go for collaboration right now. Switching focus to temporarily using Blackboard LMS for document management. It’s not ideal because the features we have implemented don’t really facilitate document sharing and collaboration using a wiki platform, but for now it will do.

There are multiple cloud-based web 2.0 tools, but there are privacy concerns that would limit the scope of discussion, and they don’t support the goal of finding a centralized location for collaboration. Besides, the one feature that is really needed is the ability for multiple users to edit a single document (Word, PowerPoint, Excel). So far, I haven’t really found a web 2.0 tool that not only allows multiple editors, but tracks changes, and maintains several versions on file for reference. Looks like we may just have to wait for that capability.