Categories
The University

MOOCs and the stock university course #plenk2010

A first consideration of adapting MOOC techniques to the stock university situation.

Have a look at these notes on Stephen Downes’s presentation.

The more I’m immersed in the PLENK course and material, the more possibilities I see for driving MOOC teaching techniques and approaches into the stock university courses I teach.

For instance, we have new a sophomore level Argument and Exposition course (A&E. Gotta like the double joke in that course title) for learning research practices. Downes’s example of how to find a niche and set up a PLE suggests that I can adapt MOOC practices into a course project. The course wouldn’t be a MOOC (maybe a Minimal Open Online Project), and I would have to evaluate the students in the end. But this approach gives students the opportunity to develop tacit practices – both of research and of the subject they are studying with their PLEs. What they create along the way – the blog posts, delicious links, google feeds, and the artifacts they create and post – along with some periodic reflective posts or discussions, provide plenty of material to evaluate the learner, and plenty of material for my supervisors to evaluate the course.

Students will be on their own when it comes to the kinds of activities they take on, the kind of artifacts they create. They may have to learn how to edit and upload videos, they may have to figure out how to share a scanner, and I can see having to have students create their own support network in for the course itself, but that’s part of the beauty of the thing.

What’s in it for us?

  • Not less instructional time, but both students and I get to spend our instructional time differently than we have for the past bunch of years.
  • Less classroom time and more learning time for students.
  • Less lecture prep time because less lecture and more practice time for all.
  • Students might start to learn what it means – tacitly –  to take control of their own learning. Need to measure this.
  • Relatively safe experience in facilitating a MOOC-like course. The course provides my own scaffolding for a more complex move in the future.
  • If it works, a pretty impressive demonstration of an alternative to using D2L.

What’s needed?

As Stephen mentions, The Daily is vital to the movement and maintaining participation in the course. The Daily motivates. The Daily holds participants accountable. I could probably monitor student feeds in my own google reader account, but I’ll probably have to install gRSShopper on Dreamhost.

What else is needed?

Probably an intensive first week or two in getting students to re-conceptualize how the class will progress, and get them comfortable with the approach. Probably need to survey what kinds of online work students already do and get them comfortable sharing that expertise. Probably have to provide some early support for getting RSS feeds together. Probably have to really work on getting students to take responsibility for their learning, for creating and submitting stuff regularly  – and it needs to be regular so that they have a better chance of passing the final evaluation.

Seems worth it so far.

Categories
The University

dangers and rewards of taking it social

Outside The Castle, Walthamstow

I attended the PLENK2010 Elluminate session with Harold Jarche on PKM in the corporate setting. Normally, I stand well clear of anything corporate-setting, figuring a fight will break out sooner or later. But the discussion was good. I’ve beem taking a little more interest in The Enterprise lately because I’m hoping to present my sabbatical work in PLENK2010 not to my academic colleagues but to business and laypeople at BSU’s extension service. Keeping that in mind, I pricked up my ears to what Jarche had to say about the value of PLE/N to business.

Which leads me to a side comment Jarche made in the session. In encouraging learners to use blogging for sense-making and reflection, Jarche mentioned getting outside of the email exchange and into the social arena. He advised, Don’t simply trade emails about a problem back and forth. Make the exchange social so that others can join in.

That tweaked me. For the past week, I’ve been having an email exchange with the newly-appointed Director on the role and character of the Center for Professional Development. My take is that the CPD is doing some of the tasks and training that the administration and ITS should be doing, and that the CPD is confining itself to maintaining the status quo for the administration rather than looking towards faculty innovation. The director argues that handling training and surveys is part of the CPD’s collaboration with the administration. I argue that the CPD is a faculty service and should deliver what faculty need in order to develop professionally, not do inservice training. Rather than collaborate, the CPD should lead, push the administration in the direction the faculty want to go.

At any rate, the email exchange is going nowhere. Bogged down. But I really should have realized that the better way to approach the issue is through a social exchange. Rather than emailing the director my comments, I could have posted them to this weblog, then emailed the link with my comments to her and perhaps others. If I had done that, I would have set the arena as social from the start. And this is, after all, what I try to teach.

So why not go social? In this case, it simply didn’t occur to me. Habit of email. It has to be made clear from the start where the discussion is going to go on. And it’s the same habit of email that has constrained the discussion we’re having to a semi-private exchange rather than a social exchange. I know I would get more – learn more, argue better – by reflecting on the role of the CPD in a social space – and I’d bet the director and my colleagues would get more out of it, too. The exchange becomes more valuable when it is shared socially.

Now, going social rather than using semi-private email can also be seen as a power play, or labeled as inappropriate, and could get me ostracized. It’s risky. Institutions – well, the one I work in –  like to keep what they think of as conflict in-house, like to show a unified face to the world – in spite of the good that a social exchange on, say, the role of a center for professional development might bring to the institution and to others. Moving discussions to the social realm can result in being cut out of the loop. Worse, it can lead to everyone playing close to the vest, saying nothing in fear of having to defend the position – going social means cards on the table, no bluffing, and that’s scary.

Is it worth the risk? Some days I think it is. Other days, I’m not so certain. In any case, the ethos of going social is changing, so we might as well get used to it locally. I’m posting this today with some hope that others on the PLENK2010 course might find it useful – and to strengthen my resolve. Next time the opportunity knocks, I’m taking my discussion social.

Categories
Digital Literacy The University

#MOOC: A Chronicle Conversation

future shoppers

A Chronicle Conversation as MOOC

This showed up in my Chronicle list: ‘Open Teaching’: When the World Is Welcome in the Online Classroom. It’s a brief overview article of open classes (with a focus on being taught rather than learning), covering Downes, Siemens, and Wendy Drexler at U Florida. A good article as an overview, touching on the use of PLEs –

Instead of restricting posts to a closed discussion forum in a system like Blackboard, the class left students free to debate anywhere. Some used Moodle, an open-source course-management system. Others preferred blogs, Twitter, or Ning. In the virtual world Second Life, students built two Spanish-language sites. Some even got together face-to-face to discuss the material.

– and ending with the typical “educators are cautious.” There’s one misunderstanding that stands out for me, here, with the idea that BBoard or any LMS would be opened up to created a MOOC:

At the end of the day, the popularity of open classes will depend on whether learning-management software companies like Blackboard make it easy to publish open versions of online courses, says David Wiley, an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young and an open-teaching pioneer.

This seems to go against the grain: It’s not a matter of letting students into the garden. It’s a matter of creating allotments.

But more interesting than the article are the comments, from Drexler and others. I’ll start with Drexler, who adds to the article’s content with some reassuring pre-conditions:

There are certain foundational skills necessary for learning in an open online environment. Early research indicates the need for learners to practice digital responsibility (including management of personal privacy and respectful behavior), digital literacy (ability to find and vet resources as well as differentiate between valid and questionable resources), organization of online content, collaborating and socializing with subject matter experts and fellow students, and the ability to use online applications to synthesis content and create learning artifacts.

What I’m getting at is this: The comments make the article a learning object (and what I’m doing i remixing demonstrates that) and so address this concern from chedept

How is what is being done here different than, say, what any number of people or groups are doing with sites and blogs. Is Ariana Huffington teaching a course on society and politics? Is Dan Savage teaching a course on human sexuality? Is TMZ teaching a course on whatever it is they waste their time on?

Calling it a course does not make it so.

Huffington isn’t teaching a course – and an open course is not a collection of articles. But incorporating a Huff post article in a course framework, even a loosely defined one, or using a post as stuff to learn from, makes the post part of a course.

The comments seem to be struggling in getting at the mindset behind the open course: Is it like other self-guided courses? How do teachers give feedback to so many? (How do teachers give feedback to self-learners? would be my question.) How do you handle mis-behavior? Again, Drexler answers these matters by demonstrating how: she posts her own comment, remixes them, and in so doing clarifies matters. (It gets a little patronizing, but that’s an effort to make sure the exchange doesn’t erupt in flames.)

I really believe there is a distinction between open teaching and open learning. As a teacher, I could conduct my course in a completely closed environment, but offer my course materials in an open forum that anyone can freely access. Is that open or merely transparent? You begin to see a continnum emerging here. On the other hand, as a highly motivated learner, I could piece together a rich learning experience with open courseware in the absence of a teacher or facilitator. Though at some point, I may have to connect with other learners or subject matter experts who can supplement the materials.

The examples in this article represent facilitated open online courses. Facilitation is a key component. Yet, there’s more going on here than the added guidance or scaffolding of an instructor. The connections to others and exposure to many points of view further enrich the learning experience.

Siemens gets in here, bringing in a practice that was overlooked in the article: that of learning communities forming within the course:

Not all 2300 learners stay in the same virtual space talking to each other. They form smaller networks, move into different spaces, or engage with others on topics of personal interest. The instructor does not have to direct all 2300 students. The the key power shift generated by the web is the loss of ability for a company, a person, or an educator to direct people.

What I really like is how the questions in the comments allow Siemens (and others) to compose focused responses. We can see coherence being created here by posting public responses to public questions, by remixing and sharing.

We can still lecture on how to find good information or how to write a persuasive essay. But…instead of the instructor being the sole source of guidance and information, she becomes a node among other nodes (important, even critical, but no longer the only or dominant one) in a learning network.

Also, the list of commentators makes a good starting point for forming learnninng community. And as a further note, the commentators demonstrate that not all learners have to be fully engaged in the course to provide material that can be made meaningful. Side comments can be opened into a larger room by another learner – which also challenges to the idea of course design as a matter of teacher control.

But there is still a sense, throughout, that a MOOC is not really a course so much as a hobby: fun, creative, experimental, tribal, but still side-stepping the Serious Work and Rigor of Properly Designed Courses.

I agree that the best way to evaluate these events (courses?) is to participate in them. I have been a high-flyer in three of them so far. I have enjoyed the interaction, and tend to think of these events as social interactions that produce socially constructed learning, using internet affordances for communication purposes. Since acronyms are all the rage, how about SMILEs, as in Social Media Induced Learning Events. The SMILE acronym helps to highlight for me the fun and creativity I had in the debates in the various forums.

Acronyms make a good heuristics. Here’s one to counterpoint SMILE when it comes to open learning: SMARTS: Study, Mix (or Meet if you prefer), Assess, Remix, Test by Sharing.

But I’ll leave it with this from Siemans. As I mentioned a couple of times in this post (remix, being tested by sharing), I have made the Chronicle article and the comments a learning object by using them for learning. They were not posted to overtly teach me anything.

Why do many educators conclude that coming to a particular place requires set structure? Just because we know what we want students to learn doesn’t mean that we have to inject the into an organized (“aligned”) process of learning outcomes, content/curriculum, evaluation. Nothing about a clear target suggests that a clear structured path is required. We quickly get to the Private Universe problem: pass the test, but miss the conceptual understanding required.

Note to Chronicle: why no “follow up comments via email” option?

George

See also

Categories
Pedagogy The University

nobody speaks esperanto – except those who do

Sidewalk Closed

One of the arguments for standardizing on a CMS such as d2l for DE teaching is this: “Using the same interface for all courses means the student has to learn the interface only once.”  The argument I always used against the CMS has been, “A good interface will be designed to suit the content and task, and the task of d2l is to manage students, not enable students to read, listen, or produce. Get a blog, or a wiki.”

But here’s a better one, from Stephen Downes, in Emergent Learning: Social Networks and Learning Networks.

I understand why someone would say this: “To increase the sustainability of portal projects there is a need to ‘work towards establishing common frameworks that will enable applications and services, from different sources, to work together.'” After all, it is precisely that failure that accounts for the indifferent success of community portals, the ‘field of dreams’ scenario, where you build it, and they do not come. But such an enterprise is perhaps best compared with constructing an artificial language: sure, it would make communication easier if evereyone used the standard – but who speaks Esperanto? The growth of community – and hence, community frameworks – is much more organic than that, a product of multiple simultaneous negotiations to create a network of compatible systems rather than a centralized planning department to create a structure.

This argument is similar to the critiques of the artificial, formulaic 5-Paragraph Theme, taught in too many US high schools and even university courses. The problem with the 5-Paragraph Theme is this: It’s an artificial genre, which no one reads (teachers don’t read 5-paragraph themes; they grade them); the form and the exercise aren’t designed to communicate anything other than “I did your assignment.” I know because I have read hundreds of them.  Even when the form is not assigned, even when they are warned against it, Good Students drag out the form as a default. They have to unlearn it before we can make any progress in writing.

But here’s what I find a puzzle: Institutions are using d2l – a paragon of  walled garden ivory tower teaching – to deliver “real world” – that is, situated – education. Courses (such as here, and here) that are pitched as bridging a (purported) gap between classroom and workplace are placed firmly behind the walls of the garden, using the same accouterments, practices, and channels.

Seriously? Some of my colleagues teach some of these courses – well-meaning people who would argue that they are giving learners choices, providing opportunities – and I suppose they are, kind of. Learners will have the opportunity to learn Esperanto.  We can do better than this.

Assignment: Re-reald Prof Morgan’s argument above. What is Morgan’s thesis? How does he support it? What kind of silliness is he passing off as thoughtful consideration? What is he really trying to say? Now, write a 5-Paragraph Theme in which you make clear just how mis-guided Morgan is by considering the benefits of standardized interfaces in education today. Pose. Posture. Beg the Question. 500 words. Typed.

Categories
The University Wikis

garden envy

Garden chairs

This note on Gardening the wiki, order in chaos from Brian Lamb prompted me to pay a long-overdue return visit to the UBC Wiki. Lamb and colleagues have been developing their wiki like mad. Envy. Particularly interesting is using a Gardening the Wiki blog to support and evangelize the space, with regular news and meta-commentary on the State of the Wiki from their wiki admin Will Engle. Double envy. UBC is making the hard move into open learning, and that’s to be envied.

Wish BSU had the interest and the energy to develop this kind of major project. Our faculty energy goes into developing (closed) courses using D2L. Hardly garden-fresh. More like frozen peas from Wal-Mart.

But the gardener’s role, as exemplified by UBC, will make an appearance when I re-fit the Weblogs and Wikis course next year. Kudos to UBC.

More on gardens at Understanding Nothing, c2.com, Meatball Wiki (zen gardens, walled gardens, gated communities). Then there are FormalGardens, KnotGardens, EnglishGardens, and Follies.

Categories
Digital Literacy New Media The University

things we would never put on the university home page

This graphic has been making the rounds.  I found it on The Bamboo Project Blog: It’s About Answering Their Questions, Stupid: What Goes on the First Page ? – where I find a lot of Good Stuff.  The reminder that Michele gives:

[W]e still have this broadcast notion of content that can trip us up at the oddest moments. We need to stop thinking that social media–or any online content, for that matter–is first and foremost about us. The best stuff is always, always about our users.

If we could only get our PR/Communications people to hear that, we’d see an improvement in BSU’s little website – an improvement that the students who use the site – and those who never enrolled because the couldn’t find what they were looking for at a university – could then carry forward into their professions. [Warning: Don’t expect any of the following on our front page.]

University_website

But design, it’s really about control, isn’t it?

Categories
The University Wikis

from personal wiki to open text and how to get there

In the background, off line, on an iPad, I’ve been experimenting with a personal wiki (Trunk, excellent app, more later). What I wanted was a souped up wikified version of a Moleskine, a notebook – or legendary notebook – that I can’t use because my handwriting has become illegible, even to me. So, I ran an online personal wiki a few years ago, but abandoned it after a few months: having to be on line (which then meant ethernet and sometimes wifi) restricted its use. Next I ran one on a laptop. Better, but still not as convenient as paper (heavy laptop), and I had issues with figuring out where this project fit into my work, and figuring out how to move stuff from the wiki (webs) to other media (not webs).

Then the iPhone 3G came out, with apps, and Matthew Kennard released Trunk Notes: a tidy, elegant little wiki app that worked like a proper wiki: WikiWords, easy markup, categories, tags, links, embedded images … Perfect as a wiki, but only as large as the iPhone screen, and restricted by the iPhone’s lack of multitasking. Still, I kept sporadic non-legendary moleskine-y entries for a year and a half or so – maybe once or twice a week.

Then the iPad arrived, and a couple months later Kennard released Trunk Notes for the iPad. That release cracked it. While the iPad doesn’t have multitasking, the size of the device made a difference in how frequently I turned to the wiki (over other kinds of notes) and how I composed on the wiki. The iPad is not quite as portable as the phone, but that was the difference: A wiki, unlike microblogging or todoing, is for more mediated, considered composition: collocation, analysis, creating patterns, exposition, linking, threading … A first draft of a wiki page is as brisk as any, but revising and, more importantly, refactoring are times to consider content and options and strategies; to enrich, cross-link … You get the idea. The larger device of the iPad prompts this kind of approach. You have to sit down, open the case, maybe even dig out a keyboard – slow down and commit yourself for a while.

So  I exported the wiki file I had been keeping for a year from my iPhone, imported it to my iPad, and became a happy camper. Even bought a DODOCase, which disguises the iPad as a Moleskine. Now I could sit in a dim corner at the coffee shop and look legendary. But I romanticize ….

Which gets me to my topic: the personal wiki as commonplace book, sharing, and produsage (Bruns)

What I’m experimenting with now is a personal wiki notebook in the manner of a commonplace book: that personal collection of stuff, in the manner of Lila or commonplaces. WikiWords, I have argued elsewhere, are topics – and topics are titles for commonplaces under development. So, the idea is to put together a collection of topics that become, over time, linked. Not cards that are categorized (in this it differs from Lila) or pages that are dated (in this it differs from a journal), but something else. Developed differently than paper. Indexed differently than paper. Searches, tags, categories, images, internal and external links. Used differently, too. Rather than going back to the commonplace book to mine it for … uh … commonplaces, I would return to the wiki to develop matters further. As I did, it would become more of a personal knowledge space – project oriented on one hand, broader based on the other.

Private rather than posted – at least initially – and relatively portable.

See this for instance: Steven Johnson on open acces

Each rereading of the commonplace book becomes a new kind of revelation. You see the evolutionary paths of all your past hunches: the ones that turned out to be red herrings; the ones that turned out to be too obvious to write; even the ones that turned into entire books. But each encounter holds the promise that some long-forgotten hunch will connect in a new way with some emerging obsession.”

So far so good. Getting stuff into the traditional commonplace book means copying it by hand or literally copying and pasting from a source (Xerox, ok?). The labor of copying by hand is typically justified by suggesting that we read the passage closely when we copy, but options have multiplied. We don’t have to copy by hand, and we can include modes and media other than text in commonplace books – and we can still read closely. While Johnson above pays special attention to apps that prevent readers from copying text for their own use (Kindle and iBooks, as of this writing) that is more an annoyance than a deal breaker. (Take a screenshot and wait until the white hats hack that limitation.)

The real issue comes to the surface when we are restricted in circulating our re-combined texts by paywalls or other restrictions.

WHEN TEXT IS free to combine in new, surprising ways, new forms of value are created. Value for consumers searching for information, value for advertisers trying to share their messages with consumers searching for related topics, value for content creators who want an audience. And of course, value to the entity that serves as the middleman between all those different groups. This is in part what Jeff Jarvis has called the “link economy,” but as Jarvis has himself observed, it is not just a matter of links. What is crucial to this system is that text can be easily moved and re-contextualized and analyzed, sometimes by humans and sometimes by machines.

[As a corellary, apps and sites that encourage and enable commonplaces to circulate are valuable – sites such as delicious.com, apps that facilitate sending links via Twitter or even email.]

If I can get past the technical copying bottleneck (and I can), I can get the stuff into my personal private wiki to link and develop as I wish. But those who want to participate publicly as producers, share the links, be part of the link economy – students, scholars, writers, amateurs, kids – are restricted by legal means. I’m not talking about republishing entire chapters or texts; I’m talking selecting chunks of stuff, some in the public domain, some in copyright, and using those chunks under fair use as part of a larger web. Republishing the text in its entirety doesn’t add value: selecting and linking does. Generally, this hasn’t been too much of a problem. Content writers post to the net with the knowledge that stuff will be extracted and linked to. But it’s becoming more of a problem with the DMCA, greed, control, Disney, Murdoch, paywalls. See James Boyle, The Public Domain (Yale UP, but also free to download or read online) for that one.

But here’s a final twist. Turn to Christopher Leary on patchwriting (pdf) in his chapter of Writing Spaces, Vol 1:

Rebecca Moore Howard defines “patchwriting” as a method of com- posing in which writers take the words of other authors and patch them together with few or no changes (233).* Although associated with plagiarism, it is an extremely useful writing strategy with a very long and noble tradition, and I hope that, by the end of this essay, you will be convinced that the opportunities (great writing) far outweigh the risks (accusations of dishonesty).

Christopher’s process is that of the 19th century: hand copying from his own collection of texts.

During one notable phase of this period, I went one-by-one through each of my books, copying out short sentences until I had three or four pages worth of lines. Since the books were from different countries, times, genres, and personalities, I anticipated a sharp contrast in styles. “If I put tens of sentences from different times and eras and places all on the same page,” my thinking went, “I’ll be able to witness these eras bumping up against each other and rubbing elbows.” In much the same way I find it interesting to view, say, automobiles from different times and places all in the same room.

Here’s his initial gain for participating in the linked economy as a producer.

Much to my surprise, the lines that I had copied from the books in my bookshelf started to take a shape resembling the shape of a poem. And out of the original mess of lines, a scenario or situation—if not a story—started to emerge. (If you are getting visions of Ouija boards, I don’t blame you.)

The poem created like this – found poetry – is hardly brilliant, but that’s not the point. It’s a matter of what happens when you take your gains public, offer the patchwork to others for further consideration and possible development.  For Leary, the issue enters when he considers publishing the patches. It comes in the form of authorship rather than copyright – as the texts were in the public domain.

This odd project got stickier when I decided I wanted to submit a few of the “poems” to my school’s literary magazine, Downtown Brooklyn. I was held back by a concern and a strong feeling of guilt about authorship. I had to really wrestle with the question, “Am I the author of these texts?” When I got to the stage where I wanted to submit them as my own and put my name as the author, something felt very wrong and even dastardly. It didn’t strike me as at all appropriate to put my own name as the author because I could not have written them “from scratch,” by any means. The phrasings and language outstrip my capabilities.

It’s not too far of a leap to produsage, which is what’s going on here. Leary’s struggle is easy to get past if we set aside the romantic notion that the individual inspired author imbues the content with value. When copyrights, publishers, and app developers restrict the use of mere snippets of work, they restrict the  consumer’s capability to become a producer, to shift from reader to writer. And I’m beginning to see that the justification of that restriction comes from the same source as the romantic notion of the inspired author: a work is valuable because it comes by special, magic means, not mundane selecting and arranging. Restriction like this is inspiration commodified. We’re going to have to get past this if we’re going to shift to open texts and open education. It’s the move from a personal wiki space to a public one.

Leary articulates the restriction in his ethical concern for claimed authorship – and resolves it in his chapter for Writing Spaces. Charlie Lowe explains it at writingspaces.org. The Writing Spaces text – including Leary’s chapter – is available in print for dollars, and it’s also free to download, use, teach with, learn from, and further circulate online and off.

I like the book. I like the chapter. I’m convinced that “the opportunities … far outweigh the risks….”  And Trunk, I really like using Trunk Notes,

Categories
The University

reminder: you can’t force the brand – in class or out

RideDigital natives, aka Millenials, are defined along marketing lines, an approach which may serve university PR and recruitment (to an extent – as long as you don’t push student expectations beyond classroom realities) but is inappropriate for teaching and learning. Never mind the limited sample that is the basis of characterizing Millennials; and never mind the clear stereotyping of the group. The Chronicle covered all that back in October, 2009. And never mind the mid-20th century Mad Ave mindset behind characterizing a homogenous audience in a time of fragmentation: Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus takes that down a notch. (And see also a marketing perspective on the implications of Shirky’s thesis from Jason Falls.)

Instead, consider this: The Millennial group rates their computer expertise higher than they perform.

Second, consider the argument I’ve heard more than once: “Students don’t need courses that deal with computers or the internet. They’ve grown up with that. They know all that.” The fallacy in that argument should be obvious to those of us who grew up with television.

Third, consider that a university’s marketing perspective often drives administrative decisions on programs and courses, in part directly, and in part through local PR, and by defining The One True Story the university is supposed to tell the world.

Well, it does at my university, anyway.

So, here’s The Read Write Web on So-Called “Digital Natives” Not Media Savvy

Having been born into a world where personal computers were not a revolution, but merely existed alongside air conditioning, microwaves and other appliances, there has been (a perhaps misguided) perception that the young are more digitally in-tune with the ways of the Web than others.

A new study coming out of Northwestern University, discovered that college students have a decided lack of Web savvy, especially when it comes to search engines and the ability to determine the credibility of search results. Apparently, the students favor search engine rankings above all other factors. The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it’s legit.

The article mentioned is from The International Journal of Communication: “Trust Online: Young Adults’ Evaluation of Web Content,” by Hargittai, Fullerton, Menchen-Trevino, and Yates Tomas. Here’s the abstract, and the link:

We find that the process by which users arrive at a site is an important component of how they judge the final destination. In particular, search context, branding and routines, and a reliance on those in one’s networks play important roles in online information-seeking and evaluation. We also discuss that users differ considerably in their skills when it comes to judging online content credibility.

This is the kind of information faculty and administrators need when designing programs and courses – and even the direction of the university – not the marketing orientation. This is the kind of information that drives course design, class and online interaction, knowledge making, and all the other high-minded features we ascribe to our decisions.

Night in PhilidelphiaAnd, finally, a reminder from Falls – not just for Communications and Marketing but for faculty thinking that Social is this Season’s Black (yeah, including me).

The bad news for marketers is that Shirky’s examples quietly illustrate that we can’t force meaningful social activities. They happen organically, if not accidentally. So instead of trying to build branded communities and produce “viral” videos, our best bet is to just be hanging around when something cool happens and be there, not conducting the train.

Faculty can’t force the social, either. Have some more sushi. I’ll be in the corner, reading.