Organizing etmooc

The brilliant and knowledgeable Alec Couros is trying to organize etmooc, a MOOC about educational technology. He’s got a Google Doc, a team of people helping, a Google Community group , an #etmooc hashtag, and a WordPress website. Wonderful, experienced, exciting people have been making a huge number of suggestions on approach, and resources, and speakers, and so much more. During a meeting of some of the helpers, some choices arose about how to organize the course:

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  • Should it follow a syllabus (one was laid out originally, with topics and experts to invite to facilitate or speak or something)? or should participants organize it and/or determine content?
  • Should there be guest speakers and webinars, or a move away from that model?
  • Should it be like ds106, with a big database of assignments to choose from and lots of freedom and artifact creation?
  • Should the course be geared toward beginners, people new to online learning and the open web? or toward experienced MOOCers and avid ed techies?
  • Should there be any assessment? Badges? Self-assessment? No assessment? Formative? Summative?
  • Should the topics continue over time, instead of stopping when the next topic comes up? (Alan Levine had some great ideas about this and reasons for why getting away from the whole “course” idea would be good).
  • To what extent can a more organized approach be combined with a lot of freedom? Is there a spectrum between a typical university course and an open educational community?


If I were designing the course, my combination would be a main course with set topics that launch on a particular date (Alan’s idea), and after some basic introduction to the topic, development of a mini-community that continues with that topic.

For the main course, I would have a syllabus, start and end dates, and the list of topics, two weeks apart. Maybe 6 topics total so no one loses interest – a 12-week class. The strands happening now in the Google Community might work as topics: Connected Learning (this could include set-up), Digital Citizenship, Digital Storytelling, Open Learning, Tools in Context 1, Tools in Context 2.

The goal for each topic would be to develop a mini-community on that topic. The first task for each topic would be a collaborative document where participants put what they want to learn about (inquiry) and start listing resources (content). These resources could include materials from the “experts” who were normally be guest speakers, including their videos. If there are many participants in the topic, they could vote on the top 12 resources to focus on. The time for posting the list of questions and resources would be limited to a week or so, then reflection could begin on blogs and/or elsewhere (synchronous sessions, creation of artifacts, etc). For the sake of alignment, the facilitator for that topic would suggest contributions in a format appropriate to the topic (Digital Storytelling might look ds106-ish, Tools in Context 1 might suggest the use of Prezi or Diigo).

The mini-community for that topic established over the two weeks, we’d go on to the next topic. Again, brief introduction by the main instructor, then collaborative inquiry/question collection and resource gathering, then reflection and communication. And so on.

These topical mini-communities would each have their own space somehow, either as a Google Community topic or a WordPress tag or something, and at least one leader or facilitator (yes, someone would be in charge).  That mini-community could continue long past the course or not, continue for as long as it stayed alive. Participants could come and go from the main course, participating in all of the topics like a regular class, or in just one or two.

So you’d need one central instructor (Alec, or me if it were my course), then at least 6 facilitators (teams might be better), plus as many participants as want to join.

I’d have no assessments, no awards, no assumption of the acquisition of mad tech skilz by participants. There would be structure for the main course and at the top level of each topic, but freedom in reflection, creation and community. There could be guest speakers for individual topics if the mini-community wanted them, but none for the main course.

So, after thinking about it for a few days, that’s what I would do.