In Teaching with WordPress, one of the week 2 topics for discussion is to think about how to design a web. This comes from a quote from Stephen Downes in a presentation called “Design Elements in a Personal Learning Environment,” where he says: “A MOOC is a web, not a website.” Now, in this he is talking about what later came to be known as cMOOCs, or connectivist MOOCs (see my blog posts here and here for a discussion of cMOOCs). Many MOOCs today are more like websites than webs. But what does that mean, really?
To me, having experienced several open online courses that I would call “cMOOCs,” designing a course as a web means that one focuses more on providing opportunities for people to connect with each other than on providing content that they all need to get and be assessed on. The curriculum comes in large part from the participants, who shape what is talked about and how the course goes by what they write, what they link to, the questions they raise, etc. And perhaps most importantly, the best value for me in such courses is that the connections I have made continue onwards, long past the end of the courses. From my experience in various open online courses I have gone on to collaborate with people on designing and facilitating an open online course, on research projects, and, well, just on fun.
I will tell anyone who will listen that my experiences in connectivist-style open online courses has changed my life. For example, here’s a map of all the things that have changed in my professional activities as a result of taking my first open online course, ETMOOC, in early 2013. (The embed interface is not that great; I used MindMup for this map, and it’s a little clunky…it’s just that that is what I started with so I kept it in there!) This link should get you to a full page version of the mind map.
But my question is, how do I design my own on-campus courses so that they are more web-like and less website-like? I’m not thinking that my students’ lives are going to be changed in quite the same way as mine has been changed by my experiences in open online courses, but I would like for there to be more connections between students, and between students and myself, through online interactions. And there isn’t much that is doing that in my WordPress course websites right now.
Right now my WordPress sites for my on-campus courses don’t do a whole lot beyond giving content: here are the readings, here are the assignment instructions, etc. That’s a website. For example, see the website for the course I’m teaching right now, Introduction to Philosophy, here.
Sometimes I also ask students to do blog posts (depending on the course); so, for example, for Arts One their blog posts are aggregated onto our class website under “our blog posts,” here. Sometimes I ask them to post some of their work publicly (it’s always up to them whether or not to do it, though), such as with the “non-traditional artifacts” here or the “philosophy in the world” assignments here.
And for the first time ever, just this week I asked students to participate in a discussion on a WP site through comments, using a shortcode to get two pages with the discussions onto a single page: https://blogs.ubc.ca/phil102/weekly-schedule/week-5/ Here’s a short post on how I did that.
I guess I just feel like I’m mostly replicating an LMS with my WordPress sites. And I want to know how I can use the power of the WP blank slate to do more interesting things. That’s one of the things I am hoping to get help with. And a question I asked on Twitter earlier this week is a start!