My OpenClass Teaching and Learning Experience (Pearson CiTE 2012 Presentation)

Last month I had the opportunity to speak at the Pearson CiTE 2012 conference about my use of OpenClass – Pearson’s new LMS/Learning Platform – in the course I taught at the University of Kentucky this semester.

I love using OpenClass, and it’s really opened up what I can do interms of project-based learning and active learning activities in the classroom. Here are a few of the highlights from my presentation:
A lot of what drove my interest in using OpenClass emerged from the data Experience Design Works uncovered in an engagement in 2010 with the University of Kentucky where, in the course of a deep dive into both the Faculty and Student experiences for using Blackboard for teaching and learning, we found that things like clean, intuitive UI and the ability for a teaching and learning platform to enable (rather than hinder) student collaboration are of critical importance. After seeing OpenClass demoed at Educause 2011 in Philadelphia, I felt that OpenClass possessed great potential to address all of the major Faculty and Student pain points we identified in our study. But I wanted to “dogfood” OpenClass before I could recommend it to faculty and clients.

Also, the Experience Design Works team has a strong belief that we are already in the beginning stages of a fundamental, structural change in Higher Education. Not just a change in the tools we use to teach or how we design our courses and the classrooms in which face to face classes are held, but a change in how we teach, how we design learning experiences and how we support those experiences. In many ways, Higher Education is going through the same sorts of transformative disruptions that the music and print journalism industries have experienced.

To build the Social University, however, we need a toolset and environment that supports collaborative inquiry and writing. The architecture and deployment of the traditional LMS, in many ways, can serve as a frictional environment that delays the emergence of what Experience Design Works refers to as the Transformative University. Next generation Learning Platforms, such as Lore, Helix, GoodSemester and, of course, OpenClass are in many ways better positioned to enable Higher Education institutions to evolve into the Transformative University.

In my own teaching and learning efforts, I’ve always had to build a toolkit out of whatever tools I could find that would enable the type of active learning and constructivist/connectivist pedagogies I believe in so strongly. Recently, Google Apps have provided a strong and integrated ed tech toolkit that really allows teachers interested in more active, project-based/problem-based, team-oriented learning to do the types of activities they’ve always wanted to be able to do, without the technology that can enable such activities getting in the way. OpenClass, with its clean, simple (but highly customizable) UI and strong Google Apps/Gmail integration was a great way to make using those tools even easier.

This Spring, I used OpenClass and Google Apps to teach a project-based learning course in Kentucky Government and Politics. I teach this course as a futures thinking course and the students spend the semester building up to the production of a multimedia scenarios project examining the implications of today’s trends and policy decisions for the Kentucky of 2032. The Collaborations feature of OpenClass made it insanely easy to share documents with students that they could then work on during class (there’s nothing that warms my cold, cold heart more than 25 students sitting in project team circles with their laptops and iPads out working on deliverables) and that they could also share with me when it came time to submit individual and group assignments. The Collaboration feature was such a hit with the students that they began to wonder why it didn’t work with Google Sites, Blogger and other tools!

Let me also say that being a part of the Pearson OpenClass Design Partner program has been a real blast. The support they provided while testing a rough beta product has been amazing. It was also great to be a part of a community of other people passionate about building learning platforms for a transformative learning experience for students. Whenever anything went wrong, the OpenClass team was right there to help!

While I really enjoyed using OpenClass, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that there are a few things I’d love to see in future versions of the platform:

  • Extend Collaboration to work with other services like WordPress, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
  • Integrate Google+ features like Circles, Profiles and Hangouts.
  • Allow granular controls over what gets shared with the outside world and what stays in the classroom environment.

That said, however, I was extremely happy with my OpenClass experiment this semester (as were my students) and I look forward to using it in future courses and following the future of this next-generation learning platform from Pearson!

Have you used OpenClass or are thinking about using OpenClass? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below, by email or on Twitter!

Smart Social Media: Building & Marketing a Strong Personal Brand

I had the great pleasure to kick off  the first Social Media Week at the University of Kentucky a couple of weeks ago with a presentation on building a strong personal brand using social media for college students. We had several undergraduates in attendance, as well as a good number of advisors and student affairs professionals who were eager to learn more about helping students to use social media effectively. Some of them were eager to take the tips they learned from the presentation and put them to use in boosting the social media presence of their units on campus!

Smart Social Media

View more presentations from Christopher Rice

A key part of a robust student experience must include preparation for the world outside the campus, whether that be finding employment and building a career, or jumping into the world of entrepreneurship. Many institutions are beginning to work with their students to think about responsible social media use, but far fewer are helping their students to go beyond “cleaning up” their social media presences and think about how to effectively leverage social media platforms to build their professional presence and networks, as well as showcase their work portfolio and skills. Similarly, we feel that career centers on campus need to help their students go beyond cultivating a profesional appearance and a well-crafted resume to thinking about how to build a strong personal brand that helps them get noticed.

Experience Design Works is looking forward to working with campus career centers and student affairs organizations in 2012 to help them design a student social media experience that helps students build strong personal brands through effective and smart use of social media. If you would like to learn more about bringing the EDW team to your campus to give a talk or workshop on Designing a Smart Social Media Experience for Students, please contact us on the EDW website, email me directly at chris [at] experiencedesignworks [dot] com or send me a message on Twitter at @ricetopher.