The goal of e-Literate TV (ETV) is to help school communities develop a working consensus around how they can use learning technologies to achieve important educational goals. For example, we’d like to be able to help schools that are motivated to improve student retention to identify appropriate ways that technology can help them do that. To do that, we have to do more than just provide relevant information. We have to provide it in a structure that encourages a productive culture of conversation and consensus building about these sorts of issues. It’s education as change management.
In order to make ETV useful in that way, we’re developing (inventing? rediscovering?) a number of design principles. The first one, which I’ve written about before, is differentiated engagement. The ways in which deans, advising faculty, non-advising faculty, technology support staff, and other stakeholders need to be involved in a conversation about, for example, adopting a retention early warning system are different, as are the needs and interests of different individuals who have these roles. With the layered, hyper- and transmedia approach that we are able to take with our episodes, we can invite people to participate in the ways and to the degrees that are appropriate for them. We can help them find their zones of proximal curiosity, encouraging them to explore the issues a little further than they might have on their own while also recognizing that each individual is going to have limitations on how much they need or want to know.
A second design principle we’re exploring is what we can call “community-negotiated focus.” Every school community is going to have its own collective zone of interest within a given topic. For example, Berkshire Community College may only be interested in MOOCs in cases where they are being used in an attempt to support remedial students or underserved populations, while Colorado State University Pueblo may be interested in how MOOCs are being used to flip classrooms and related labor issues. Once again, one size does not fit all. Phil’s recent post about our commitment to release the ETV videos under a Creative Commons license is intimately related to our goal of enabling ETV to be a resource that particular academic communities can customize to serve their particular needs.
Scratching Your Itch
One of the lessons we learned between filming the first ETV series and filming the second one is how valuable it is to have more than one episode to explore different facets of an issue. The first series—the one we’re in the process of releasing now on the ETV website—is a smorgasbord of separate episodes. And while each episode is good in and of itself, what we can do in one 10- to 15-minute episode is limited. For example, we have an interview with the spectacular Amy Collier on MOOCs. But no matter how spectacular Amy may be, we had to make basic decisions about what would be most useful for most stakeholders in one short episode about MOOCs. With only a small canvas upon which to paint, we were pretty much forced to ask basic questions about what this MOOC thing that everybody’s talking about actually is and why faculty should care about it (when there are many more interesting questions that we would have also loved to ask Amy). Note that the answers to these questions are not going to be deeply useful in the hypothetical MOOC conversations at CSU Pueblo or BCC that I proposed above. In contrast, what we think you’ll see in the MOOC Research Initiative series of videos is a rich set of conversations that provide fuel for these two conversations and more.
We will take these videos as raw materials, boil them down into five or six episodes that we think give us a good cross-section of the kinds of angles that different academic communities will want to discuss, and then build up layers of transmedia and discussion questions to help foster exploration of those angles. Different academic communities will gravitate toward different episodes, depending on their collective interests and needs.
But we won’t get to do this kind of treatment for all possible conversations. (In fact, we probably won’t even be able to think of all possible conversations.) For example, we are not currently planning on doing an episode on the application of MOOCs for support of remedial students and underserved populations. It’s not that the angle isn’t interesting or important enough; we just don’t have enough data yet to build a robust conversation around it.
But we do have some information on it in our interviews. For example, we have Tawanna Dillahunt from the University of Michigan talking about her study about how MOOC learners who say they can’t afford a formal education are using MOOCs to support their economic mobility:
And we have Phil talking to University of Wisconsin’s Bob Hoar and Natalie Solverson talking about their experience with a remedial math MOOC:
And we have Pat James from Mount San Jacinto College and Eva Schiorring from the California Community Colleges talking about their project to design a MOOC that’s effective for teaching developmental writing:
If your academic community would find these experiments relevant and important to talk about, then you should be able to do that. And you can. All of these videos are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. If you want to remix them into your own episode that’s appropriate for your academic community, then you can. Maybe for good measure, you’ll want to throw in Caroline Rose from Carnegie Mellon University talking about her research in using technology to encourage supportive and productive learning conversations among large groups of students, because you think that’s particularly important for developmental students in a MOOC:
The pathways through the ETV content can be negotiated by the community as they discover the pieces that are most relevant for them. At the end of the day, this isn’t a curriculum that people have to study and master. It’s a territory that they have to explore together in the service of meeting larger goals.