I savored every moment of the first ALTFest at Virginia Commonwealth University this week. From the first afternoon’s “unconference” ALTCamp to the final showcase lunch, opportunities for interaction, experimentation and engagement abounded. Indeed after Mimi Ito’s wonderfully interactive keynote there were so many synchronous sessions and activities; my only complaint is that I couldn’t take advantage of all of them!
The session I most regret not being able to clone myself for was the hackjam devoted to interrogating and reimagining “the syllabus.” What is a syllabus anyway? A descriptive overview? A schedule? A contract? All of the above? So, a big shout out to Jon Becker for his post about the highlights of the hackjam that includes so many cool examples of what a syllabus might be and might inspire…. I don’t even know where to start poaching as I start developing the syllabus for the newly networked course on Soviet culture I’ll be teaching in the fall.
I also appreciated Jon’s admission that the hackfest generated several good ideas and lots of inspiration, but did not get around to creating something new. This makes me feel better about not getting to the hands-on portion of the workshop I led on networking hybrid humanities courses. I hope there were enough nuggets and interaction in what we did cover to help people move forward with the concept of “making” rather than “taking” courses, and I really hope you all will be in touch if you have any suggestions for how I can continue to develop the ecology of my courses.
Pivoting from the foundation laid at the hackfest for re-imagining a syllabus, I would like to invite people to talk more about how we might hack “content” — another over-loaded and under-appreciated concept that could benefit from re-examination. In the “make a course” model, students create content and elaborate the course in multi-media research projects. What other possibilities appear if we shift away from thinking about “delivery” and “coverage” of content to creation and demonstration of it?