Okay my first 48 hours with Google as LMS were not that bad. Jn fact in terms of rolling out a new LMS the process moved seamlessly. It was our official blackboard account that flipped me over 17 times. Some odd script in the ConnSCU system resets and locks my class every time.
So what have I learned in my first 48 hours in buidling my clas (note this is a public copy, my actual class is private in order to comply with a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo) :
My class is a hybrid model. I am glad. I set the first two sessions just to ensure everyone is able to create a Google ID (using gmail or an existing email), create a Blogger account (with G+ comments enabled),register to Google+, and be invited to our Google Groups.
I did two things to make this happen. I embedded a Google form right on my course homepage. The first assignment was to sign up. I also modeled creating an ID and signing up for Blogger. I then have spent some time today making screencast tutorials (interrupted by a drive to DC and three children who need to learn to sleep around my work schedule).
Signing up students has provided some small challenges. In my class only a sprinkling of students had previous experience teaching and learning in online spaces. That is also part of my motivation of using Google Apps for a Hybrid LMS. As teachers they will not have access to expensive LMS tools. They will be able to use Google Apps.
I am using two discussion models, both Google Groups and Google+ Community. I did this for two reasons. First I do not believe, as I have written about before, that stackable comments are the best tool for academic discourses. I need my pre-service teachers to practice methods for text based discussion. I want them to engage in discussions that drive them deep into texts. The ephemeral nature of social media just does not offer the right affordances.
Yet I want to create a sense of community. I want students sharing articles and videos and original writing. Thus Google+ community. I have loved the format. Students are currently posting introductions and will soon be sharing blog posts and resources.
I posted a syllabus and I included detailed timelines of all assignments in each module. I was tempted to try and design the class completely module based with students being able to move through the course at their own pace. Yet I was afraid I would lose the critical mass necessary for effective online academic discourse.
The class is also a credit bearing semester long endeavor. If I teach this as a MOOC in the future (with the option of enrolling for credit) I will move to a more open module approach.
In the end of 48 hours, Eddie Murphy is delivered back to prison. Yet in my first 48 hours of Google as a free LMS I am finding it quite liberating.