Time Is On Our Side

With a month left before the course starts, time is on my mind.

In my doctoral program we read Einstein’s DreamsIt is a good read. I recommend it. It is a fictional account of Einstein as a young man working on his theory of relativity. The book is a series of descriptions of the many possible worlds where time is not linear. For instance, time is circular in one story (imagine doing the same things over and over again). In another, time moves slower the higher up you are, as shown in the video below. It expanded the way I thought about time. Time was no longer something just to be managed, but something to be appreciated for all that it offered and how it influences us.

Fortunately, the decisions related to time and this course are not nearly so heady, but they are perhaps equally varied.

Why now? As part of VCU’s goal to continue to generate new knowledge that improves the health and well-being of our community, the Office of Community-Engaged Research in VCU’s Division of Community Engagement and the CTSA-funded Center for Clinical and Translational Research have offered many opportunities to build the knowledge and skills of our faculty, students and community parters to engage in high-impact, high-quality community-engaged research (CEnR). These have included a yearly CEnR Institute (the upcoming one is May 11-15, 2015), a faculty learning community on excellence in CEnR, lunch and learns, guidance documents and a CEnR Interest Group (check out our websites for more information, and more examples of what we have been doing). This course builds off of those efforts by expanding who can participate and using an approach that parallels the collaboration and learning that occurs in CEnR: connected learning.

Once we decided that now is a good time to offer Collaborative Curiosity, we have had to consider the following time-related issues.

The first decision was about which semester to offer the course. We decided to offer it in the summer mainly in response to a need to provide more summer courses for our doctoral students. That decision was rather easy.

Our next decision was when to offer the course during the summer. We opted for the start of the summer semester with the hope that students registered for course credit would find it appealing to have a bit of a break before the start of the fall semester rather than after the end of the spring one. We also thought it would be more convenient for other participants because, for most people in the U.S., summer starts in June (mid-June for those of us with children in school), not May. We wanted to avoid having the course fall right in the middle of summer plans.

Then we had to decide if the course should spread over 8 or 12 weeks. In talking with a few doctoral students, the consensus was 8 weeks. They thought 8 weeks would give them time to have a bit of a break before the fall semester. They also thought that it will help keep people deeply engaged since it is such a short time period.

Another time decision was the issue of synchronous vs asynchronous activities. The only synchronous activities will be the live interviews and twitter journal clubs (check out #TJC15), during which people can participate by tweeting thoughts and questions. The interviews will be saved for later viewing both by course participants and as a resource after the course, and we plan to Storify the twitter journal clubs (for an example).

Doctoral students can register for course credit. One question often asked is how much time to expect to spend on course work. For face-to-face doctoral courses, a general guide is something like 3 to 5 hours of work per hour of class time. Since we will not have a set class time, this rule doesn’t really apply. Laura Gogia (@GoogleGuacamole) shared a great perspective: this course should be so interesting that people wake up at 3 a.m. to tweet something and find that others are doing the same.

In this last month before the class begins we are working to finalize the syllabus and spread the word. You can help us do both by checking out the course webpage and providing feedback through our blogs and Twitter using #CuriousCoLab.

Still, with only a month left, this is the song going through my head:


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