Creaking Open the Course

open courseblur course
It has been a while since I gave this presentation — which was rather benignly named “Overview of Innovations in Online Courses”* — at the Stanford Digital Learning Forum.  As is usually the case with my self-assessment of such activities, it’s mostly forgettable. But I do often come back to the ideas I used to conclude the presentation. I put forward some thoughts (rather ham-handedly in the presentation) about blurring the boundaries we traditionally draw around a “course.” These are certainly not original thoughts (cf. the great cloud of witnesses such as Relcaim Open and associated hackathons 2013/2014, Domain of One’s Ownds106, Thought Vectors, etc), but I am proud that, day by day, my colleagues and I are facilitating activities that operationalize these concepts at our institution.

Someone recently asked me if I was as idealistic (perhaps they didn’t say it quite so bluntly) as when I first started this job almost one year ago. Yes, I think I am.

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APA 2014 Presentation

Effects of Synchronicity and Belongingness on Face-to-Face and Computer-Mediated Constructive Controversy

Full Paper


Abstract: Adapting face-to-face (FTF) pedagogies to online settings raises boundary questions about the contextual conditions in which the same instructional method stimulates different outcomes. We address this issue by examining FTF and computer-mediated communication (CMC) versions of constructive controversy, a cooperative learning procedure involving dialogic argumentation and the shared goal of reaching an integrative position. One hundred seventy-one undergraduates were randomly assigned to a 3 (synchron- icity: FTF, synchronous CMC, asynchronous CMC) ???? 3 (belongingness: acceptance, mild rejection, control) quasi-experimental design. As predicted, FTF and synchronous CMC conditions increased cooperation, epistemic conflict regulation, motivation (interest-value), and achievement (completion rate, integrative statements), whereas asynchronous CMC increased competition and relational conflict reg- ulation and decreased motivation and achievement. Also as predicted, satisfying belongingness needs (through acceptance) increased cooperation, epistemic conflict regulation, and motivation compared with control. Unexpectedly, there was no evidence that mild rejection diminished outcomes. Results inform theory by demonstrating that FTF and CMC synchronicity represent boundary conditions in which constructive controversy stimulates different social-psychological processes and, in turn, different outcomes. Results also inform practice by showing that synchronicity and belongingness have additive effects on constructive controversy and that satisfying belongingness needs buffers but does not offset the deleterious effects of asynchronous CMC.

ET4Online 2014 Presentation

Effects of Belongingness and Synchronicity on Face-to-face and Online Cooperative Learning

Link to Paper (PDF)


Abstract Belongingness between students promotes motivation and achievement in face-to-face (FTF) settings, but little is known about its effects in online, computer-mediated settings. This study addresses these issues by testing whether belongingness has additive or buffering effects on constructive controversy, a cooperative learning procedure designed to create intellectual conflict among students. One hundred seventy-one undergraduates were randomly assigned to a 3 (initial belongingness: acceptance, mild rejection, control) x 3 (synchronicity: FTF, synchronous online, asynchronous online) experimental-control design. Results suggest that meeting belongingness needs prior to starting a cooperative learning activity (in both FTF and CMC settings) leads to increased motivation, cooperative perceptions, and achievement. In addition, meeting belongingness needs ameliorated but did not completely offset the negative effects of asynchronous communication.

Elevation Change

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Longs View



I recently renamed my site. It has, for me, two meanings:

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Continua, Conversations, Content Delivery

Continuum of INstruction Delivery


Instructional delivery methods can still be a pretty divisive issue (sadly) and I’ve written before (as well as others) about the dualistic thinking that often clouds these discussions. Thus, it’s no small task for faculty developers to remain largely agnostic toward instructional delivery methods and associated technologies while facilitating productive discussions around best-practices. One tactic I’ve employed  lately to combat dualism is to introduce these topic via simple continua. For example see my “Clark-McLuhan Continuum“, “Collaborative Technologies Continuum“, “Large Classes Coffee Continuum“, or the presentation below on hybrid/online course design. (For a decidedly deeper discussion on the role of continua in the philosophy of science, see Lewin’s 1931 masterpiece entitled “The Conflict Between Aristotelian and Galileian Modes of Thought in Contemporary Psychology.”)

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Flat snow

I’ll have to make this brief, but you can find a little bit about me on the main page of my blog, or on this mountain or, for those looking for a longread, this post tells the whole story. I look forward to learning from the #ETMOOC community.

Key Points to Consider When Launching MOOCs

The MOOCI was asked by my institution to develop the following document to give administrators, faculty, and staff initial talking points when thinking about launching MOOCs. Thus, this one-page executive summary is succinct and diplomatic (see e.g., “What’s the Business Model?”), but many of the resources and thinkers I’ve cited are well worth the read. As a disclaimer, this post in no way means that I think MOOCs (especially xMOOCs) are saving, revolutionizing, or destroying higher education. I’m personally much more enamored with and invested in the “first O” as Clay Shirky describes it.

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