Free Course at Stanford

Comments in a course that I was designing in December 2011 with this course as a model...

letter to Will Sutherland and others


Dear Will, Jeff and Dennis...

I'm muddling through my online work ... preparing to finish another term in this graduate program... 

Here is a letter that I've written to my professors...


Dr. Simsonson and Dr. Schlosser

I've noticed a behavior pattern  in myself that might be common to other students in the program:  a reluctance or laziness about visiting blackboard daily.

After studying what was done in education (EDD 7007 and EDD 8008), I wonder if there is a fun way to encourage more use of blackboard...


Here's a suggestion that might make it more encouraging to check in daily in the blackboard...

have you heard of   it is a clever way to get people to do something that you want them to do.

This is the description on a wiki about

If you're keen to improve your spelling and vocabulary or other subject knowledge in a way that is both fun and serves as a donation to those in need, will enable you to do just this. In return for a little time and focus, you'll gain better knowledge of words, math or other subjects and, at the same time, donate rice to people in need through the United Nations World Food Programme. Here's how.

In other words, is there some way to make the repetitious nature of online education more engaging?  (Perhaps I'm in this mood because we just finished 15 weeks of a soul-enervating and energy draining "simulation" that did not come close to engaging my attention).   I share this idea in the spirit of making Nova more innovative (once again).  

How about "each day that you log in, Nova makes a contribution to the Free Rice campaign"  or something like that   .... or there might be a quiz that can be linked to the freerice campaign.    Frankly, whether I do 1 hour of work a day for five days or two days at 2.5 hours each, it still feels the same.  But I would be more likely to change behavior if there were some sort of gimmick like the freerice campaign.   

(and I'm sure there are other ways to spice up the rather bland grey and blue look of Blackboard.)

The idea of linking a "frivolous" or fun activity to blackboard attendance comes from hanging out with Dr. Fischler..
Dr. Fischler has a saying:   learning should be fun for the learner.

Others have made similar observations.   


KAPLAN:  easier searches

Perhaps you have heard that Kaplan's online environemtn is more engaging, that Kaplan has faster search engines and that it is easier to find documents in literature searches with Kaplan?   One of my classmates, Patricia Baughman, has described these features, perhaps to the limits of her non-disclosure agreement as an instructor at Kaplan, and I encourage you to contact her if you want more information about what it's like to work in the Kaplan environemtn.   Short of enrolling, I have no idea how to experience firsthand the better technology that she describes.   

Patricia's off blackboard contact is

I have come to feel a singular pride in the ITDE department, the size of the department and the hands-on approach that the faculty uses to guide students.   I have become a more engaging teacher becasue of the process, thinking particularly how to separate the reaching and learning in my face to face classrooms, leading to more time spent in discussion when we are in the classroom.



I share this with you three becasue Will is planning on offering a course for teachers to take.   I have been thinking that the four of us coudl come up with some dynamic courses that could be engaging, free, online and dynamic.

1.  people who participate would not be called students
2.  we four would be called "presenters" or "organizers" or "curators"

3.  EVERYONE would be exposed to the notion that the textbook ought to be free or very low cost

4.  lectures on youtube, to be viewed before the classroom discussion takes place
5.  you can't get into the room unless you have previously contacted the lead presenter with an email message and BETTER also with a comment about what the videos were about and some comments to help start the discussion.

6.  No hierarchy of "good stdent or bad student" based on how much you participate in person, face to face or by email.    I have personal experience that some students who are face to face are deadly boring, black holes and do not contribute to the discussion.  Students who have never been in class write some of the best discussion questions and ask me questions privately that are deep, show reflection and agitation, yet, the student is scared or unwilling to participate in open class.   Another student loves to hear the sound of his voice and doesn't listen to other students but rather prepares his next comment while the other prty is talking.   how are we to call some better students because they are more "present"?   (I have this prejudice because I have for various reasons not been a good "participant" in online classes because I don't check in every day on the discussion board.   For me, life presses in more in real flesh than the virtual classroom.   I can't wait for the hologram version of online learning...)

7.  digital portfolios of every person, even the professors/presenters of the workshop.

8.  Giving links will not be assumed to be a good way to deliver information to each other.   When possible the entire aritcle will be plopped in an easy to read place, not as an attachment, but in the email message.

9.  a variety of ways of participating ought to be made available:  call the teacher, call each other (the participatns who want to give out their mobile number)

10.  participants would be encouraged to lead the discussions, which would be 

11. the best contact will include the following courtesies
"Is this a good time to contact you for 4 minutes?"
"Should I make a video and send it to you?"
"would you prefer that I send this question in an email message?"


school of New Humanity in Moscow calls teachers "conservers" or "curators" of the elementary students... 

STANFORD University professors who have 200,000 students auditing their class...  wow.

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