The End of a Long Hiatus

We’re trying to demonstrate that we can offer a Harvard course that is integrated for multiple audiences, including an unenrolled audience of at-large participants, without diluting the experience of the enrolled students or the brand of Harvard. Well, we’re doing pretty well by our students I think, but so far we’ve been managing it because of a huge amount of (very rewarding) time spent on the course by the teaching staff and a lot of good-natured flexibility from the participants. One casualty of the time I’ve been putting into the course has been this blog. But I recently received some very good advice from an experienced blogger: post often, even if the posts are short–it is good to have a big thoughtful post from time to time but the pressure to do that all that time will result in a long hiatus of the sort I’ve been taking.

The time I’ve been spending on this course has been going into all sorts of things, among them the attempt to support the at-large participant community and encourage some grassroots organization to emerge from within it. Since the idea of at-large participation in the course is supposed to be scalable, we are trying to avoid actually managing the at-large participants ourselves. Instead, we’re hoping to help some leaders emerge from that community to help organize group projects and enrich the class experience with interaction between participants. In spite of the many challenges, it is happening. Here’s a few bullets to give you a quick idea of what’s happening:

* Over 100 people have joined the mailing list for at-large participants.
* At least two at-large participant groups have formed in Second Life consisting of at-large participants who want to help organize the at-large participants. (CyberOne Open Access is the one to join if you want to help!)
* At-Large participants have organized a home page for themselves on the wiki to try to organize their own group projects.
* These projects include a substantial group of students working to post-edit the course videos into better video productions, a wiki exploring the nature of identity, a Second Life installation promoting environmentally friendly practices at Universities, and more.
* At-Large participants have been gathering at office hours and a separately scheduled Sunday meeting time in SL. You can see some transcripts of the SL meetings on the At-Large Participant home page.
* Berkman Island is a lively place in the evenings these days because of the wonderful spirit that the students bring to the island. At the top of this blog is a picture of me and Gene with 3 students. The two at-large participants, Chinadoll and Teresa, and I are wearing dragon t-shirts modeled on the t-shirt my father wears in our trailer video. They created this t-shirt for us. Yvette, the Extension School student who has become quite a clothing designer since she joined SL for this class, is wearing a Harvard t-shirt and produced the little penguin that is following the big penguin (Gene) around. It’s a great place to hang out. Come join us!

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