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Chat Room - A photo by iBoy Daniel

That course we ran last year is coming up again. I’ve tweaked it quite a bit – free at last from the learning management system it was locked up inside, running in a wiki schedule, backed up by blogs and an email forum.

This course has been developed by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic and is designed to help both formal and informal learners access and interpret models, research and professional dialog in the facilitation of online communities. After completing this course people should be confident in facilitating online and/or be able to critique and offer advice to other people in the facilitation of online communities.

The next facilitated course starts 28 July 2008.

Participation in this course is open. You will need to have regular access the Internet and be comfortable with independently completing tasks. To join simply introduce yourself to the discussion page and include an email address that can be use to add you to an email forum for the course.

In formal learning terms this is a level 7 course registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Formal learning participants engage in this course for a period of 10 weeks with an indicative time commitment of at least 6 hours per week. Formal learners will receive concentrated learning support throughout this period, and assessment services and formal recognition at the completion of the course. Some people may prefer to engage in this course informally and to set their own pace through the work using the schedule as a guide. Informal engagement is welcome and arrangements can be made for formal assessment and recognition at any time with the course facilitator.


It seemed timely that a few of us who have tried the Wiley Wiki model for running online courses came together and talked about our experiences. In this recording, Teemu Leinonen, Bronwyn Hegarty and myself talk about our various thoughts on the method of running online courses with a MediaWiki (pioneered by Dave Wiley) with insight and ideas sprouting along the way. See the following links for the examples we talk about. Sorry that Dave Wiley himself could not be there, but we hope the recording will put him in the picture, as well as offer George Siemens and Stephen Downes some food for thought as they embark on their mega course using something like the model.

I was hanging out in Brian Lambs Blip channel, just generally getting inspired and stuff, and when he got talking about RSS as he always does, I thought I’d have a little play with Blip’s RSS feed into Wikieducator.

I dropped HortyKims (a staff member here) into the Horticulture page and was blown away to see the full swf player displaying the actual video! I have sent away to Blip to ask for ways to control the display size of the videos, but for now it displays the size of the actual video file that was loaded. In HortyKim’s case, they are larger than your average net video. In my own case, they are 320×240 and so a little more acceptable.

Embedding media in a live sense is obviously the way to go, and the ability to create mashups with appropriately copyrighted materials will certainly attract innovators to the Wikieducator project. Blip has category feeds as well, so there is a fare bit of control in there, and they support the creativecommons licenses too. The Kaltura video player/editor that Wikieducator has been using seems to have stalled its developments as they still haven’t integrated with Blip. Youtube import is there, but given Blip’s far better handling of copyright – I think Kaltura and Blip should have gotten together much much sooner. Kaltura is a very promising feature, but it is worrisome that they are not keeping it coming.

I am really stoked to have stumbled across this ability to quickly and easily bring a Wikieducator page to life. All hail the power of RSS.

There are a couple of articles on Wikieducator that nicely capture what it is we have been doing with our educational development over the past 12 months:

  1. Featured Institution: Otago Polytechnic
  2. Featured Institution: An IP Policy for the times

Hillary Jenkins, programme manager for the Diploma in Applied Travel and Tourism has been accepted to present a talk and panel discussion in London this July, as part of the Fifth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning.

Hillary has been working hard over the past 6-12 months, developing open access course information and resources on Wikieducator, with course blogs to interface with the online resources.

At the moment the course runs mainly with face to face participants, but is gradually building the capacity to support distance learners, and flexible learning opportunities.

The wiki course is as always a work in progress, and Hillary’s team are doing a good job at keeping 2 steps ahead of their students (its a precarious life teaching!), but her paper is available here, where you can get a quick overview of the background, progress, issues and concerns.

Well done Hillary, and the Travel and Tourism team.. good luck in London.

Dave Bremer, a colleague at Otago Polytechnic criticises my interest in using MediaWikis for online learning.

My problem with this is that Wiki’s are just textbooks…

It is true that in the past, and the vast majority of wikis today are primarily reference materials or text books. But over the past 2 years, a few individuals and institutions have been exploring the use of wikis to develop and manage courses, hoping to leverage the benefits of collaborative editing and open access.

Some examples:

Harvard, US: Law and the Court of Public Opinion. An early example of an open access course that uses a course blog, email forum, Second Life meeting spaces, and a course wiki.

Utah State, US: Introduction to Open Education. Inspirational in its simplicity, and a proven success through its primary use of a wiki that blogging students use as a course schedule.

Media Lab, Finland: Composing Open Educational Resources. Inspired by Intro to Open Ed, this course has been developed on the Wikiversity platform that follows the same simple course schedule format for blogging students to follow. Note the numbers of people in the edit history and discussion page, demonstrating the benefits of collaborative course development.

Otago Polytechnic, NZ: Designing for Flexible Learning Practice. Also following the simple schedule format for blogging students to follow, but on the Wikieducator platform. This course uses a course blog for announcements and weekly summaries, and will be using web conferencing for lectures. Note the use of the Wikieducator Liquid Threads (a threaded discussion feature on the discussion page for the course). Also note the Print to PDF feature which came in very handy on the course orientation day.

Otago Polytechnic: Horticulture. This project mainly uses the wiki as a storing house for lesson plans and activity sheets for use in class or by distant learners. It follows Otago’s development structure based around competency units with a library of resources page and activity sheets set as sub pages to each unit.

Otago Polytechnic: Travel and Tourism. This project also follows the Otago development structure of unit pages with library and activity subpages. The teachers in the course are using course blogs for each of the subject areas and simply point to activity sheets on the wiki depending on the needs of the classes.

Otago Polytechnic: Massage Therapy (link to Programme Manager’s blog post update). Uses the wiki as a storage bay for resources and activity sheets with course blogs announcing new things to the students. Has an interesting use of RSS to a start page to bring together all the different courses to create a course hub.

Otago Polytechnic: Anatomy and Physiology of Animals. A text book developed in Wikibooks, with lesson plans and activities developed in Wikieducator for use in different contexts including face to face classes, or courses within the learning management system. The text book has been picked up by eLearning designers in Vancouver and will be developed further on the open licenses, integrating the activity sheets as well.

In all these examples, I think it would be a stretch to call them simply text books (apart from Anatomy of Animals which is quite deliberately a text with activity sheets to support it). It is difficult to avoid creating texts while creating courses however – as evidenced in just about any LMS course development. This is why some of the wiki courses listed here are using the Otago development structure. The structure encourages the separation of information and other reference materials from lesson plans and activity sheets firstly to maximise re-usability, and secondly to assist teachers who are developing there courses on the wikis to think more deliberately about what it is they want their students to be doing, and to create a variety of different activities around a single learning objective for use in different contexts.

More info about Otago’s exploration of wikis for developing and managing courses on Wikieducator.

There is something sophisticated about the various Media Wiki communities I have experienced over the past 12 months. I edit Wikipedia, Wikiversity, Wikieducator and recently Wikinews and all of them have something in them that is entirely different to the other forms of communication I have used (blogs, commercial wikis, video sharing, photo sharing etc). I will never look back to the likes of Wikispaces now, and I’m not entirely sure why..

It could be the political idealism in the communities that sustain these MediaWiki projects.. while that’s attractive to me, its certainly not the key thing in them.

It could be the editing interface that makes it just that little bit more rewarding.. but there is no shortage of people who complain about that, even in the face of the obvious fact that it doesn’t stop a great many from using MediaWiki..

It could be the sense of working with a restricted palette.. a bit like painting with only 3 colours, it can be amazing what can be achieved through simplicity.

But most of all, I think it is the strong presence of people in these projects. People I do not know, but get to know. People in every corner of the various projects. Some of them angels, some of them arse holes, but all of them people, and making it all happen.

Wikiversity user CountryMike has initiated 2 projects that I think should get more attention. They are both reading groups around influential books. The first reading group is around Ivan Illich:Deschooling Society, the second reading group is for Eric Von Hippel:Democratizing Innovation

I find Brent’s (CountryMike’s) blog post says it all, and more…

And this is also what I’m finding particularly interesting lately — how I’m starting to use Wikiversity as my predominant learning environment, call it a Personal Learning Environment if you have to … but also possibly in a form that I’ve not seen discussed in other PLE discourses. The fact that I’m creating projects that I may not at this point have time to participate in immediately, but anticipate that if others do start contributing I will be inspired to participate myself is quite unique I think; it’s as if i’m setting myself and others up a space to potentially learn. But I don’t consider myself a “teacher, i’m more a technologist, but I am a learner and I want to learn in communities where-ever possible so what better way to facilitate my own learning than by creating a space where a community can form around, in this case, a text?

I just wish sometimes that I wasn’t in the education sector, that all around me seem to struggle to appreciate the things we see in MediaWiki projects and ideas like these.. but as Brent says, in time – people will find these projects, just like I have, and in time they will gradually prove their worth.

They first have to become curious about something like Wikipedia.  Then they need to be so bold as to create or edit Wikipedia. Then they need to find and engage in discussion with other wiki authors, and then they go out with curiosity for the other MediaWiki projects, and so on. That is how it has been for me, over a course of about 2 years.

I recently explored Wikinews and wrote up the Al Upton scandal going on in South Australia this month. I have already met an administrator in Wikinews and discussed a few things, but most of all I marvel at all the quality news work going into Wikinews.. I am learning quite a bit about journalistic writing there actually, yet to put it into practice. It is by far a superior news source than edited paper/garden mulch.

I hope my experience will scale over to some of the teachers I am showing Wikieducator recently. Wikieducator is a MediaWiki like all the projects I’ve mentioned here, so the skills they learn in Wikieducator will transfer to Wikipedia etc. It would be great to see some of them branch out into the other MediaWikis and explore their voices there. It is something entirely different to blogging. Far less individualistic, much more collective and patient. I good vibe if you’re listening.

BTW, I don’t mean to suggest, by way of the image above, that Sunshine and I are vibing for polyamory. I just like the image in relation to this post 🙂

We’ve advertised the Permaculture Design course in the local paper last week, and again tomorrow. We’ve sent promotional messages to email forums, and the good old word of mouth. The course starts in 2 days and we only have 3 enrollments. Are we missing something? Is permaculture an unfamiliar concept in Dunedin? Is our timing wrong? Does the course need to establish itself more? Is the price wrong?

What I do know is that is that our enrollment process we have should have less failure points. As it is now, we advertise, people call a number, they are sent an enrollment form, upon receipt of a completed enrollment form the applicant is directed to the course start location. There are 3 failure points in that process (assuming we have all of our own systems and responses working well).

  1. Interested person has to make contact
  2. Interested person has to fill out and send enrollment form
  3. Interested person has to turn up

In Institutions I have worked at in the past, the advertisement for the course includes the location of the start day with a more or less open invite to turn up on day 1. The enrollments are done on that day and then its straight into it. In such an approach to formal enrollments there is only one failure point:

  1. Interested person has to turn up

And it has a feeling of being fairer I reckon. A kinda try before you buy (an enrollment form does have the sensation of financial commitment).
The local interest in the course is disappointing so far. But on an upside we have had 2 inquiries from California wanting to participate online. Kim, the course facilitator has blogged about this. Our only online promotion has been to make the course outline and schedule openly accessible on Wikieducator. When I asked the 2 Californians how they came across our course literally 2 days after putting it on Wikieducator they said Google.

So at least the name of the course is right, for Californians.

Both are interested in obtaining a certificate in Permaculture Design. Our course is not yet established enough for such a thing, but it is our goal. As is the goal to make it accessible and achievable through distance learning. We plan to use this first running of the course to record presentations, discussions and workshops to digital media for access by the distance learners. At least one of the Californians is keen to participate at this level and to help us get the most out of this effort. It is also our goal to further develop the course and make it attractive to designers generally.

So hopefully we will gain more local enrollments in the course. Any suggestions are very welcome.

Wikieducator are hosting a course in Open Educational Resources, MediaWiki editing and using WIkieducator on 28 January to 8 February. Learning4Content is an initiative where Wikieducator offers free education and training in return for participants producing a lesson plan, activity or learning resource on the platform.

Check out the promo video that was made on the web based and collaborative video editor Kaltura now based on the Wikieducator platform.

I’m waiting enthusiastically for Dave Wiley’s summary of his Intro to Open Education course. Dave has given us a brief update just to remind us its coming…

I was quite inspired by the simple and familiar layout of the course outline, and the obvious and understated requirement for participants to maintain a blog in the course. I should have set my news reader onto all the participant blogs and watched the progress more closely, but hopefully Dave’s summary will represent the good bits…

Dave’s course has clearly inspired the Fins with their own course in Composing Open Educational Resources on Wikiversity – which looks to be another very useful course. And I think I’ll encourage the teachers here who are working on Wikieducator to develop their course pages in much the same way.

I know we in EDC have been needing to rejig our own wiki course outlines, and I’ve been wanting to do something like Dave’s design since I saw it. We are also requiring participants in our course to maintain blogs while in the course, but boy it can turn into a heavy workload.

I quite like the stand off, low key, high expectation style of Dave’s approach and am hoping to learn ways to better manage my time coordinating and facilitating our courses that use blogs and wikis… so, waiting for Dave’s summary 🙂