When I look around the web for digital storytelling projects that inspire me, I’m served up an embarrassment of riches — the good folks at the Center for Digital Storytelling are doing humanitarian outreach that is worth recognition; DS 106, the web-based, Connected Classroom (CC) has my brain bubbling on a daily basis; but, the latest episode in my digital storytelling journey has been a MOOC that introduced me to a hyper-effective, but fun model for educators who want to teach digital storytelling. In this course, learners begin their journey as storytellers as they create a personal video documentary. “Powerful Tools for Teaching: Digital Storytelling” is offered by the University of Houston through Coursera. I’ve praised UH’s comprehensive Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling website before, but this was my first opportunity to camp out on the web with the creative force behind the website — Bernard R. Robin, PhD., who with his cohort, Dr. Sara McNeil and 11 graduate students, headed up the MOOC development team. I enrolled in this MOOC mainly because I’ve never taken an online course of this scale before, and I wanted to see how the entire process, from script-to-screen could be achieved in five weeks, from September 8th to October 12th, 2014. It was a bit of a forced march, but all the materials were downloadable, which is serious gold for educators. Throughout the course, I came to admire all of the clear thinking and hard work that went into creating the more than 30 videos that made up the bulk of the curriculum. All of the clips were consistently designed and presented with Dr. Robin’s narration, which offered another level of cohesion to the set. The videos are short, anywhere from 3-5 minutes and are well-organized, bite-sized lessons. It’s truly inspiring to think of all the work that went into scripting and producing these videos for instructional purpose. Diversity was a key part in the development of this course. The graduate student team at UH included students from eight different countries, and the more than 27,000 MOOC enrollees hailed from 184 different countries. Dr. Robin said, “We believe that the diversity of the team played a significant role in the outcome of the MOOC by infusing different social, cultural, ethnic, and educational themes and perspectives into the design and development process.” When I started the MOOC, I came with prior storytelling chops, but wanted to hone my audio editing skills and figure out how to use the latest upgrades of WeVideo. The emphasis in this MOOC was on creating a short personal documentary, so I got involved by making a script, storyboard, and video. My final product, “Snow Globe,” is currently featured on the US National Parks Service Denali NP website). As far as instruction is concerned, I was blown away by the ease with which students from all over the world were instructed to do peer reviews and critique step by step, all along the way. Participation was astounding — I, for one, was flagged for grammar errors by my German and South African counterparts. However, I am cutting myself some slack here knowing that in the over 6,500 posts, this massive discussion accommodated a wealth of English language variations. When I think of the sheer number of people who actually earned a Statement of Accomplishment in the course (624), I start to wonder exactly how long it took to put such a well-oiled educational machine together. Here is what I found out from my correspondence with Dr. Robin: Funding came first. Development began when a multi-year proposal by UH to design, deliver, and evaluate a series of MOOCs intended for professional development was green-lit at the beginning of the fall semester in 2013. The reasons behind it, according to Dr. Robin: “The University of Houston, like many universities in the US and around the world, is interested in exploring basic questions about MOOCs such as: Why would a student want to take a MOOC? Why would a faculty member want to create and teach a MOOC? Why would a university want to offer a MOOC for free? Then, the boots were on the ground. Dr. Robin and Dr. McNeil worked with 11 graduate students on the collaborative design and development of multimedia for the MOOC. The project gained steam. Over time, more students got involved, and it was nearly done by summer 2014, just in time for its September delivery date. I feel the real stories here are those of the UH team members who will without a doubt share their success through education conferences, journal articles, and book chapters. Most of all though, I hope they will share their experiences through personal documentaries of their own. These MOOC makers are an inspiration to all educators for their willingness and thoughtful ability to work together to create such a fine online project and educational experience, and I feel it stands as a model of excellence in the digital storytelling MOOC arena. In so many ways, I was informed, enlightened, and changed by these five weeks studying under the tutelage of Dr. Robin, Dr. McNeill, their team, and my 27,000 student peers. For those of you who, after reading my experience, want to delve into the world of digital storytelling, I have good news. According to the UH team, the “Powerful Tools for Teaching: Digital Storytelling” course will be offered again in 2015, so stay tuned! Photo credit: Dr. Bernard Robin Sandy Brown Jensen is on the Lane Community College Writing Faculty. She is also a Faculty Technology Specialist cultivating student success and faculty professional development through digital storytelling. She is a published poet and essayist. She maintains an active digital storytelling blog at http://mindonfire.us/. She is on Twitter and Instagram @sandramardene Total Share 1 Facebook0Twitter1Google plus0Email0X Reddit0 Linkedin0 Delicious0 Stumbleupon0 One Response Barbara Breaden March 31, 2015 I admire your integrity and openness to innovative approaches and technologies. We f2f teachers resist and resent MOOCs for upturning the educational process. Yet this analysis demonstrates that MOOCs (administered wisely) can stretch student engagement while retaining accountability in student learning. Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.