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!