Faculty Willoughby Workshop

I’m a little late, but I wanted to mention a few of Willoughby faculty workshops we had last week.  For those not familiar with Dickinson College’s Willoughby program, basically it’s a intensive week of workshops for faculty on Web 2.0 and emerging technologies that we think could be valuable for their teaching or research.  Anyone who would like to see all the notes for all of the workshops can view them here.

We had three new sessions this year that I thought went very well and deserve a mention.  Andy Petrus and Mark Wardecker did a  presentation on visualizations using primarily Many Eyes.  The faculty took to it very quickly.  The text visualizations were especially popular.  Part of this I think was due to the fact that we had a larger number of faculty from the humanities this year, but also because there’s no need to reformat the data in Excel.

I did a presentation with Mark Wardecker on open content, with an emphasis on educational resources, open government, and crowdsourcing.  Last year, the most popular part was crowdsourcing as the faculty discussed possible projects for their students.  This year, there was a heavier focus on the resources portion.  Faculty compared the courses from MIT with large intro courses as Dickinson.  They were very similar, which meant they could save themselves a lot of time by either using the resources from the course or as just a template.

Finally, I did presentation with Ryan Burke on augmented reality.  The very cutting edge stuff is always a hard sell, but we had quite a few practical academic examples from Bryan Alexander’s slideshare.  The professors in community studies or with classes that had a local component in particular were able to discuss projects where students could add “layars” of information to places in Carlisle.

Mixxer as an Open Course

I’ve been looking at courses that are open to the general public for free as part of an upcoming presentation on open content.  The idea is quite amazing.  One “facilitator” is needed to organize the students and set up discussions.  The rest of the course depends largely on the students themselves, though it usually consists of online group discussions, readings (recommended and self-chosen), and a final project that is peer reviewed.  Example courses include the FacebUOC project and the Connectivism course from Downes and Siemens.

The Mixxer up until this point has focused on organizing single and isolated exchanges between one of our students and a native speaker.  It seems the student would benefit much more if we could provide a system that encouraged this relationship to be maintained for the duration of the course, if not longer.  Students often do friend their partner via Facebook etc., though no structure is given to encourage future meetings.

Beyond friending each other on the Mixxer and Facebook, I’m a at a bit of a loss.  The current exchanges work, largely due to their incredible flexibility and reliability.  By directing a student to work with an individual, both are mostly lost.  Unlike the connectivism course, the language exchanges don’t scale very well.  I could increase the flexibility and reliability by adding students to groups.  The larger the group, the more flexible and reliable.  However, the size is inversely proportional to the amount of language our students would use.

The key would seem to be to offer both sides an incentive and easy format to follow to continue the relationship, without it becoming a requirement for either.  I’m very open to ideas if anyone has any suggestions.