Help Us Make Sense of Digital Learning in Higher Ed...Share Your Story

Storytelling is a powerful clarifying approach to understanding and navigating change at the deepest levels of human experience. Storytelling allows for a diversity of perspectives that get us closer to an objective and authentic sense of reality. Please take a few minutes to share your story:

The dLRN15 conference marked the start of an attempt to network and make sense of the complex changing environment of contemporary higher education. As part of dLRN15, the committee (Kate Bowles, Dave Cormier, Kristen Eshleman, George Siemens and Bonnie Stewart )  piloted a new method of narrative research called SenseMaker that links micro-narratives to human sense making,  aimed at looking at the ways that digital learning research can help us make sense of the complex changing landscape of higher education, globally. 

Kristen Eshleman and I are hoping to gather 200 stories. We invite you to share your stories and let your voice be heard We would appreciate if you could share the invitation with 3-4 colleagues.

Story prompts include:

  • Tell us about  digital learning experiment where you were excited about the results, or were disappointed, and why.
  • Reflect on one example of curricular change in higher education. It may be a story from your institution or a story from elsewhere that you found to be significant (good or bad). Describe the actors who were most influential in bringing that about that change.
  • Think of an example of the impact of institutional change and describe the groups that were affected, positively and negatively.

We will share the results and invite interested members of this community to work with us to define the frameworks for a possible future of higher education.

Here is an example of a story:

In the fall of 2014, we ran an experiment with two MOOC-infused residential courses. These were designed with a goal of preserving the hallmarks of a liberal arts education - critical thinking, problem-solving, and development of the whole person, ethically, intellectually, and creatively - while also incorporating the affordances of online learning for blended pedagogy, communities of inquiry, and peer instruction. Our research was interested in answering this question: For which students and in what contexts are these hybrid courses most effective? In answering this question, it is important to note the paradoxes that emerged in this residential case study. Students in these courses indicated the MOOC-infused course rigor was less than expected, and that the MOOC content in general is not on par with a Davidson course. At the same time, students indicated the MOOC was successful in covering and explaining the content effectively and in providing transformational learning opportunities by including diverse global perspectives not possible in face-to-face courses. In both courses, faculty perceptions of rigor were also lower, yet student outcomes were perceived as on par with past performance. In the liberal arts community, MOOCs are often perceived as a less rigorous form of education - one that focuses primarily on content delivery and coverage and less on learning “how to learn”. 

MOOCs often are perceived to stand squarely in opposition to a model of education that privileges a high touch, deeply personal, face-to-face experience designed for the development of the whole person. These contradictions in expectations and outcomes lead us to two additional questions that are of particular interest to residential education in the digital age, and warrant further study. First, at elite small private liberal arts colleges, is there an implicit bias in favor of residential learning that hinders learning in online spaces? And second, as digital environments change the way we learn, what constitutes rigor? 

Second example:

The experiment where I was excited about the results would be related to a MOOC where our goal was to build connections between the people in the MOOC and a call to action. What was especially exciting for me was that we were looking at each learner as a human rather than a number. We weren't focused on enrollments or completions rates but rather the human, economic and environmental impact. We used storify and FB as a place for people to reflect and share their stories. Although the MOOC ended in April 2015 both sites are still active with people sharing and connecting. We also used facilitators to go into communities where learners otherwise would not interact with the content. Not in far reaching areas of the globe but right in our back yard: a home for people with disabilities, a community where only Spanish is spoken, a community where they can't afford technology or wifi. To hear the stories that these people told both here at home and across the globe makes you realize MOOCs can have an impact and the learners are more than numbers. Although we critique the demographics of the learners who enroll in MOOCs they are going out into the world and touching the lives of entire communities.

Patrice Torcivia Prusko

Instructional Designer

Cornell University

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Created by Alexandra M. Pickett Aug 19, 2010 at 11:52am. Last updated by Alexandra M. Pickett May 20, 2020.

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