I’m taking part in a course that illustrates in a lot of ways the changing face of education. Just as I don’t know exactly how that face will change, I don’t know yet exactly how the course works, but I get the feeling that the not know will likely be an integral part of both this course and that changing face.

The course is called Digital Storytelling, through the University of Mary Washington (I think). Here are some of the ways that (it seems to me) the course is emblematic of this cultural shift that is going on. Note that I’m using both “traditional” and “current” as amorphous terms. Much of what we now think of as traditional classroom education isn’t really all that traditional.

  • Traditional college learning requires registration. While I had to register for this course as part of being included in the community, this course has two (and, really, at least three) populations: there are two courses-for-credit at UMW that will work together within this course, and there are the members from the open community. I’m not taking the course for credit. I’m taking it just for the education, without documenting anything officially. I don’t know at this point what the differences might be for the students who come from the two traditional courses, and I don’t know of any way to know the difference between the credit and non-credit students, but within the community, I don’t think it matters. We’re all learning.
  • Traditional college learning takes place within clear time boundaries, i.e., a course starts and finishes at a particular time. I’m sure the credit students had deadlines to meet, just as the students here at PSCC have deadlines to meet–must register by a certain date, must pay by a certain date, must withdraw by a certain date to avoid a grade penalty, etc. Though I’m behind, the online format is letting me catch up, even though I joined the community late.
  • Traditional classes take place within walls. Not just physical walls, either–when I teach a class with a Learning Management System that has username/password protection, it’s important to the institution and to the legal types that outsiders cannot observe what we are doing. It takes quite some effort and planning to do anything that would show our work to outsiders. This course is mostly taking place right out in the open. The whole world can not only see what we are doing, but can interact with us and be a part of the education.

Writing this post is very much a part of the education, by the way. Until I wrote it, I wasn’t even aware of some of the things I didn’t know. I will spend parts of the next couple of days looking over the introductory course materials and the blogs of other students (if I read correctly, there are over 300!) to see how the not knowing develops.

If you have any interest in this education experiment as documented through this blog, look for the ds106 tag.

Thanks to Martha Merrill and Audrey Williams for bringing this course to my attention!

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