My Blended/Hybrid Class #EDCMOOC

I’m finally getting around to posting my first thoughts on what’s happening in the #EDCMOOC.

I have a particular take on this MOOC, and while I hope to comment here about the course material, I am just as likely to comment on how I am using it with my own students.

I am currently teaching two sections of a course called “Writing for the Web” at a public university in the U.S. My theme for the course is Professional Writing and Social Media, and we have been looking at the ways social media have changed the way professional writers (that is, those who write on behalf of businesses and organizations) have seen their jobs change as a result. So, for example, in the past, a writer could send a sales letter to several thousand people and never hear from any of them. The letter might have resulted in customers coming to a store, but the writer’s job was essentially done once the letter was sent. Now, if that same material was posted on a company blog, or in a tweet or Facebook post, the writer would need to check back frequently, interact with users who may have commented, answering questions, providing more information, etc. It’s a very different writing process.

Professional writing takes up about 2/3 of the course. The other 1/3 comes from the course’s place in the university’s General Education Program. Without getting into too much detail about the program, the course is also required to discuss a particular set of values. For my course, those values are discussed through the lens of technology, particularly social media. So we have been looking at issues of identity and image creation (I was pleased to see that “masks” came up in the first Google Hangout), privacy and anonymity, and other issues that arise when people go online.

When I was putting the current version of the course together, I saw that the EDCMOOC was being offered during the last 5 weeks of my semester. I had started (but did not finish) the first iteration of this MOOC, and so I knew what the general approach was. It seemed like a natural fit for my course — my students could address issues of utopia/dystopia and being human as a way to explore the values that are required to be discussed for the General Education Program.

I teach the course in a blended or hybrid format; we meet face-to-face once a week, and the rest of their work is done online. Adding the MOOC creates another layer of hybridity — now the course is part face-to-face, part online through my university’s CMS, and part MOOC. All semester, I have been asking students to think about the differences between a life online and a life offline (I’m careful to avoid calling it “real life,” because a life online is just as real for some people as a life offline). This MOOC adds another layer to that discussion.

As part of their work for my class, I have asked my students to watch the four films this week, and to read the Chandler essay on Technological Determinism. Then they need to post to two EDCMOOC discussions, whether through the MOOC Discussion Forums, Twitter, an EDCMOOC Facebook group, a comment on the films’s YouTube version, the Google Hangout, or by creating a blog. Finally, they need to go to the discussion forums on our own CMS and post something about how the MOOC work for the week relates to some aspect of our Writing for the Web course.

So far, their work has been pretty good. I have kept the scope of their work fairly open, in keeping with the spirit of the EDCMOOC, while suggesting that they keep our course goals in mind. I have encouraged them to not merely post comments, but to take advantage of the fact that they are in a class with thousands of people from all over the world, and to engage in conversation with them.  Some have been able to do that. I will post some observations about their interactions as we move along.

As a teacher and scholar, I am very interested in the idea of blended or hybrid MOOCs — incorporating a MOOC into an established on-ground class. Blended or hybrid MOOCs have been tried at other schools with varying levels of success, though this is my first attempt. I will post some thoughts on that, too. I know that one of the goals of EDCMOOC is to explore the ways MOOCs are used in education, and I appreciate that the course facilitators have been posting their thoughts on how MOOCs are being used.

Definitely more to come.


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