#BYOD4L Telling Stories: Reflections on facilitating an Open Online Course

Duchamp, The Large Glass, detail with Chocolate Grinder

The dust has long settled on the 2017 iteration of BYOD4L. The direct messages have stopped and the torrent of tweets during the week slowed to a trickle. I don’t think it’s just me that experiences a wee bit of emptiness after the event. There is a palpable silence after an intense period of communication and focus over the five days. The same can be said of an active conference back-channel. Seems to be the right time to revisit it and reflect on its impact. Thanks to Maren Deepwell who recently shared her tips on reflecting which I've attempted to use to structure this piece.

Did we do anything different this year? Well quite a lot of the course stayed the same. Much of it remained as it was originally developed by Sue Beckingham and Chrissi Nerantzi. Not necessarily the intended outcome for creating an Open Course! My co-facilitator for the second year running, Sheila Mac Neil has blogged about her thoughts about this. I certainly agree with the main thrust of her arguments and the challenges of being an open practitioner. For me I think there are two main reasons why things remained the same: ain’t-broke-so-don’t-fix-it approach, and of course, time. I guess it is a testament to the work of the creators early on that we don’t have to start anew each year. The WordPress site and background information in Google Drive about running the chats, archiving the Storify’s, accessing accounts, etc is voluminous. So starting from scratch would be a challenge. However, I do feel that the site shouldn’t be trimmed. Quite the opposite in fact. It should be added to by each iteration – however slight. Our touch has been left, even if it is as Sheila says tinkering round the edges.  This reminds me of Marcel Duchamp’s “The Large Glass” where dust, cracks, fingerprints or anything that came into contact with the piece became part an integral part of it. To a greater or lesser degree the facilitators and plucky band of helpers have become part of this creation, and always will be. The other reason I think we haven’t committed to wide scale change of the course is time. This is extra- curricular activity that feeds into our day jobs. A balancing act has to be done between our work and home life. (I bought/sold/fixed up a home in the lead up to the course) but that’s not to say we wouldn’t or couldn’t do it. It’s just that we haven’t talked about it explicitly. Maybe we should. Perhaps this could be our project for this year? After all, we have an excellent community of creative people that have engaged with the project and extended it. Just look at the evidence!

So what did we that made a difference? Well, we introduced a new theme around personal stories of which we have some great examples here and here and here. We adopted a new method of connecting with our cohort and reflecting on what we’ve learned. Hello Periscope! We tried a few new technologies this year such as Menitmeter, Apple Pencil, Sketches and more. We expanded the net wider to gather helpers for the week. Although I think we could devolve a little more out beyond the core facilitators. On a more personal, work related note the course allowed me a fresher opportunity to connect face to face with staff at University of Liverpool. Communicating with them about the usefulness of Twitter and sharing creative ways we could potentially use Periscope. But also being mindful and cautious about issues related identity, privacy, and data capture.

Facilitating an open online course is no easy undertaking. The core team have met online and face to face over a number of months. Preparing presentations and webinars on the subject, recruiting helpers, updating documents, images and blog posts all takes time and effort. During the 5 days we tweet and archive at night, periscope in the morning and DMs during the day. Others keep on top of the Google Community. All on top of what you are doing in the day job. Against this backdrop, perhaps this is the reason why tinkering around the edges is our adopted approach. We need the familiarity and stability of the course, website and approach to allow us to extend ourselves beyond it and explore new connections and creations from solid foundations.