POT Cert changes

pflogo2We are planning for the Program for Online Teaching Certificate Class for fall, and there will be some changes!

We’re keeping the independent blogs.

After discussion about having all participants as authors on one blog, we’ve decided that the “space of ones own” concept was too important to lose. MiraCosta instructors will continue to have the ability to get a blog through the college. For others, we’re no longer encouraging Edublogs (which makes you pay now to embed video). We enthusastically encourage a hosted blog of ones own, but we realize not everyone is up to that challenge. We are moderately encouraging WordPress.com. We’re noting that Blogger seems to work rather well, so it’s the first time we’ll recommend that. Since we aren’t aggregating, there are more choices – people could even use Tumblr.

No more FeedWordpress or a big aggregated blog

This turned into a nightmare that could only be improved by being a coder, which I’m not. Dealing with recalcitrant feeds (and finding them when people can’t tell where they are) became a major time suck. I can use another plugin to create a page of feeds if I want to, but it won’t be the core of the course. I still recommend the FeedWordpress method to anyone who has coding knowledge, time, and/or the staff to make it work. I have no staff.

Commenting will be part of a larger community are instead of on the blogs.

Last year, posts were aggregated and clicking to comment led back to the participant’s blog. The blog and comment (call and response) model has not been working as well as we’d hoped.

There are many reasons for this, but my take is the basic idea that blogs weren’t really intended for conversation, only commenting. One purpose of blog comments was to make sure participants knew they weren’t blogging into a void, but this wasn’t always achieved despite the very best efforts of our mentors, moderators and participants. Requiring comments leads to useless comments, and not requiring them leads to very few comments. The method was not fostering community. And no, I don’t believe it would have done so even if the comments had stayed on the aggregated blog. Moderators weren’t really moderating a conversation, but rather giving attaboys which, while important, did not provide real conversation.

Instead, we’ll be asking participants to share a link to their weekly posts in a new Google Plus Community, which is where all discussion and commenting will take place.

No, this is not ideal. There are privacy concerns (well, not so much privacy as Inappropriate Gathering and Use of Personal Information) in forcing folks to use Google. The same was a concern in our Facebook Group, where much interaction has taken place. But in order to introduce participants to the largest social networks being used for education, and in order to have meaningful, recorded and open synchronous sessions, we’ve decided to go with Big Brother.

Workload is reduced and more options provided

It’s a heavy course, with much reading and many tools. We’ve reduced these by providing options (for example, try a video or audio tool, not one of each). We are moving some of the readings into an “optional” column.

A badge can be earned for one semester

We’ve changed the structure to divide the 24-week class into two 12-week semesters, each with a different focus: Online Pedagogy for fall, and Online Education (for spring). Each can earn a badge, with both badges within two years required for the certificate.

This will provide a reward for those completing one semester, and choice of focus. Fall is heavier on pedagogy and course setup; spring is heavier on tools and theory. Beginners will be encouraged to start in fall, but more experienced online instructors are welcome to hop in for spring.

So we’re still working, but these are the ideas so far!

9 comments to POT Cert changes

  • This sounds great! I agree that blogs are not conversation-friendly. Will be interesting to see how Google Community works. I think of Moodle Forums as ideal for conversations, but am open to try G+. Will certainly be easier to find, and I can appreciate lower management-overhead for you with no feeds to engineer.
    The 12-week division also appeals to me – a MOOC dilettante who starts with great intentions.

  • Agree with Jim that the change is certainly worth a try. From my area there’s no real interest in anything but packaged development programs so I’m moving my brain over to SCoPE in BC and will report back.

    • @Jim @Scott I did consider Moodle for about 2.5 minutes. Putting the whole class in a closed system seemed just too awful. At a conference last year I criticized a similar “class” that was offered to university faculty inside an LMS. I’d feel hypocritical if we weren’t at least mostly in the open…

  • Lisa, I could lend a hand setting up/managing the FeedWordPress aggregator if you would like to keep it. It’s a lot fewer than the number I managed for ETMOOC- just let me know

    • You’re a sweetheart, Alan – what happened with the one feed would have taken up too much of anyone’s time! I appreciate the offer – gonna try it this way first – a little more disaggregated than usual – to see what happens. It’s all an experiment anyway, right?

  • Jaime Oyarzo

    Great Lisa, is a pleasure to see the constant innovation of Cert POT
    Although blogs do not encourage discussion, blogs are a good tool to develop the ability to write, reflect and synthesise. I agree that you need to locate another tool for discussion. Typically, each tool solves just a part of the problem.
    I use FeedWordPress as a blog aggregator. I’ve used a small scale and is probably the reason that I have not experienced problems. I will closely follow this issue and I am very interested in knowing the solution you achive.

  • Sounds like some great steps. I especially like the notion of splitting POT Cert into two distinct sections. I would guess that will attract more folks who will do one part in one year, then take a break before coming back for the rest. Or folks who, as you say, already feel comfortable with one but want the other. My guess is that this experiment will bear much fruit as you, over time, hone the “curriculum” of each part to stand on its own, yet clearly complement the other.

    My only question in your new directions is about Blogger … most of what little chatter I’ve picked up on lately about Blogger has been negative – frustration with it and even speculation that Google is going to let it go the way of Wave, Reader, etc.

    • That’s interesting about Blogger – we had the fewest problems with people using it last year, which is why I thought to recommend it. Is there a better alternative to Edublogs/WP.com? We need media ability, obviously. Tumblr?

    • Vanessa Vaile

      Most of my blogging is on Blogger. I’ve heard the chatter too but am not noticing problem outside of occasional slow downs which I suspect coincide with system maintenance or update and very likely slow connections more noticeably. Google would like to use it to feed G+ so it may be safe-ish for a while. You can share posts to G+ from the dashboard ~ share link under posts along with edit, view, etc.

      I’ve not been in any hurry to Google up but am finding it a good discussion platform. If main page /see all gets too cluttered, adding sections helps keep main page more manageable and back posts easier to find.

      Like Jaime, I think the plan sounds good and look forward to seeing how it works out.

      Somewhat OT, I was wondering what arrangements the rest of you have made/are making for feeds. I signed up with The Old Reader but have not moved anything yet and downloaded the Feedly plugin to try out.

      Anyway, to get back on topic, Old Reader has Reader’s former Friends/Followers sharing feature that might work as a way for everyone to follow one another’s blogs. Sharing is more limited – friends and to Facebook.