The Course as Container: a #digped Discussion

This Friday, January 11 from 1:00 – 2:00pm Eastern (10:00 – 11:00am Pacific), Hybrid Pedagogy will host a Twitter discussion under the hashtag #digped centered on the notion of “breaking” the course. The conversation curated and archived via Storify.

In his article, Online Learning: a User’s Guide to Forking Education, among other arguments, Jesse Stommel foresees a need to break or rebuild the idea of the course. “We need to devise learning activities that take organic (and less arbitrary) shapes in space and time. We need to recognize that the best learning happens not inside courses, but between them.” As part of his larger discussion of “forking” education in order to bring learning more effectively into the digital medium, Jesse suggests that the course is only one of a set of components that needs to be taken apart, scrutinized with care and with playfulness, and then rebuilt. The inspection of education and educative methods needs to be so complete that no assumptions are left unexamined.

The course is central to our ideas of how teaching and learning happens, and not only in higher education. From our middle school years until our ABD stage, we engage as learners in sections and durations of learning. Fifteen weeks a semester, eight weeks a quarter, our learning (and later, our teaching) is partitioned, bookended, and contained inside the course. The walls of the course are much more present than the walls of the classroom, and have been clumsily brought into the digital space of our online classes. These walls circumscribe subject matter, project timelines, written work, and assessment. The quarter, the semester, the course dictate almost everything we understand about education.

Taken more broadly, the course translates into disciplinarity. Like an equation, the courses we take add up, giving us credentials in our fields. We populate our CVs with the courses we’ve taken, to demonstrate what we’ve learned, how thick our knowledge has become. A certain number of courses equal a degree, another number gives us an advanced degree. It is not until we are free from the notion of the course that we write our dissertations — and by then the course has made it into our paragraphs, chapters, introductions, and conclusions. We equate learning with compartments of learning, rather than with a lingering process that shifts and moves invisibly between the accomplishment of one learning objective and another.

But if learning can be sparked at the beginning of a course, and capped off at the end, what happens we are not enrolled? Do we cease to learn? Do the objectives of the course wash away? No, learning continues between courses. In fact, it happens more deeply between courses as our minds synthesize ideas, create new ones, test theories, and mull.

During our next #digped discussion, we will consider the impact the idea of the course has had on our notions of learning. We’ll look for ways to take apart the course, to consider alternatives, and to reimagine how course-less learning might take place in digital space.

  • In what ways has the course created limitations not only to our learning, but to the development of learning communities and personal learning networks? What are the disadvantages to contained learning?
  • Is disciplinarity only possible through the accumulation of courses? Where does the knowledge and invention in our disciplines take place? Do our specialties and disciplines happen in courses? Or does they need wider space to roam and procreate?
  • What happens if we break the course? Into what space does learning leak then? What does a course-less education look like? Can learning happen out in the open?
  • Without the course, where’s the teacher? Without the course, how do we as instructors create learning environments and opportunities?
  • Are MOOCs courses? Are these new learning strategies pointing to a new kind of container for learning? Or are they more rampant than contained?

Join the conversation on January 11 at 1:00pm EST (10:00am PST). For those unable to attend this week, Hybrid Pedagogy’s #digped occurs on the first Friday of every month. Our next #digped conversation will occur on Friday, February 1, 2013, same time, same place. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments below or tweet to @hybridped.

[Photo by ChrisPerriman]

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