Commenting, annotating, and collaboration (in advance of #FutureEd)

The collaboratively-taught MOOC on Shaping the Future of Higher Education begins on Jan 27th. I’m excited about the content, and though the last MOOC I participated in — well, sometimes I didn’t have the time and attention that I wanted to devote– I committed to being ok with what I could get out of it. In advance of the MOOC, I have some observations about some of the design and communication decisions with some thoughts about how this might be applicable for any instructor.

As I was taking a look at some of the MOOC materials, some observations about the organization and design of the materials popped out at me, particularly as juxtaposed with technological capabilities in a typical LMS.

Prioritizing Learner Voice: The syllabus has been developed and posted for several months, with a version for public comment, which is a nice way to hear feedback in advance of the course. As I see that, I wonder why LMS’s like Blackboard couldn’t be designed with an option to create content that interacts in the same manner as Google Docs. With the recent functionality built into the grade center for in-text commenting, one would think it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. And while that wouldn’t always be ideal, having any page have the ability to have comments might even be an interesting approach to provide options for making learner voice more a part of the course.

Facilitating Interaction: Just as it would be neat to be able to annotate directly on the text– whether it is instructor or student created, it would be handy to be able to annotate any text and to be able to do so in real time. Yes, of course this is possible to do using Google Docs, but why is this still after half a decade the only option available? The #FutureEd Mooc will include an assignment on Rap Genius (which should be interesting to try out!) Davidson described using Rap Genius for having students do peer review earlier this fall. I think the biggest challenge with the use of the site is that there are offensive lyrics within the site, which makes it a harder sell for a lot of educational contexts.

Yes, I know that there are a ton of free tools out there to get at all this functionality– but if we’re thinking about the future of education, I can’t help but wonder when the technology tools for learning, ie, the LMS will place the learner at the center of the action, to look like the virtual version of this:


(Image Source Tappe Libraries)

instead of this:


(Image Source Sholeh)

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