About participatory learning
Expect participative and collaborative learning
Please read this and make a commitment to participate before you decide to take one of these courses!
If we do it right, we're going to make magic happen: strangers all over the world will coalesce into a learning community in 5 weeks. But this result is not guaranteed. I've done this with 15, 30, 50 students who met with me for three hours a week, face-to-face, over ten and fifteen weeks, in addition to our social media work between class meetings. And I have seen the magic happen here, totally online. We have less time in Rheingold U than I have with students in brick/mortar universities, less territory to cover, and we won't have the advantage of blending face-to-face with online discussions. We're all going to have to work together from before the beginning to make this work.
I know the subject matter and will introduce, frame it, engage in discussing it. Screencasts and mini-lectures in which I hold forth in some detail about the subject matter are part of the course, but those are online texts. The texts are available to everyone, whether or not they are registered participants in this course. What registered participants get for their money and a few hours a week is the opportunity to interact with the instructor and help each other explore, debate, and understand together the main ideas the instructor has introduced. I've created the structure within which we will co-learn, and I know how to facilitate the growth of a learning community -- but making sense of it is up to all of us. So don't expect to passively enjoy lectures and read texts. Students and instructor will collaborate through video and chat, asynchronous forums, personal learning blogs, wikis for self-organizing assignments, and mindmaps for trying to get an overview. Instructor will be available for online office hours via Twitter.
You can't participate fully without having absorbed the texts -- or at least having run them through your mind once. You need to spend an hour or two with the texts each week -- preferably in advance. Expect to spend another 10-20 minutes a day or more participating the forum discussions, composing blog posts, commenting on each other's posts, working on your mindmap. Our online engagement will encompass five weeks -- the first few days will be about what we are going to do and the last few days will be about how well we ended up doing it. Each week will involve a synchronous session and ongoing discussion in the forums and blogs. The diligent student, the one who will get the most out of this course, will have started each week's readings a week or two before we discuss them. Each week will involve a student team-constructed mindmap of that week's texts and discussions. These are not the kinds of assignments that can be done at the last minute. A discussion takes place continuously, every day. It involves more than a few wordy folks -- it requires everyone. You can read in detail what I expect my Cal and Stanford students to commit themselves to, in writing, before they are admitted to my course. These are the teaching and learning goals I strive to achieve.