Open Design Questions without Answers

Open Design Questions without Answers

I am beginning to think that “May is Think Open Month” for me … obviously thinking about openness is something that has been in the middle of my head for the last several weeks. The trip to the Berkman@10 event pushed me very hard to evaluate the things I feel are important to me as I do my work — as an administrator, teacher, and person. I have be reevaluating many of the descions I’ve made over the last few years in my work and I think for the most part I’ve been consistent in my push for openness … I’m not always able to be moving in that direction, but for the most part I have spent the last few years thinking very critically about the interplay between identity, community, and deisgn as it realtes to openness. The events of the last month have only served to push me further down the path to look even more critically at how I can impact change at my Institution and beyond to embrace a collective voice as it relates to moving to a more open perspective.

I’m not thinking about open courseware, open (unfiltered) ranting, or other more disruptive concepts … no, I am thinking more about how openness should be built into the design process. Not really instructional design per say, but design in general … in my mind learning design is looking at the notion of building learning opportunities in a more broad sense than more strict instructional systems design. I am interested in what happens when we (designers) give up a majority of the control and let our communities come in and particpate in a more holistic sense. Would chaos emerge if we didn’t control the learning design process, just enabled it through new governance models (unfortunate term as it feels very controlling), new methodologies for encouraging open participation, and open access to tools? I am thinking seriously about what it would look like to convince a department that we should embark on a new approach to knowledge capture … a wikipedia approach that places the emphasis on the community to create the reification of knowledge as they see fit. What would that look like?

I am seriously considering proposing to teach a new course this Fall (I know it sounds crazy) with a focus on exploring open design … maybe doing it in the context of creating discipline specific knowledge by the community. I don’t know what College this works in, but clearly the College of Education or the College of Information Sciences and Technology would be prime targets for this. This is not fully baked (as I thought of it about an hour ago as I mowed the lawn), but my goal would be to turn over the design of the articulation of knowledge to the community. Let the students work to determine what we should capture and how to do it — furthermore, let them explore how to encourage a larger community involvement in that task as well. I see a wiki sitting in the middle with a discipline specific outline in it … each major item in the outline is an article stub that teams of students would work to complete. I wonder if they could create articles that could stand up to the scrutiny of a group of faculty reviewers? I wonder if the illustration of a project like this would tip the scales towards a more bottom up curricular knowledge creation perspective? I wonder if it would produce any interesting outcomes?

Lots of questions, but as with most new half-baked concepts questions often are the only things to guide us. I have no idea if any of this would work, but after reading about some great examples of faculty pushing students to craft complete knowledge destined for wikipedia, I am fairly certain the mechanics could work. So at the end of the day I am interested in seeing if a few of my questions could be answered:

  • Can you ask a loosely joined group to work together in a distributed way to construct a concrete example of expressed discipline specific material?
  • Would the work of a small class encourage participation from outside the class?
  • Could the resulting articles be valuable enough that they could form the basis for some other curricular activities? In other words, would they hold up to the standard set forth by more traditional eLearning content creation approaches?
  • Would Colleges or Departments invest the time of the expertise at the top (faculty) to form some sort of domain specific governance (oversight) committee to help ensure quality content from the community?
  • Would studnets participating in a course like this gain enough through the creation of small pieces of content? In other words, the course would have to be about open design, not a specific curricular goal.

With my las bullet I think I captured what I really want — I want to spend 15 weeks with a small group of smart students investigating what open design means and how we could all learn to apply what we learn to novel challenges. Should I do it? Who wants to help?

7 thoughts on “Open Design Questions without Answers

  1. I love the idea of this and I think there’s potentially some amazingly powerful learning that could emerge from this sort of ‘course’. It seems odd to call it a course because it really feels like it might be more of a ‘learning adventure’ or ‘exploratory mission’ when discussing open design. I also think that it would be the learning community itself that would help with this sort of idea, just as we all did with the “TeamTweet” presentation.

    In my work online with community building, I have always strongly believed in the power of ‘community’ and I think that we end up learning a lot more about ourselves in those environments.

  2. I am thinking mre about how openness should be built into the design process. Not really instructional design per say, but design in general … in my mind learning design is looking at the notion of building learning opportunities in a more broad sense than more strict instructional systems design.

    I really love the way you imagine the notion of openness as a design element of the process. A broud community conversation and openness about ideas built into the very framework of communication and space.

    This is amazing stuff, and it make me think really hard about the ideas of shaping an experience of discovery and exploration, as Shannon says, allows people to approach it with more openess and wonder.

  3. I too am digging this in the theoretical sense, I can begin to imagine how it might be applied in upper level (ie, 400–>) disciplinary courses; however, I’m at a blank to see how it might play out in a 100 or 200 level. Except…maybe…(I’m thinking writing here, that is first and foremost what I teach)…let’s put it this way, I’ll happily be following along as you continue to push this idea.

  4. I won’t pretend to have the slightest idea how such an experiment would shake out, but the implications are too big not to want to be a part of it. And besides, “Top Down” is dead to me anyway.

    Count me in.

  5. Cole

    This is EXACTLY what I was getting at when I posted my comment on your previous post. I want to use a wiki to create persistent, discipline specific knowledge, across course curricula that gets added/expanded/re-used.

    I think an added benefit for faculty is that we would be creating an on-going repository of information that can form the bedrock of many research opportunities.

    So–you thought about

    what it would look like to convince a department that we should embark on a new approach to knowledge capture … a wikipedia approach that places the emphasis on the community to create the reification of knowledge as they see fit. What would that look like?

    Well–I am sure we can talk more about what that could look like, right here at the Business School on the Harrisburg Campus of Penn State.

  6. Steve … looks like we are going to have to discuss this as an opportunity to explore. Why not drop me a note off blog and we’ll get the ball rolling! Could be very interesting … one thing I will be curious about is driving participation. That may end up being the most interesting piece to this whole thing.

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