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ds106 Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Half Chinese

It’s been illuminating scanning the posts the UMW ds106 students are writing in their “advice to future ds06ers” assignment. Most acknowledge the incredible amount of work and time the class took, and then counter with something along the lines “it was so worth it.” I’m not sure what they put in the water on campus in Fredericksburg, but they have a lot of intense, motivated students, the kind in other places teachers might hope to have just a hand full in class.

And here is something else I don’t think Jim and Martha have written about, but Jim as relayed to me- no (or almost no) students have dropped out of the 3 sections. Is that remarkable to anyone else? I know from my years in the community college system, you could just count on having half, one third of the students finish who started. And in the UMW student posts, they suggest that te class is highly competitive to get into, and they advise do not giving up as spot if you get one.

But my advice, or reflections here, are aimed at the rest of the pack, the people who hitched on to ds106 as part of it being an open course. The one thing I ask, plead, yell, scream is:


There is no “sorry” in an open course. The “open” means you enter when you want and exit when you want and in between you do what you want. Are we that conditioned to think that we are letting someone down when we put other priorities above doing coursework for which we get no credit?

Let go of that.

If you keep saying sorry, I am going to blow up your blog (again).

Seriously, the whole point here is you are on your own; no one is watching you, no one is ticking off little check boxes on a form, no one sending a note home to your parents.

cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo shared by Jesper2cv

There is no space for sorry in ds106.

Of course, as one might have expected, the level of participating dropped off from the animated GIF madness of the opening. But as an open course participant, you get to choose when and if you do the assignments. Some people really did none of the majors, and others picked and chose from the Suggested Assignments (well over 100 contributed by participants).

The real outcome should be as much activity as you can muster being creative. It is not something you ought to do every now and then, it is an exercise to be done frequently, if you want to keep your brain fresh.

I had my own motivations for doing all the assignments, but it was not to say I did all the assignments– doing them was their own reward. And the key thing is that hopefully you will try things you have not done before. Of course, maye you can say, “It’s easy for you to do Alan, you quit your job“. I have news, I would have done as much as I did anyhow. I am that driven to storytelling.

And I got a ton out of the things we did. These were all new to me:

  • Creating an animated GIF from movie clips.
  • Creating something original in pure audio form, the radio shows. My favorite was telling ghost stories with Bryan Alexander, where we improvised about 70% of what went out over the radio. I got to really enjoy the creativity of making sound effects, old fashioned foley stuff. The ones I did for the radio show, This Arizonan Life, which likely no one heard, were among my most fun memories. Mostly it was done in one take without any rehearsal. And just the smaller bits of picking a song set to play on ds106 radio, or doing a live DJ thing with commentary, now that is pure creative energy juice. There is little more electric than doing something LIVE.
  • The web re-writing assignment with Firebug. Just the tool itself has paid off in my other work, but that was one of the most original and likely skill stretches for many of us.
  • Doing live audio and video broadcasts, getting the handle on all the sound channel hijinks to mix things.
  • Doing mashups/remixes. I never did a real one before! While I admire and enjoy the ones I see online, I had never done any cutting/mixing/re-editing. And I did two for sure- the Warner Brother/Dirty harry mashup and mix of three versions of the I am Legend Story movies. I got a real feel for using MPEGStream Clip and is my tool of choice now for parsing segments.

My main advice is to stay in the game. Get in the twitter stream. But if you are in it for getting a lot of feedback, you might be left wanting. You cannot count on people always commenting on your stuff (of course, there is the turn around question to ponder). Do it for yourself.

The UMW students, being closer to the action and each other, are more immersed in the course than you are. In some ways, this is different from most MOOCs- where they aim to give the same experience to everyone. Maybe it is more appropriate that the registered students are doing more, reading more. I really liked having one RSS feed for everyone’s work, there are times and some people who I am not exactly sure if they were a registered student or not.

That said, I wish there was perhaps more connected group discussion of say media content, or readings, or even some way to better harness the connected wisdom and discoveries that end up sprinkled around hundreds of blogs. Not necessarily a bunch of theory, but some more on the concepts of making stories.

The real bag of gold over the last months, has been the unexpected, unplanned, and organically growth of ds106 radio. For whatever happens or does not happen, it was the thing that really rockets this course apart. Yes, it was not strictly aligned with the class, and a lot of people only participated in the radio. But the explosion of creativity in the single media form was fabulous to be part of. It truly added that element of NOW of “eventness” to the class in a way that slide talking webinar platforms dont. And it is ON all the time.

No wait, there is more gold. A lot more.

It was in expanding my connection of online peeps that I value most; people I would not have crossed paths with were it not for this class. I’m talking about noiseprofessor and scottlo and DR Garcia and juilia forsyth and @timmmmmmmmmmmyboy (I never spell it right) and @arieliondotcom who chimed in on twitter and a bunch more I am going to insult by not listing. That is something that goes way beyond a course.

Okay, the final test here is– what is the word never to use in regard to being an open course participant in ds106?

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by butupa

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by hugovk

cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by °Florian

Got it? Any questions?

Now keep making art, damnit!

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. No room for sorry? Blowing up blogs? Sounds like the dog needs to go out…

    Seriously, two of the other MOOCs I was in (CCK08 and EC&I831) were very much like this, except that I was an enrolled student, on the “inside”. It was way fun being on the “outside” but inspired enough to do the assignments.

    Except for one. I’d like to sincerely apologize for that omission… 😉

  2. Now when do we do this again? You and Lisa both were such major forces in this class that I just have to say you rock! This course just further reinforced just how amazing my network is, and just how cool it is to experiment with this stuff out in the open. And unlike you and Lisa, I have a lot of catching up on assignments to do, I was a bit of a slacker if I look at my assignments tally—but at the same time I played so much on these new platforms of radio and live TV that I will actually not say I am sorry, but rather when do we do this again 😉

    And what’s more, I think a lot more attention could be paid to theory, narrative archetypes, etc, but I get to caught up in the push to create, and that does have its toll and casualties. Next time I’ll see if we can’t slow it down a bit, but no promises!

  3. Great post Alan. I too feel that it brought me closer to so many people and introduced me to a breed of weirdness with Noiseprofessor and Timmyboy for sure. Among others.

    I feel a part of this little family. Maybe not the ruffian 20 year old staying up all night doing karaoke, but the cool older uncle who pops in now and then.

    Hats off to everyone involved. The course may be over, but I am sure we will all be here doing our thing for years to come.

  4. “I would have done as much as I did anyhow. I am that driven to storytelling.” It’s true – I was just commenting to someone how grateful I am to you (and I guess to Jim in his way too) for re-introducing me to the profound role of storytelling both to teaching & learning and to life in general too. You’d think, as a former English major, I would have “gotten” this before, but it is one of the many obvious truths I’ve been too often blind to.

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