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The Water106 Model for Issues-based Education

I've been slacking on the blogging lately, mainly because I've been giving a lot of time to a project called Water106. Water106 is MOOC-like in a sense, but like the Feminist and Technology DOCC and UMW's ds106 it approaches the massive class from a different angle, one which I've referred to in the past as MANIC (a horrible acronym since retired). In a post from a while back, I described the difference this way:

"In other words, there are two futures we can move towards. One is the massively central brand-name future Snyder describes. The other is to supercharge our existing classes not by destroying them, but by breaking down the walls around them, allowing them to reap the benefits of Massive Networking. In this world, the relationship of the students to the local face-to-face class stays, but it is supplemented and enlarged by the shared multi-institutional network it engages with."

Water106 is an attempt to make good on the promise of that alternate vision. Building on lessons learned through studying issues of MOOC reuse and through watching the evolution of ds106, Water106 jettisons many of the trappings of the modern Coursera/Udacity-style MOOC. Instead of forums and lock-step scheduling, Water106 is designed around activities and materials created with local classroom-based repurposing in mind. Rather than a cohort of a single class, Water106 is imagined as a community cutting across many classes and semesters at many institutions. The core idea of Water106 is that many different classes using water issues as a topic or example in their discipline can intersect in a space that is not a class, but can make the class experience richer.

If there’s one difficulty I have with Water106, it’s seeing it as the answer to a single question. In fact, I believe projects like the Feminist DOCC, ds106, and others engage with a wide variety of pressing issues. But a pass at how Water106 seeks to answer one of those questions – how networked learning experiences can assist us in issues-based education – is described in the document below.

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