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Connected Courses drives context and collaboration

One of the core tenets of my courses at Marylhurst University is context. When we work to define context for our study, we provide a framework for broader understanding of the world around us. We’re then able to see how we impact culture, and how culture thereby impacts us in return. 

I love this stuff. I’m sure most of my students hate me by the time we’re through with our time together. No, it’s not a new thing, but it’s my thing, and I’m sticking to it. 

That’s why I’m so excited to be participating in ConnectedCourses this month with talented educators and thinkers. The premise: 

Connected Courses is a collaborative community of faculty in higher education developing networked, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web.

In short, we’re studying together the promise of federated learning, learning that counts on educators and learners building their own platforms and connecting them together using open web technologies. These instructors have been building courses calling on students to publish their own blogs, learning in public, syndicating the results of their studies in a way that leverages collaboration in a new, exciting — and terrifying — fashion. 

I’ve been teaching using a closed platform by comparison, Moodle. Moodle is a wonderful open source tool, but the implementation of it at my institution is closed, a space in which students are able to connect with one another — the 15 or so students in their own cohort — but isolated from the braintrust outside the university’s walled garden. 

As a result, students lose control of their work when finished with each course. But what about their opportunity — their obligation — to contribute to the body of knowledge? What about their ability to control the work they’ve done, to share it beyond the confines of the course? These things pain me each time I cross a brilliant insight from my students, and it’s becoming more and more clear to me that part of my role as an instructor goes beyond lectures, probes, and assessments. It’s about teaching students to contribute more fully as a member of our society. 

Even as my own institution’s technology defaults to closed, I’m heartened by two things. First, I have been consistently supported in my own meager experiments to push the classroom experience with new tools and experience with media. Second, our own Dr. Nathan Phillips, director of our Center for Learning and Technology, invited me to join this course. That speaks volumes toward the institutional awareness of change and the promise of greater, broader connections to come.