I have been thinking more and more about the opportunities we have at our fingertips now that we have an enterprise blogging toolset in place here at the University. I've watched my online colleagues discussing open courseware and blog tools for about a week now and am ready to chime in with my own thoughts. I am impressed with the progress and ah-ha moments that have gone on around the edu-blog web for the better part of a week, although I am slightly surprised in that many of these same people are the ones who have been banging the "blog is more than a blog" drum for quite some time. I spent the better part of a year working that angle in hopes of getting our own decision makers to buy into an enterprise blog tool -- "no, its a personal content management system ..." So as I watched D'Arcy, Brian, Jim, and David show off the work they've done and the excellent thinking they are sharing I was a little confused by the excitement.
But then it hit me. The glorious piece to this is not the software, it is the philosophical underpinnings it is supporting. Openness. Open content that can be easily created, managed, searched, and then shared out (using a number of interesting methods) to other platforms so it can be customized and treated the way people want to treat content -- ironically, as their own. What I mean is that we've all talked about online repositories for the last 10 or so years, what I see as the difference here is that I can find good open content, grab it, move it into a drop dead simple environment (like wordpress.com), and manipulate it and make it more like the environment I want it to be. We always wanted that but we (at least) couldn't make it happen. Maybe we can now.
So, we have Movable Type as our enterprise blogging tool here at PSU. That means that anyone with an access account and webspace can log in and create a blog. A couple of clicks, some typing, and you are publishing. To me it spells a platform to support all sorts of learning content design and development. What if for a minute we envisioned a second install of MT that is built to be specifically for course design and development? A design team (including faculty) could build in this space using all the collaborative tools to do so, take advantage of tags, categories, and other meta-like data to help keep things straight, and create killer learning objects. This isn't really new thinking. But what if all these things were just open and waiting to be exported (in MT format) and imported (in MT format) directly into our enterprise blog tool by a single faculty member who was interested in taking what was available and adding the parts they wanted the most -- their own personal contexts to bring it to life.
A project like this would allow us to explore some things at an Institutional level and actually answer some questions ... a few things that come to mind include:
- Platforms: The blog environment is the perfect kind of place to hang all sorts of opportunities off ... I am thinking about podcasts, streaming media, google maps, links to ANGEL, and all sorts of other small pieces.
- Best Practices: What does it mean to use an environment like MT to produce learning content or objects ... could we build a roadmap for others to follow?
- OER Standards: We need to establish all sorts of baseline constructs if we are going to move into a more OER space ... what is the granularity of content, what kinds of tags should be used, how do we manage assets, and all the other things we worry about with learning object design.
- OER Policies: Even more critical to the long term vision is how do we position ourselves (and our content) for use and reuse? I know there is at least one College on campus already playing in the OER space, but what does it sound like as an Institutional conversation?
- Attitudes: How will our stakeholders react and what do people really think about sharing?
- Usability: Does this type of environment lend itself to use, and maybe more importantly is it the right kind of space to use in the first place?
It isn't fully baked and I know there are holes in it, but I am willing to put a group of people together to aggressively explore it ... what should we be thinking about -- and at the end of the day, why shouldn't we do it? I know this post is not articulate enough to really illustrate the vision, but it is my feeble attempt to get some input and get a conversation started around the concept. Anyone care to share some thoughts or participate in a larger discussion?