From Course Learning to Snapshot Learning

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One of my students wrote on her self-assessment today that she was sad our summer course is ending, because she really enjoyed talking to her colleagues using the Messaging feature in Moodle. She wrote “very sad since I greatly enjoyed the lectures in this class and I’ve met new people via messaging them”.

I have noticed this before, that students often use the Messaging system in Moodle (or any LMS) to talk to each other. I’m not aware of it unless they tell me or I have to go into a student’s account for some reason. But it makes sense. It’s less intrusive than trying to be a Facebook friend, and less direct then email. If you use the LMS system, it means, “Hi! I’m in class with you. Wanna talk about class? or something else maybe?” Less risk, and it draws on your immediate and obvious connection.

My student’s sorrow, of course, is based on the fact that this experience is organized as a class that will “close”. No one will come back after this week, and eventually the website will be unavailable as we all move on. It’s like a coffee shop where you meet some people and hang with them all evening, but then the coffee shop closes and really, you’re too shy to ask for anyone’s number.

A lot has been discussed lately about open learning, life-long learning, learning outside the box. We talk about e-portfolios that would span ones whole academic career, and we bemoan courses as isolating events and lack of appreciation for informal learning.

I like to combine things, so let’s try something different, where we still have courses (and grades, and records, and all those socially-sanctioned assessed things everyone needs for credit and advancement regardless of how much you bitch about it). But let’s get rid of the Course in Isolation, and have the Course as Snapshot.

cc Flickr Mykl Roventine

The idea is that everyone would be learning, online and in the open, all the time. I am going to call this Evidential Learning, because you can see that it’s happening. Then an event comes along, which is the Course, and students enroll and work on that course. This happens all the time with MOOCs — one comes along and everyone begins to focus activity they’d already been doing on the schedule, topics, and feedback loops for that MOOC.

So all of their Evidential Learning is considered a flow, but instructors set up courses in their disciplines,and students register as usual, and for that period of time, the student’s energy is directed toward working on that class. This could be in their usual environments, or other online environments added or encouraged by the instructor. Their directed activities during the course are then seen as a “snapshot”, to which is assigned a grade.

Then students will connect to each other in their own way, and the coffee shop need never close.

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