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Hanging out with Dr. Chuck Severance for a MOOC Commencement Speech and Cage Match
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Hanging out in Ann Arbor in July:
Last month I was in Ann Arbor to speak at the National Training Institute event which is part of the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC). This is also connected to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Since it was summertime, they were able to rent out some amazing space there. The Michigan campus and all of Ann Arbor is quite lovely in the summer. I had a top floor room in the campus hotel and had a magnificent view. Great food in that town. I really did not want to leave.

I gave two relatively short (20-25 or so minute) keynotes in some of the most spectacular auditoriums, Hill and Rackham) that I have ever spoke in. First, I spoke on blended learning to about 300-400 training directors in Rackham. Then I got a break before returning a few hours later and giving my main keynote in Hill Auditorium to over 1,500 people from all the electrician training institutes across the country. When the president of the National Training Institute whispered in my ear just prior to me speaking that they were ahead of schedule and my 15 minute keynote in Hill could be 20 or 25, I was elated. I had much fun with the audience during those extra minutes. Both talks were fun to do. The following morning, I gave a breakout talk in their ultra-modern Ross School of Business (for more on Ross, see their videos or gallery of pics).

Color PDFs of my slides are posted for all 3 talks. After my second keynote, they had dinner for everyone as well as live music (a southern rock band). Much fun.
When I finished my breakout the following morning, I walked across campus with my former student, Dr. Erping Zhu. Erping is now the Assistant Director and Coordinator of Instructional Technology for the Center for Research on Learning and Technology at the University of Michigan (see bio, see his blog). She has a great chapter on asynchronous student interactions and roles in my 1998 book on electronic collaboration. Erping took me to the office of Dr. Charles (Chuck) Severance over in the North Quad of the UMich campus where he is located. Chuck is in the School of Information. I should also point out that he was the Executive Director of the Sakai Foundation and Chief Architect for it. I have known Chuck for some time since Sakai is what we use at IU (though we call it "Oncourse"). He now does some consulting work for Blackboard as the Sakai Chief Strategist in addition to his role at UMich.
Chuck (or Dr. Chuck as his students call him) is one of the most creative people I have met and that shows in his massive open online courses (MOOCs). When he flies or drives somewhere in the USA or around the world, he will try to hold office hours in his hotel lobby or nearby restaurant, bookstore, or local café for his online students. That includes his trips to Manila, Barcelona, Melbourne, London (longest one--13 minutes of Q&A), Paris, and Seoul, Korea. Amazing. Check out his channel out in YouTube if you want to see some of his MOOC videos or office hours.

A MOOC Commencement Ceremony in Ann Arbor: 
I gave the commencement speech for Dr. Chuck Severance’s massive open online course (MOOC) on Internet History, Technology, and Society. There were about 26,800 people enrolled in the course, of which it is expected that about 2,500 will complete it (or graduate and get certificates). While the course ended, about 3,000 people continue to watch the videos and work on their quizzes in hopes of completing it. It was the 3rd time that Chuck taught this course (he has also taught a course on Python programming as a MOOC). It was the first time that he incorporated a commencement ceremony at the end. It may be the first such type of MOOC commencement address (in this format!). Not sure.


The Course: Internet History, Technology, and Security, Dr. Charles Severance, University of Michigan and Coursera.

These were the themes to my PC talk (no, not "Politically Correct" talk, but, instead, my "Possible Courses" or "Possible Life Courses" or Life Paths talk I should say):
4 P’s: Passion, Purpose, Persistence, Playfulness
4 C’s: Choice, Commitment, Connection, Completion (or in this case, Certification)

Chuck and I had some fun with it. See what you think. I should point out that I came up with most of that talk that morning after finishing my keynote sessions at the NJATC event. The commencement themes came together fast. The video is 7:26 minutes (my speech is under 5 minutes).


To date, about 700 of those enrolled have watched the ceremony. In fact, Chuck's students have started discussion threads on the ceremony and they are highly positive. I guess that students in a MOOC long for some connection back to higher education traditions. It also seems that some traditional campus-based events can be approximated, simulated, and perhaps even replicated (in some instances) online.

Hanging Out in Austin last March:
For those want even more fun, I should also note that five months ago, Chuck and I did a “Cage Match: The Massive Open Online Course Debate" on MOOCs at SXSWedu in Austin this past March. We wanted the session to be akin to the show "Pardon the Interruption" in ESPN which was made popular by Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post. To make our point, each wore boxing gloves and head gear. Chuck got blue gloves for the University of Michigan and I wore red ones for Indiana U. For each of the first two rounds, there were 10 possible topics or issues to debate related to MOOCs. The audience shouted out the item from the list to debate. In the third round, we went with audience questions or issues only. At the end of each round, the audience held up blue or red cards at the end of each round to designate a winner. Chuck decisively won Round #1 of the Cage Match and I got Round #2. We tied in Round #3. It was a draw.

The fun starts at the 20 or 21 minute mark. Tattoos and muscle shirts. As many people know, Chuck has an open source tattoo on his arm which he likes to proudly display (for more on this, just listen to the podcast show with Jeffrey Young of the Chronicle of Higher Education about his tattoo, "Why the Man with the Open Source Tattoo Now Works for Blackboard"). Consequently, I arrived with some Indiana University tattoos on my arms. See below for proof. The video from the Cage Match is now posted thanks to Chuck as is the audio file thanks to SXSWedu people. Available (audio): Available (video). I recommend you watch the video for the full effect. (Also in that picture below is Dr. Rachel Barrera, a former master's student in my program here at IU. In effect, Rachel is a Hoosier who is now in Austin working at the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas (which, by the way, offers MOOCs).
Interestingly, my friend JeffreyYoung from the Chronicle of Higher Education was in the front row. He took notes and pictures and wrote kind things about the Cage Match that same day (March 7, 2013). Here is the article: At South by Southwest Education Event,Tensions Divide Entrepreneurs and Educators. In it, he also discusses the conference keynote from Bill Gates which was delivered immediately after the Cage Match in the main room of the Austin convention center. I inserted a picture from that article below. Perhaps this will intrigue you enough to watch the video.

That's a Wrap...I am Done Hanging Out for Now
I hope you enjoy the MOOC commencement address as well as the Cage Match debate on MOOCs. It was great to team up with Chuck Severance for both events. If you would like more such stories, please vote for Chuck Severance's proposal for SXSWedu 2014. The panel picker is now open or so I think (here is Chuck's proposal: "The Voice of Students in the MOOC"). Vote on it. If you do, perhaps I will see you in Austin next March. SXSWedu is one of the more interesting and amazing events.

Oops...How about Hanging Out in  Las Vegas in October? Oh ya, I almost forgot, if you are interested in "MOOCs and Open Education," you might attend the Preconference Symposium that I am helping to arrange with several colleagues for the E-Learn Conference 2013 in Las Vegas on October 21st, 2013. We did a similar event five years ago during E-learn in Las Vegas and it was a lot of fun. Join us! Paul Kim from Stanford University and George Siemens of Athabasca University are the keynotes. Paul will address the issue of "MOOCs through the Lens of Sustainability" and George will speak on "MOOCs: Where Next?" Paul has recently taught a MOOC for the Stanford Venture Lab on Designing a New Learning Environment which more than 20,000 people signed up for. And George taught the first MOOC with his colleague Stephen Downes back in 2008. Special Side Note: You can attend the preconference symposium on Monday October 21st apart from the E-learn main conference which runs the following three days. Of course, we would love for people who sign up to attend both. Cost for the preconference symposium on Monday is $165. The day before (Sunday), there is an optional hike in the Red Rock Canyon area (more info; map) for MOOC preconference symposium participants. The Red Rock Canyon area is about 17 miles west of downtown Las Vegas.

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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.

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