Can you teach creativity? Can you teach creativity online? Can you teach creativity to more than 44 thousand students online? Tina Seeling was crazy enough to try this in some previous MOOCs that she has taught for Stanford. She has a new MOOC coming up from through NovoEd, called Creativity: Music to My Ears. The course starts on April 2nd 2014 and last for six-weeks. The course is designed to explore several factors that stimulate creativity in individuals, teams, and organizations. Click the link above for more information.
Did you know that Tina and Stanford has partnered with Warner Brothers Records. WBR will be bringing well known artists and executives to the table! Each session we will focus on a different variable related to creativity, such as reframing problems, connecting and combining ideas, and challenging assumptions. All of the projects in this experiential course will deal with some aspect of music, including listening, creating, and sharing. No musical talent is required – just an interest in exploring the role that music plays in our lives.
Here are some highlights (i.e., principles) from her mini lecture on course design that I think should (… wish would) influence how I design eLearning experiences:
- Online instructors should personally email their students prior to the course start date to remind, welcome, and extend. Wouldn’t this add a personal touch to your experience when you receive a email from your instructor? Ideally this would be with a quick engaging video that would also encourage them to invite friends, recommend resources, and remind them the start date, etc. One key thing that I would like to suggest is that this email should be sent to students preferred email address not just their university address that students may not always check. I have been doing this personally over the last few years (minus the engaging video) to make sure students are prepared for the first week and even give them some suggestions about how they can get started early. I liked how Tina put this on YouTube because now we can comment on it and start building connections with others in the class.
- Online students should introduce themselves to the class in an innovative way other than just a thread in the general discussion area to get the creative juices flowing and a means of connection beyond superficial facts. In Tina’s course students were asked to design a book cover for their autobiography. She said that this 1) stretched their imagination even with the first assignment and also share a little about themselves and 2) for them to see that everything in the world is ripe for innovation and creativity.
- Online students should receive the course content each week through a well-thought-out and well-produced 5 min video lecture… especially in a MOOC, and doubly for cMOOCs. This is a quick and easy way to get the students started in a week. By having it short and engaging will increase the chances that students will watch it. The purpose of a cMOOC is the connections made in the community and not delivering content. I am guessing that xMOOCs which have a primary focus of scalability, i.e., delivering a robust amount of content to a massive number of students would be highly individualized learning and students would be more open to watch lengthier and more videos and less open to engaging in a community. Also, traditional online courses of 10-20 students (what I currently design and teach) would break out of this model as well and be more open for more lecture material because the focus is on the content which cannot be received in a 5 min video.
- Online lecture material should be supplemented and supported with additional external resources, readings, and online discussions to broaden and deepen the learner’s experience with learning the content. These should be relevant to the weekly content and cause them to dig deeper into it and afford their application of the content to their daily life. I am surprised that she didn’t mention anything about connecting with the class outside of the LMS, e.g., Twitter. I would also put this in this group especially in cMOOCs where the focus is more on engaging with the community. I believe there is much value in taking the course outside of the course via our preferred channels because students may not always have the course, but they will always have their social media. Wouldn’t students build lasting connections with others if they did so through their daily communication channels?
- Online courses should have at least one creative challenge each week, either as an individual or a team to increase the students engagement with the class and keep them interested. With assignments like these, Tina shares that there is so much room for experimentation. With the recent advancements with technology and what we can now do online with 44 thousand people there is much room for innovation in education. Yes Tina. Creativity does rule! As an instructional designer for online courses I am always looking for ways to put the learner at the center of the design and figure out ways to increase their interaction between the content, their peers, and the instructor. Without these three types of interactions being dominant in the course then the learning in my opinion isn’t truly authentic and then what is the point for the student to be in the course? Learn some facts perhaps or take away some resources? But maybe that is all they want…
- Online courses should have major assignments broken into smaller chunks and instructors should provide formative feedback. I agree with Tina that this will get rid of the ambiguity and help with understanding. This is an aspect that I try to incorporate into any online course that I build because it affords the instructor to provide formative feedback as a student develops a final paper or project. This will decrease the possibility of a student submitting something from left field at the end of the course with no time to resubmit. It is my personal design philosophy that if the goal is X at the end of the course, what is the harm in helping a student along the way to achieve X? Some instructors have told me that this strategy coddles students. While I see the point but are we setting our students up for success or failure? Formative feedback doesn’t have to look like, “here are the answers to the test.” It could be something as innovative of telling a student… “This is incorrect. It might be a good idea to try again.” Sounds like teaching to me.
- Online students should publically uploaded their creative challenge submissions to the course for public evaluation. Tina calls this “crowd sourced grading.” In a course of 44 thousand how else could students receive real feedback other than peer evaluation? Tina can’t possibly grade 44 thousand assignments. Stanford can’t possibly hire 1,000 graduate assistants either. (BTW, I have heard that some MOOCs in the past have tried both solutions and failed… obviously). But isn’t this type of feedback valued? Doesn’t this type of feedback mimic what is done in the real world especially with content we all share on social media? How may likes, favored, upvotes, +1s, retweets, or reblogs did we get? Where else but an experience like this would students be able to see thousands different solutions to the same problem?
- Online instructors should model how students should provide feedback to their peers. The key any feedback is that the learner must be able to readily apply it to their work, life, etc. Without it, then of what value is the feedback? I would also expect with this type of peer feedback—in mass—is that it would need to be effortless for the peers to provide feedback. Perhaps it will be very structured, e.g., clicking the Like button or upvoting the best design? Tina also mentioned that this feedback is modeled by her with rubrics which will help students learn how to best give feedback to their peers. She also states, “the more feedback that you give, the more feedback you get.” We shall see. I am looking forward to seeing how this is done in the Creativity: Music to My Ears course.
- Online instructors should give individual assignments first to see who is actually in the course and going to participate and would be of value to a group later in the course. Forming groups in the beginning is hard because students have different levels of commitment to the MOOC. This may even be a small percentage of the course because there are many people in the course who never will do anything. But Tina did see that 50% of the people who completed the first assignment will stick it out and complete the MOOC.
- Online instructors should setup a collaborative community where students feel comfortable asking questions and receiving answers from the whole class. Tina called this “Deputizing the Entire Class.” I can see how it would be such an important thing to mention because managing the questions and problems of the entire class would be rough when there are 44 thousand of them. Similar to what I mentioned above, isn’t this the way it is in the real world? We post a problem that we are having with some tech, patch, code, etc. in a forum and we may not get a response from Microsoft, but a few other users will share what worked for them. That is community but we often don’t think of a classroom environment like that do we? We assume that the instructor always has all of the answers. Tina states, “collectively we all know more than I do.” She also noticed that key people in the class enlist and become the de facto TA’s.
- Online instructors should see themselves as facilitators and make sure that they keep the conversation moving forward on the right track. Tina calls herself a “Chief Instigator.” She gets things going and see what things happen. This is often a paradigm shift for students who essentially want to be told the answers so that they can get the grade they want on the test. But is that true learning. I could quote a Chinese proverb about a man fishing but I think we all just thought of that anyways.
- MOOCs hosted by a university should provide a “special code” that will allow students and alumni from the hosting university to connect with each other specifically. For example, Tina mentioned that all Stanford students will be provided with a special code that will allow them to connect with other students from Stanford in the MOOC. Some MOOCs here recently have had more of an advertising goal, e.g., a bMOOC or brand MOOC. This is a way for a school or business to advertise their products and services to thousands. But what about the students already at that university? Wouldn’t it be of value for those students to connect? See each other’s work? Be in groups together?