I work full time in a traditional brick university... but I'm also lucky enough to get to work part-time for the Open University, both as an Associate Lecturer and as a Moderator on a couple of their short courses. One of the latter is T189 - Digital Photography: Creating and sharing better images. Now, for this fully online course, students work for 10 weeks creating and sharing their images using a Flickr-esque OU system called 'OpenStudio'. They get used to posting images, commenting on them and for those that engage with the course, there's a real sense of community - even though the students never actually meet in person. What there also is, every single presentation of the course, is the spontaneous student-created groups on Flickr (just do a quick search on Flickr for T189 Groups and you'll find our students soon enough!). And what I love more than anything is that long after the course has finished, they're still there. Taking their photographs. Sharing their brilliant images. Constructively discussing and commenting. Setting each other challenges to develop their skills and maintain their interest. It really is just the most amazing thing to see and I love that years after the course - and just a 10 week course at that - the students are still there. Still learning. Still supporting. Still creating. For me, it exemplifies what learning can and should be. The seed was planted and given just the right amount of nourishment to grow into the future.
Anyway, take a look at this. These brilliant former T189 students have gone and set up their first online exhibition:
"After taking part in the Open University Course: "T189 Digital Photography: creating and sharing better images" course first run in May 2007 a number of the students have continued to share images through a Flickr group.
In late 2009 we realised that between us we had started to build up a collection of photographs that firstly we are quite proud of and secondly that we'd like to share with a wider audience.
Thus we conceived the idea of a joint exhibition of our work. In the spirit of the course, which is run on-line, the we decided that the exhibition should also take the form of a website and this is it. Thank you for taking the time to visit. We hope you enjoy it."
Isn't that just the most superb thing? This is what happens when learning extends beyond targets, quotas, learning outcomes and assessment. Deep, long lasting engagement. I feel extremely fortunate to have a connection with such an amazing group of students. All power to them!