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How to beat a big scary project

If there’s one thing I learned (and actually got some practice overcoming) last semester, it’s that I have an intense aversion to starting new things. So this research project proposal? Yeah. It’s still kicking my ass. The only way to fix that… IS TO BEGIN.

I have taken into account some of the feedback I’ve been given on my potential topics (and THANK YOU SO MUCH to those of you who did respond), and I think this thing is finally starting to take shape in my head. Here are the ideas I’m tossing around right now:

– Start with the whole “student’s perspective” approach to online learning and edtech
– Introduce ds106:

  • maybe talk about the history and objectives of the course
  • why it’s particularly interesting from an edtech/online learning perspective
  • how it ties into other edtech initiatives at UMW (Domain of One’s Own, UMW blogs, DTLT, MakerSpace, Thinklab, etc.)

– Talk about what I felt worked especially well in ds106:

  • Highly student-driven (I’ll be spending a LOT of time here–it is my favorite thing)
  • Extremely flexible
  • Small class size
  • Free and open participation

– Challenges the class faced:

  • Lack of student feedback on each other’s work (building self-sustaining community)
  • Failure of office hours, maybe (why? Lack of student motivation? Hardware/software issues in my case)
  • Other stuff I’m having trouble articulating – MORE LATER

– Take those elements and tie them to larger trends in edtech and online learning
– Conclude with how I feel said successful elements could be implemented more widely, where I see edtech going in the future

Obviously this is getting less organized and more theoretical as it goes forward, and I’ll probably have to retool my conclusion, but does this seem feasible? I feel like it might actually work, and it’s significantly more solid than the amorphous, looming idea-blob that I’ve been desperately trying to ignore for the past month and a half. I’d love feedback or ideas, especially suggestions for stuff I should read, if you have any.


  1. I’m excited you are making this a project; I stand by my earlier feedback that doing this in a way that really brings insight to the student perspective to online learning would be extremely valuable – nearly everything written is from the perspective of the teachers and institutions.

    One idea might be to enroll in an outside massive open online class to you have something to compare to in what its like to be a student.

    But my bigger idea is a role as as something like a student peer coach in the Spring class of ds106 – you have experienced it as student yourself, but use the next class as a study subject for your research where you try to analyze the experience for this group fo students.

    My idea/plan is to do a weekly video like Martha and I did last semester, but make it a student requirement that that participate in 2 of them, as “guests” on the weekly show to let viewers know how the experience is. So my grand, semi-self serving idea is that you join me for that as a co-host, and I introduce you from the beginning as someone who can give them advice, help, but also someone who si studying the class.

    If the technology access is an issue for this, we can schedule it during the day (I want to do these Tuesdays) so you can use a computer at DTLT.

    But I am thinking as having you as a presence in the community might heighten the involvement.

    The lack of commenting bothered me too, yet I think the worse thing is making it a requirement for grades (you must make 5 comments per week) as it leads to things like “nice work” or I like Mean Girls Too”.

    What I am thinking of is flipping it around, the requirement is to cultivate comments on something you have posted, solicit feedback, and people post in their summaries a review of the most constructive feedback they have received (and maybe given).

    Let me know what you think (usual channels)

    • aetherbunny aetherbunny

      I would LOVE to do that!! Sounds like a ton of fun, and a great way to stay involved with ds106. 😀

      As to incorporating it into my research project, I think the biggest issue would be the “research” bit. It’s an excellent idea though, and combining both my experiences with what has worked well and also been challenging for other students could definitely lend credibility to that aspect of my paper. I’d have to cite blog posts where students talk about that sort of thing, or I guess videos like the recordings you’ve made of your office hours.

      The tech issues I had last semester shouldn’t be an issue anymore, thankfully… the parental units decided that if I really am going to pursue digital media and edtech into grad school, I should have a laptop that can keep up with me. 🙂

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