Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Power of Connections: Initial Design Decisions

Yesterday, I posted about the self-imposed design constraints Stacy and I have placed on our Power of Connections course. Today, I want to elaborate a bit on some of the initial course design decisions we have made based on those design constraints. In the spirit innovation, I would like to think that our constraints have made us more creative. However, I am aware that we are at the early stages on our design thinking and that some of our decisions may prove problematic once the actual learning experience begins July 13.

Here, in a nutshell are, our initial design decisions for Power of Connections.
  • Focus on a limited set of content types that can be elaborated in many ways -- We have tossed out many, many content types and ideas as part of our planning. In the end, we decided to go deep instead of broad. We have stuck to a few, basic content types -- those available to everyone and that can be executed by pretty much anyone -- and have focused our design on elaborating these types in different ways. We believe that this will help us achieve out goal of modeling student engagement activities for the largest audience set possible.
  • Focus on a limited set of activity or technology types -- We do not want Power of Connections to be about cool technology or student engagement activities that necessarily require learning new technologies. So, as with content types, we are sticking to the basics when it comes to technology. We want the activities we explore and discuss in this experience to be accessible and usable by instructors with a broad range of online/hybrid teaching experience and technology expertise.
  • Encourage as wide a range of participant creation as possible -- The first two design decisions certainly address our goal of making Power of Connections work for teachers and course designer with different backgrounds and differing levels of expertise. However, we also want participants to be able to "engage" according to their own personal preferences with regards to how and where they create content and conversations. We also want participants to be able to engage when they want and with only the content that interests them. That means designing the experience in a modular fashion so that someone can engage only with a particular activity from week three and still receive tremendous learning benefit.
  • Encourage dialogue in as many places as possible and make it our responsibility to aggregate and connect the community -- Of course, all of this puts a bit pressure on Stacy and me because it means we must be committed to supporting/integrating both a closed learning environment as well as open Web activity and communication (for blogs, social media, and public access to course content). It's usually an either/or proposition when it comes to course design, but we're trying to do both (and it could be a miserable failure -- i.e. there may be a good reason we never mix the two).
  • Ensure that all content can be accessed from multiple environments -- both open and closed -- One of the goals of Power of Connections is to create a catalog of sharable information, activities and ideas related to student engagement. We want to make sure that all the work created in this experience lives on after the experience and remains discoverable, editable, and sharable by others. We also want to encourage participation in our experience by everyone, particularly those who don't have time to engage in the course experience but who want to view what's going on or add to the conversation casually through social media.
  • Commit to engaging with the community as facilitators for as long as its active -- As I have said, this is not a traditional course, it is a learning and community experience. And, Stacy and I are not acting as instructors, but rather as facilitators for the learning community. To that end, we are committed to supporting community conversation and the curation of community content/ideas as long as people are interested.

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