Monday, September 16, 2013

Crowd-sourced Curricula

For the past couple of years, in Spring 2012 and Spring 2013, the end of semester project in my database course was the design of a database to support an educational social network (, where online educational materials -- video and otherwise -- can reside, be endorsed by compatriots in social networks, be decomposed into micro structures (e.g., in the way that , and now YouTube, allows indexing of particular segments in videos) and composed into macro structures, with individual topic videos formed into "courses" and online courses (e.g., MOOCs) being formed into curricula; users in the social network can endorse (or renounce) constructs at all of these levels -- micro, macro, and a lot of in between -- with opinions at one level influencing constructs at lower and higher levels.

The project was inspired by my work on the Chancellor's Social Media and Digital Technology Committee (, but particularly the vision of the unbundled university (; -- what is unbundled can and will be reassembled, and according to the early visionaries, reassembled in a wealth of ways.

The crowd-sourced micro structures are interesting, and I'll address them at some point, but I've been enamored of late with crowd-sourced macro structures, particularly crowd-sourced curricula. This slide from an ITHAKA S+R talk (  illustrates that even in October 2012 (not even a year ago -- seems like ages!) someone could piece together what amounted to a CS bachelor's from free, online classes.

This slide is the first in a four-slide sequence showing the possibilities of a CS major online ( ).

In the educational social network context, individual and alternative paths through the course repository ( get endorsed and rejected, until some emerge as consensus favorites. Just before drafting this post, I searched on Google for "crowdsourced curricula" (no quotes) and sure enough, found this: "Crowdsourcing Curricular Design (Helps & Grant, submitted) at -- a nice paper sketching out a similar vision, though with some interesting differences, some of which I really like, perhaps most notably that the crowd-sourcing be by educational professionals, better insuring that the macro structures that emerge aren't the "easiest", but the most pedagogically sound. The paper also has some interesting background that I didn't know of previously.

Attention on macro-level, curricular constructs is receiving increased attention because of a new partnership between educators at Vanderbilt University and University of Maryland ( In particular, Doug Schmidt and Jules White of Vanderbilt and Adam Porter of the University of Maryland are organizing the first transinstitutional MOOC sequence -- not to be confused with a jointly offered MOOC (singular), but a sequence of two, with Porter's Apps development MOOC serving as a soft prerequisite to Schmidt and White's Pattern-Oriented Software Architecture MOOC. This sequence is a curriculum-level construct, an important nascent step towards crowdsourced curricula.

No comments:

Post a Comment