About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Public vs. private learning

I currently am setting up my courses (three different ones) for next semester. As I do so, I need to determine the best tools for my students. One issue that has come up repeatedly each semester is how to maintain privacy laws (Family Education Privacy Act), but allow access to learning in a public manner.

FERPA laws require that I have tools that students are either guaranteed anonymity when they use the tool (school based secure tools) or are given the choice of how much information they reveal about themselves, including the option of not participating in a "public" forum. This leads to a number of restrictions when deciding on which tools to use and how to use them.

Last semester I used Ning. In many ways, this is a great tool for public discussions. Even the private emails and the use of the approval function for video uploads allowed for a certain amount of privacy. However, I still did not trust Ning's privacy controls enough to upload grades or receive individual assignments. As a result, this semester I decided to use Blackboard's grading and assignment features. In designing the new course, however, I remembered why I don't like Blackboard. The assignment and grade features are very time consuming and cumbersome to set up. As I've mentioned before, I miss the ease of Prometheus, which was bought by WebCT, but whose features seemed to be discarded.

I have yet to find an easy syllabus program that fit the ease of Prometheus's. I could set up a course in a day, using the Prometheus template. I know it will take about 2-3 days per course to set up the courses on Blackboard. In addition, I want to still use the Ning and a Wiki for the interschool projects I am designing for two of the three courses I'm teaching.

All of these have made be wonder about the importance of having both public and private learning spaces. I use Private learning spaces to help motivate my students to take chances, fail, and learn from their mistakes. I use public learning spaces to help students feel a sense of responsibility for their own and others learning, help create synergy in learning, and create a sense of community in learning (rather than learning being something that is done in isolation).

So what are the differences in private and public learning spaces? How can we work with administrators to create both? How do we balance security issues with sharing of knowledge and community building?


Cathy Garland said...

You may want to take a look at Edvance360 (formerly Scholar360) LMS-SN. It combines all the course tools of a Course Management System, the relational-learning tools of a Learning Management System, and the Web 2.0/social networking tools needed to facilitate collaboration. From what you have written, it may be exactly what you need.

V Yonkers said...

Thanks. I'll look into it. Have you ever used it? Are there any "bugs" in it?