Why not develop a course in the open?

Last week I attended the Spring workshop for ETUG: the BC Educational Technology User’s Group.

Among the many great presentations I saw was one by Paul Hibbits, who spoke of doing course development openly, meaning not just sitting in your office trying to develop and plan a course on your own, but doing it more publicly. You can see slides for his presentation here, and they are embedded below.


Basically what he did was do all his planning on a public space (he chose Workflowy and made it open to view), and sent out messages on Twitter and other social media sites to get feedback. The most interesting part, though, was that he got a list of emails of the students in his class (the one he was developing) and sent them the planning document so they could (a) get a better sense of what the class will be like before it starts, and (more importantly) (b) give feedback. He didn’t actually get any feedback from students, which, as he mentioned, isn’t surprising because after all they’re going to be students of yours and don’t want to give a negative impression. But he did offer them an option to give anonymous feedback, so I’m a bit surprised that no one took that option.

As I sat there and listened to the presentation and discussion, I thought: “Duh…why didn’t I ever think of this?” I like to open up my teaching practice while it’s happening, and I reflect on it quite a bit in this blog, but why not actually share my outline, learning objectives, assignments/activities before it happens and see if I can get feedback from anyone?

I’ve heard in various “open” forums that sharing not just the product but also the process is important, and I know from DS106 that it’s crucial for learning how to do things that people share not just what they’ve created but how they did it. But why I never thought to do that with my teaching, I have no idea. So I’m very glad I attended this session!

 I am in the process of developing a second-year course on moral theory for Fall 2014, so I’m going to follow Paul’s lead and make my planning process public. I just have to decide whether I’m going to use Workflowy or something else. Google docs would work too. Paul said he tried a mind map, and it didn’t work so well, and I’m just not personally very drawn to doing my own mind maps, so I think I’ll go some other route. Suggestions?