Keeping the Lights On …

Keep the lights on #CCourses

Alan Levine had a great post the other day (what else is new?) about how online learning communities, such as eMoocs and such, would do better to never situate an “end point” for a course and just keep the lights burning for folks. He situates this point within the context of the Connected Courses, where a lot of university folks are experimenting with how to transform their curriculum with elements of open design and open learning.

Alan cites DS106 and its #4life motto as an example. That’s what I do so love about DS106 …. it never seems to end and I can jump in and out as I please. I think what makes that system work, along with the great sharing, is the Daily Create … every day, there is something new to do.


It only takes a few minutes to do the Daily Create, but the act of getting that email update or seeing the call for creativity on Twitter reminds me of the presence of DS106. Even if I don’t do the create, I remember a bit of where I’ve been within DS106. I get re-anchored. The breadcrumb leads me back.

That identity with a learning space is important.

For many, particularly those in the Connected Courses, their teaching year no doubt revolves around semesters. The course they teach ends when the semester ends, and then things start up all over again. But when you add an open learning element, really, things should never quite come to a close. Why would it? Our learning never stops and if the connections forged have been true and honest and worthy, the space should continue.

Which is not to say this is easy to pull off. We’ve tried to keep our conversations and making going with the Making Learning Connected MOOC the past two summers. We’d love folks to stay connected in our spaces all year. It doesn’t really happen. Life intervenes. People get exhausted. Other priorities bubble up. We loosen our threads. But every now and then, we’ll see a burst of activity, as folks come back together with an idea or a share, and these echoes of the intense summer of the CLMOOC re-emerge in a powerful way. We still see the CLMOOC Make Bank as a growing connector of our ideas, as a sort of legacy project (modeled on, what else, DS106).

The power of the Daily Create is that we need constant and gentle reminders — a lighthouse beacon out in the world — of why we were there in that space and place and time in the first place and why we need to return to get recharged. Still, someone has to administer the Daily Create (I helped facilitate the Connected Courses Daily Connect all through October and I realized then how much of a task it is — enjoyable but still, a task.)

Meanwhile, I am taking a grad class right now that uses Blackboard as its LMS, and everything I write in there … I know it’s only temporary. My words will be eaten up by the LMS in a few months. The doors will close. The lights will go out. We’ll be done. This is important as I think about Alan’s points because what I write in that particular space is just enough to do the assignments. It’s me, the student, not me, the writer/connector, and when those words disappear … I could care less, to be frank. We have not really forged any true learning community connections in that online space (even though we are required to have “conversations” each week in the forum). It all feels so very forced and fake to me. The doors to the LMS will close and I won’t care.

Close the doors to the CLMOOC, or DS106, or other learning spaces I am in, and I would be in an uproar. And saddened. Those learning spaces, and those colleagues in those places, matter to me. I would be lost as a writer, learner, teacher, maker without those connections. Keeping the lights on is challenging, but important, if we are trying to keep to our ideals of learning as an open adventure.

Peace (in the think),

  1. A good MOOC is much like a good post or tutorial online when the conversation continues to pop up years later. We all get comment notices in our email that someone has responded to something we wrote last year or even longer ago. It brings the conversation back into focus with a fresh mind and fresh ideas. In 2013, I participated in a course How to Learn Math through Stanford Open EdXS. The participants were so so wired for learning that a Facebook group started up so we could continue to share conversations, good stuff!
    I am also in a Blackboard session learning the material the state wants finished but once I leave this course, so goes the work. I have not found it to be well done at all and I would have preferred to do it asynchronously. In this case, a MOOC could have done a better job and I could have made some meaningful connections to others.

  2. As you’ve just said, Kevin, it makes all the difference to learning if you care, and if you connect to people in the community. Space to breathe, freedom to be yourself, and writing that comes from within. I’m starting to feel more confident about the kind of learning that I think we need to hurry up and provide opportunities for in schools and higher ed. Thanks for the thoughtful think.

  3. For me, it’s actually a combo of sustaining relationships w individuals, and then going with these people to other events. Like other MOOCs. As i said, i “followed” you and Terry into clmooc for example. I “followed” tvsz because of Pete and Jesse – and those “events” help spark the connections between people. As do long projects like the autoethnography for rhizo14. Maybe we’re not finishing it coz we don’t want our story to ever end 😉 lol

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