I feel like I’ve just gotten started; how can CCK2011 be ending? I’m going to argue two contradictory perspectives on timing here because I keep waffling between them; then I’m going to finish up by promoting the idea that George and Stephen shouldn’t facilitate CCK next time but instead form a granny cloud of well-wishers.
Why CCK2012 should be longer
The next iteration of CCK should last for 18 weeks. With the lengthened time comes more opportunity to engage at a deeper, ongoing level with the materials that we have been given and that we’re finding on our own. The reading list may end up being filled with the same content, but some of that content—perhaps most especially the readings at the beginning that are quite dense and set up the course—could be spread out a bit to give us time to digest.
In graduate school, courses were 3-4 hours long each week, with intense discussions of what we were reading; that gave me the opportunity to carve out time to talk about the materials and really shake down what I thought about them and how I could use them. The hourlong discussions on Elluminate do not grant us a lot of time (although I hear the FaceBook group has online discussions that go deeper than what we’re able to achieve on Elluminate) and at least a third of them are about listening to guest speakers. Don’t misread me: I love those. But I would have enjoyed, say, another hour after Cable Green’s presentation to talk about all the information he gave us about the work he’s doing. And blogging, which I’ve tried for the first time for this course, doesn’t give the same sustained conversation as real life can.
And because this is not graduate school, which some of us may be used to, having a longer course may allow us to settle into the format before the course starts winding down. I know that just a couple weeks ago was the start of feeling like I had a rhythm to my work for the course: after reading the materials over the weekend, I check the Daily, go to the CCK site to navigate the blog posts and pull out what interests me, read it, click links in it, click around looking for new stuff, etc., on Tuesdays in preparation for Wednesday’s online session. On Thursday or Friday I might start a blog post about it (some of which have never been posted for general consumption).
In addition, a longer course would have allowed a few lulls along the way. Perhaps the Week 4 dropoff in participation could be planned for and accommodated; that is, at Week 5 we take a break to chew over things a bit so that at Week 6 we’re reenergized and raring to go. At Week 10 or 12, same thing. At that point, too, we could have a break to start thinking of our final projects and what we want to create as our artifact for the course. Right now I want more mulling time to think about my project, but I’m running out of days.
Why CCK2012 should be shorter
The next iteration of CCK should last for six weeks and should cull down the weekly readings into two at the most. This gives participants, most of whom are working adults, the time to use those limited readings to jump into their own explorations of content. Exploring on one’s own, making those connections to what you find, is an important part of the experience of a distributed course. Shorter, intense bursts of energy and activity are the way that some people approach a new learning opportunity. I have seen adult learners obsess about a topic, say kabuki theater or bonsai (I’m using my husband as an example here), and gorge on every piece of information they can find…and then move on to a new intensity.
A shorter CCK would also allow a more intense focus for the time we do share. The fourth week dropoff in participation has been mentioned in writings about MOOCs, and I think that with a finish line more closely in sight at six weeks, people may be more likely to pull up their big girl panties and keep up the intensity. For instance, these last 3 weeks or so, my life has been crowding in on any time I can dedicate to this experience. Many people’s initial enthusiasm cools a bit, not because they’re not interested but because the experience is now more “known” than it was before.
In addition, I think a shorter course would help the facilitators manage their time and efforts, too. They could give it more attention knowing that there is a shorter range of time that it will take and could arrange it to happen during part of a year that is for them not as busy with other commitments. A longer break between courses also allows them to help find/foment new content that they could bring back to the learning experience.
Lighten the load
I think I could also write about Why CCK2012 Should Be Taught by a Different Team. Not because George and Stephen didn’t do a good job, but because in that way not only is the course content and participation distributed but also the teaching is distributed. That’s not really a radical model; we did that a lot in graduate school, where each week a student was responsible for leading the discussion about whatever we were doing. They’ve done the course; they’ve collaborated to make it work three times now. Perhaps a cohort of former students could take on its next design and delivery? We could scope for new materials, especially out of the artifacts of prior courses, or create what we think we might need. Six or seven people could take different microtopics and continually develop them.
That way, Stephen and George could swoop in periodically and give us all a cheer. I’ve written about granny clouds before, and Stephen and George could visit our blogs as benign mentors just to say “Hi. I stopped by to see that you’re writing about really interesting things. Keep it up, and best wishes!” They could see the course morph into something they hadn’t expected, perhaps. Alternatively, they could lurk under assumed identities and stir things up a bit by disagreeing with everything.