Issue Hubs /Water106

There was so much good thinking by others on the web during my winter vacation. And I want to comment on it all — just as soon as I go through the purgatory of semester startup. Faculty need blogs, administrators need schedules and work plans, and I may even need to have a syllabus together for a small class I am teaching this semester. These things need to happen by, say, Friday.

At the same time, I notice that I haven’t updated people on the evolution of Water106 on this blog recently. So here’s the update.

Water106 is still going forward, but in a slightly altered form. It’s simpler, I think. My current mental formulation is this: folks have been producing UMW-like “course hubs” for a while now. And we’re starting to build some demand on campus for exactly this sort of thing. A course hub is just a set of web spaces and services that forms the public presence of a class on the web. Here’s one on I worked on with Clare Weber last semester for ANTH301 (Arts and Media in a Global Perspective) — it’s got a public blog and a semi-private wiki. Easy-peasy. If I wasn’t so bogged down, I’d drop a dozen links here to show you examples from all over the country, but use google and type in “UMW blogs” or “course hubs” and you’ll see the sort of thing I mean.

Here’s my utterly reduced “issue hubs” pitch. What if instead of setting hubs up under the “course” umbrella, we set them up by “topics” or “issues”? What if instead of encouraging faculty to set up ANTH-301.xxxx.xxx, I encouraged them to set up global-issues-in-media.issuehubs.com? And then what if we made minor alterations to the structure of the hub that made it really easy for another class working on a similar or related subject to live in the same place? Without ever explicitly coordinating with the initial class?

This is not new by any means. Looking for Whitman modeled much of this approach something like four years ago, and remains for me one of the great untapped experiments of the pre-xMOOC age. Ds106 has done similar things. So has FemTechNet. Many others have done experiments with this as well. So I’m not sure how much new I’m adding to the store of human knowledge here. But what I am asking is whether we can apply the lessons we have learned in the past 4 years about how to run “blurred-boundary” courses and work it into what we do not as the exception, but as the default. And ideally, build it in such a way that less coordination is needed between classes and individuals participating. I know that Jim Groom and Alan Levine and Brian Lamb have in the past rightly critiqued the “scalability” push on these efforts (was it Brian who asked “Does poetry scale?”). But structuring classes in this way is one way to start to get beneficial network effects in the production of these sites while simultaneously improving the pedagogy.

Absolutely know there are some issues with this approach, and it is not a one-size-fits all. More soon.


4 Comments on “Issue Hubs /Water106”

  1. As ever, really sharp and inspiring thinking you are sharing here thanks. I remain hopeful about feeding some kind of water-oriented issue hub as it aligns with some cross-disciplinary reseach happening at TRU — and I have gotten some supportive and intrigued murmurs when I pitched the Water106 wireframe at them.

    And I am not really feeling sharp enough to clearly delineate the distinction, but I don’t see this model as “scaling” — at least not as I understand it (perhaps I unfairly lump it in with massification and standardization). This seems to be squarely in the realm of network effects, participatory, experiential and public-facing learning. In short, open online education in the sense that excited so many of us, back before those words were so often used in such icky ways.

    Great to see you are rolling in 2014 as fearsomely as you rocked 2013. Since you invoked Jim Groom, let me say… “I’m a big fan!”

    • mikecaulfield says:

      Thanks Brian! I’m still moving forward with Water106, just trying to design it so efforts like it can exist on a spectrum. Let’s talk soon?

  2. […] between Reading Capital and ds106 was another experiment that this recent post by Mike Caulfield reminded me of, namely Looking for Whitman. This was a site that used all of […]


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