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The EvoLLLution from Toronto to a Global MOOC
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Introduction...This is my second MOOC-Related Post in Five Days:

Day One (June 13): Jarl Jonas Director of CourseSites by Blackboard reflects on first MOOC

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And now for today...
Day Two (June 14): The EvoLLLution from Toronto to a Global MOOC

Note: Later in the week, I will post these...
Day Three (June 15): Reusable MOOC: When massive sync is lasting async
Day Four (June 16): Twenty Thoughts on the Types, Targets, and Intents of MOOCs
Day Five (June 17): Unabridged Interview on MOOC for Chronicle of Higher Education

The Evolution of The EvoLLLution...
Whew, I just completed the fourth of a series of four interviews on my Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Thinking back six months ago, I had not envisioned teaching 4,000 people in a MOOC. Sure, I had helped with the eduMOOC that my friend Ray Schroeder from the University of Illinois at Springfield had offered last summer with 2,700 people (see my blog interview of Ray at the time) and we discussed teaming up for a follow-up. But back then my brain was highly focused on NSF grantwriting and Christmas and birthday gifts that I might receive, not on some monster class to masses of participants around the planet. I already had a 54 page monster syllabus on emerging learning technologies. But that was for a dozen or so students, not thousands.

This story begins on December 15, 2011. It was on that day that I got an email about something else from a guy that I did not know who was from someplace on the planet but I was not really certain where, to be honest. It was all a mystery. His name was Amrit Ahluwalia. Perhaps he was from the Middle East, I thought to myself. Maybe he knew my friends in Dubai or Riyadh and they recommended that he contact me. Perhaps he was from right here in Indiana or wanted to come to IU for graduate school. International student applications were coming due. Or perhaps he was from???

And what did he want? No, he was not writing to wish me happy birthday remarks one day early. Nor was he congratulating me for getting all my fall course grading completed. And he did not send a Christmas jingle in his email or offer me a vacation cruise package deal either. Instead, Amrit wanted me to contribute a short excerpt from my World is Open book for a newly announced online publication called "The EvoLLLution." More writing? More work? Ug. Fortunately, all he asked for was something short and simple. I informed him, however, that it was supposed to be my winter break and I already was knee-deep in NSF Cyberlearning grant proposal writing; in fact, one grant had gone in the day before and the other one my team was just starting to work on. It was due in mid January. As a result, I said "maybe."

Like me, you might be asking yourself, who is this guy, Amrit Ahluwalia? And why would he want me to work harder than I already was during my holiday break. Well, Amrit Ahluwalia, it turns out, is the managing editor of The EvoLLLution. He and his team are based out of an office a few hundred miles north and east of me up in Toronto where, until global warming kicked into gear, winter lasted perhaps 6-8 months of the year. Hence, he probably did not really know that there was something called winter break.

What is this EvoLLLution?
You might also want to know more about The EvoLLLution. What is that all about? Well, the Website indicates that it is a grassroots community of higher education stakeholders that is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario (Canada). Amrit's initial email informed me that it was an "online newspaper, written exclusively by higher education stakeholders. Its contributors come together to form the only community, devoted exclusively exploring and improving non-traditional education." That sounded interesting to me. My mind and body are all about nontraditional learning of any kind (and, as many people are aware, my research is now devoted to informal and extreme learning). To further entice me, Amrit sent link to a video explaining more about the the role that "The EvoLLLution" would play in society in the coming years. Very cool video. I was hooked. This online newspaper would be situated in the fastest growing and perhaps least addressed area of education--the adult learner.

From what he has told me since that time, it is clear that The EvoLLLution is a unique organization whose time has come. It is an inclusive community comprised of thinkers such as university and college administrators, educators or all stripes, and, most importantly, nontraditional and lifelong learning students. Unlike many organizations in the field of education, it purposefully reaches out to employers, government officials, and other industry stakeholders, who are also adapting to the immense paradigm shift in higher education taking place today. In effect, Amrit and his colleagues have assembled a community of thought leaders who can raise awareness about nontraditional and lifelong learning. From what I can tell, the people at The EvoLLLution truly hope that the constant flow of ideas available through their online newspaper can inspire transformative changes in higher education that are needed today and in the decades to come. And with their input, they also hope that there will be broad scale societal recognition of the immense value of continuing and adult higher education. I hope so too.

So what did he want from e I wondered? According to Amrit, The EvoLLLution publishes "articles and interviews written by individuals who are on the ground looking at how higher education has changed and discussing ways to adapt the industry to today's realities." He also noted that they seek articles that discuss the business and management of modern-day higher education; an area of vast changes today. Additionaly, many of their articles explore tactical methods and strategies that can help alter or shift higher education in ways that personalize education according to the needs of today's students, and, as he put it, "the ever-changing and ever-advancing workforce." He then reminded me to watch the short video (1:50 minute). He also said that more details on The EvoLLLution could be found in the "About Us" section of their Website, including links to subscribe or contribute to it.

When I further inquired into his role, Amrit said the he was involved in establishing "relationships with our vast array of contributors from across the higher education and continuing education fields and assist them in generating content based on their ideas and opinions to be published on our online newspaper." Ok, I was fine with that. In fact, I was more than fine with it. But back to work on NSF grant proposal #2 I went. And my mind drifted off into thoughts about wikis, crowdsourced content, and learning environments that could be automically generated by computer code. Amrit and The EvoLLLution soon faded from my memory banks.

The Return of The EvoLLLution
A few weeks later, however, another email arrived from him. In it, Amrit kindly asked again for a short piece based on my World is Open book. I was still hard at work on my  2nd NSF grant proposal. And so he waited patiently for still another week or two. Soon, another email arrived with positive words of encouragement and hopes and dreams that I would contribute something in the coming weeks ("Extreme Learning Hopes and Dreams" was, in fact, the title of my first NSF grant).

And so, after finishing and submitting my 2nd NSF grant proposal of the month (This one titled SWALE or "Scholar Wiki Automated Learning Environments"), I sat in my hot tub and hoped that my fingers, back, neck, and brain could mend themselves quickly and that I could type up something up for him that would be worth reading. Luckily, it did not take too long for most of my body to heal (though my shoulders and back remain a problem for my chiropractor). Ten days later, I sent him a piece, "We All Learn," which appeared in digital form on February 16th. Amrit thanked me for it and we parted ways...or so I thought.

For a couple of months, I read articles appearing in The EvoLLLution but was thankful that he did not want me to produce anything else since the Spring 2012 semester was a difficult one filled with travel and committee work. But my new friend Amrit was not gone for long. In April, I received another email from him. This time he had heard about the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that I was doing for CourseSites by Blackboard on Instructional Strategies and Technology Tools for Online Success. I think he had read my blog post on this and got excited about covering a unique and evolving story. He said that wanted to interview me as we were about to start the MOOC as well as during the course and after it ended. Ultimately, there would be four MOOC interviews.

The EvoLLLution MOOC Interviews
The course ran from the end of April to early June with 5 synchronous sessions in Collaborate (i.e., formerly Elluminuate) each Wednesday afternoon in May from 4-6 pm EST. The first interview I did alone with Amrit via my home landline near the end of April. My first synchronous session with 500+ people occcured a few days later on May 2nd. The second interview was 2-3 weeks later with help from five of the eight volunteer teaching assistants (TAs) that I had quickly assembled when enrollment was nearly double our expectations of roughly 2,000 participants to well over 3,500 signing up by the start of the course. That particular interview took place from my Indiana University office in the School of Education. It was deemed a "half-time report." As such, it focused on the problems and challenges that we faced or had resolved. The third interview Amrit conducted with Jarl Jonas, Director, and Sarah Bishop-Root, Marketing and Communications Manager, from CourseSites by Blackboard. They discussed the types of learners that had showed up in the MOOC as well as the expectations that Blackboard/CourseSites people had when planning it. And the final interview was conducted a week ago and appeared in The EvoLLLution yesterday. It was concerned with assessment and the credentialing side of a MOOC as well as the potential of MOOCs and their "evolution" in the future. Jarl, Sarah, and I all participated in that one. It was the longest of the four that we did and perhaps the best.

All four sessions lasted around 15-25 minutes. They are listed below. I hope you can learn something from one or more of them. To help your learning, each was audiotaped. It is important to point out that the audio files are always longer than the article. If you read the article as well as listen to the interview, you will see that Amrit did a marvelous job of condensing the sometimes rambling and resource-filled phone discussions into each article.

What's Your MOOC Pleasure--Text or Audio?
1. Massive Open Online Courses: Taking Learning to a New Level. Interview of Curt Bonk by Amrit Ahluwalia, April 30, 2012, The Evolllution. (Article; Audio).

2. The MOOC Halftime Report. Interview of Curt Bonk and MOOC TAs by Amrit Ahluwalia, May 22, 2012. The Evolllution. (Article, Audio).

3. MOOCs Making Waves with Nontraditional Students. Interview of Jarl Jonas and Sarah Bishop Root by Amrit Ahluwalia, June 7, 2012, The Evolllution. (Article, Audio).

4. The Potential for MOOCS. Interview of Jarl Jonas, Sarah Bishop Root, and Curt Bonk by Amrit Ahluwalia, The Evolllution. June 13, 2012. (Article, Audio).

If anyone wants a PDF document of these articles, send me an email. There is much to reflect on and discuss from all four of these interviews. Each person reading or listening to them will have different goals and associated takeaways. In the end, I must thank my friend Amrit Ahluwalia and The EvoLLLution for their interest in the MOOC we did last month on Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success. These were fun discussions and reflections.

Note that the Course Registration, Information, and Introductory Video all remain open. We have over 4,000 people enrolled now. The world is truly open for learning. Enjoy it. Live it. Share it. Be it.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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