“Organized Life” MOOC

Do you know what a MOOC is? (Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with the cow in the Old McDonald video I posted a few weeks ago.)  MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses, which are becoming popular as a way for people to connect, learn and share for free using the power of the Internet.  This week for my CEP 811 class, I was challenged to design my own MOOC using best practices in learning theory.
After browsing the MOOCs available at P2PU and after receiving a new issue of “Real Simple” magazine in the mail this week, I was inspired to create a MOOC called “Organized Life”.  In this course, participants will simplify their lives by reducing clutter and creating new organization habits while being motivated by connecting virtually with a community of people working toward the same goals.
This course will appeal to people who find themselves overwhelmed with the complexity and busyness of life, and the clutter that we all accumulate in our homes, on our computers, and in our brains.  Readers of magazines like Real Simple and blogs like The Art of Simple, who are already interested in reading about how to become more organized and live more simply, will be benefit from the encouragement and accountability to take action provided by the community of peers taking the course.  I think just about everyone has an area or two of life that they’d like to simplify, so this course would appeal to a wide variety of people – from teachers, to stay-at-home moms, to high-powered career people!  Anyone who wants to reduce clutter and stress by creating new, sustainable systems will want to sign up for this MOOC.
Objectives & Outcomes of the “Organized Life” MOOC

Used under creative commons license from https://www.flickr.com/photos/lovemaegan/6001170262/


At the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  1. purposefully purge clutter from an area in their home or office,
  2. create organizational systems in an area of their home or office,
  3. create a simpler organizational system for information using an electronic tool,
  4. create a new routine to minimize stress and clutter, and
  5. motivate themselves and others to continue using these strategies.
The emphasis of this course is not on a one-time application of the information, but on creating and sustaining new systems.  This is important because without the sustainability, the clutter will quickly return and the time spent on the course is fruitless.
Through this course, learners will create:
  1. a manifesto, as a guiding life principle for organization
  2. a blog post or series of Tweets (with the hashtag #organizedlife) a picture of their chosen home or office area before they begin, a description or picture of the clutter they eliminated, and what the area looked like after cutting out the clutter.
  3. a Pinterest board that collects new ideas for organizing their chosen area.
  4. an annotated picture or video (Google Hangout On Air) showing their area after they applied their new organizational system, and a reflection on why the new system is better.
  5. a screencast (or blog post) explaining how to use an electronic tool to organize information
  6. a video illustrating (or blog post detailing) the new routine they created and implemented
  7. a reflection (blog post) on the difficulties of maintaining their new organization system, and what they’ve done to tweak it to make it more sustainable.
Learning Theories
Any good learning experience will take into account solid learning theories, and this MOOC is no exception.
Because a MOOC is geared toward adult learners who are not part of a credential-earning program, the course needs to be designed with andragogy in mind.  Adult learners will come to the course with a variety of prior experiences, abilities, and needs.  This course is designed to give learners maximal choice in how and what they complete, so that their individual needs are met.  The participants are asked to set their own goals at the beginning of the course and reflect on how well they reached them at the end, and learners will be able to see each others’ work, thus allowing them to benefit from the wisdom of others as they strive to meet their own goals.  They will work toward tangible results of organizing their physical space, and what they learn will have immediate practical impact on their day-to-day life.
Additionally, each week’s instruction is oriented around the spiraling aspect of experiential learning theory, in which students will learn new information from a video, text, or visual source, do or create something with what they’ve learned, and reflect critically on what they’ve learned and created.  Each week builds off the prior week, so that students are revisiting their work and others’ work from previous weeks.  The learning is largely self-initiated, with the MOOC serving as a facilitator that provides some expert resources, structure, and an opportunity to connect with other learners.
TPCK is another theory that informs this MOOC’s design, as technology is used as a vehicle to deliver and support the content of how to organize your life in a way that uses good pedagogy for adult learners (andragogy and experiential learning).  The course is not designed to push any particular technology to be used in a specific way, but rather technology is introduced as a powerful tool to find and share information.  Technology is also presented as a tool to further organize your life, with attention also being paid to how technology can complicate day-to-day tasks and contribute to a feeling of disorganization.
All of these theories and TPCK are used to inform a solid instructional design of the MOOC.  The course starts with a presenting need of many adults: an overwhelming feeling of disorganization.  The course is designed around the real-world experience of organizing an area of the students’ life that feels out of control.  Students will have the opportunity to master instructional objectives by performing skills, identifying goals, and applying what they’ve learned in new ways.  The course is designed around a set of essential skills needed to create and sustain organization.  Students will get to share their work with a real-world audience through blogs and Twitter, and evaluate their own work and others’ work in those same contexts, as they complete the assigned lessons that provide structure to their learning.
Peer Support
Peer support is a vital part of the success of learners in this MOOC.  Many people try to get organized, only to get discouraged because no one else sees the result of their hard work, or they are not surrounded by like-minded people who can encourage them to try again when they fail to sustain the changes they make.  Throughout this course, learners will have opportunities to interact by posting comments (or responding to tweets) to encourage and provide ideas for other course participants as they begin and continue the journey to get and stay organized. Additionally, learners will have the opportunity to participate in a Google Hangout to show and explain to other course participants what they organized and how it is an improvement on their old systems. By using Twitter or existing blogs, participants will also be able to engage their real-life networks, to add additional support and to potentially attract others to participate in the course in the future.
NOTE: This MOOC is currently only in the outline phase, but if it is ever fully created and published, I will update this post with a link to the MOOC site.  

Course Outline

Week 1: A Manifesto for Organized Living

In week 1, students will be inspired to launch into this journey of organizing and simplifying their lives.  They will develop clear goals they hope to achieve through this course, begin to make some small changes in one area, and connect with other learners in the course.  Finding this inspiration and connection right away is important in a MOOC, because without it, students will not begin the course or sustain involvement in it.
Students will read & watch the following items to gain motivation and context for organizing their lives:
Reflect: My Manifesto
Students will read the Simple Living Manifesto and draft their own manifesto, based on their personal goals for this 6 week course.  They will share their manifestos on their blog.
Do: DeClutter
Students will pick 1 area of their home or office (closet, bedroom, fridge, desk, pantry, kids’ toy room, laundry room, etc.) to focus on for the first half of the course.  They will take a picture of that area before they begin organizing, spend some time eliminating unnecessary items from that area, and then take a picture of the area after.  They will be encouraged to donate items, sell items, or throw them away.  When they finish, they will take a picture of the area.  This picture is not to be a “finished product”, and may not even be an improvement on the original photo, but it will be an image that the learner and the the MOOC community can look at to generate ideas for further improvements.

Week 2: Dream Big

In week 2, students will reflect on what is not working in their chosen area.  They will then collect ideas from the wealth of resources on the internet to improve their chosen area.  The idea is to dream big and then eventually narrow them down to do-able changes.
Learn & DoPinterest Dreamin’
Students will collect ideas for how others have organized a similar area of their home or office.  They will pin these items on a Pinterest board and share the board with their classmates. The captions for the pinned images should reflect on what specifically is inspiring or how it could be adapted for their own use.  When they finish, they will write a blog post sharing what is not working in their chosen area, describing their favorite Pinned finds from their research, and making a plan for what they need to buy, repurpose, or remove in order to substantially improve the selected area.
Some potential starting points for this project include:
Reflect: Peer Feedback #1
Learners will comment on the posts of at least 1 other participant, encouraging them and/or giving an idea what they could implement to improve their organizational flow.

Week 3: Just Do It!

Students will execute the changes they planned in week 2.  There is no official “learning” planned for this week, in order to allow students to devote time to shopping and re-organizing and sharing with classmates via Google Hangouts.
Do: Just Do It!
Students will organize their chosen area, following the plans they designed in the previous week.  When they finish, they will take pictures and annotate the changes they made with a tool like SnagIt and share them on their blog.
Reflect: Peer Feedback #2
Learners will arrange a Google Hangout with 1-2 other classmates, showing them the newly organized area.  They will encourage each other and provide accountability for finishing this big task!

Week 4: Cleaning Up Digital Dirt

The course now shifts away from organization of physical space to organization of digital and mental space.  These changes are needed to sustain changes in physical space.  (For example, if you have a plan for organizing important files digitially, you won’t need to keep physical copies sitting on your desk and can reduce clutter.  If you have a cluttered mind, you might mindlessly set items down in places they don’t belong and in places you cannot remember, increasing physical clutter.)
  • Students will watch “The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, a TED talk by David Allen, to help them understand the need to create productivity habits and systems.
  • They will then explore 2-3 tech productivity tools like Evernote, Google Calendar, Remember the Milk, Dropbox, and/or Emeals.
Do: How To Organize Digitally
Students will pick a tool they’re familiar with and an audience for whom the tool could be especially useful.  They will make a screencast (using a tool like Screencastify) to capture their screen as they narrate a 5-7 minute video explaining how the tool can be used by the selected audience for the selected purpose.
They can read my blog post about Evernote as an example.
Students will write a blog post explaining how this tool is useful to them and how it could be useful to others in their chosen audience.  They will explain how the tool can aid in reducing both physical and mental clutter and enabling users to stay organized.  They will embed their screencast in this blog post.

Week 5: Routines & Systems

Routine sometimes has a negative connotation.  It sounds boring, outdated, and stuck.  But developing a new routine can make new habits (like staying organized!) stick.  In this week, students will reflect on an area of their life that contributes unnecessary clutter and disorganization and then create & implement an “addictive” plan to change that.
Students will read/watch:
Students will reflect on the principles of addictive behavior and an area of their life that could use a “kick” of change (cleaning schedule, morning routines, putting clothes away, paying bills, etc.).  They will write a short blog post reflecting on their current routine and draft a way to change it to create a more positive and addicting routine.
Students will execute their new system for at least 3 days!

 Week 6: Reflection

In the final week of the course, students will reflect on the changes they made in this course and share their take-aways from the course.
Students will write a blog post summarizing the organizational changes they made in (a) their physical space, (b) their electronic space, and (c) their routines.  They will share how having a manifesto, making these changes, and connecting with others has positively impacted areas like their attitude, quality of life, and efficiency over the past 6 weeks.  They will be asked to elaborate on any areas that are still challenging for them, and then to brainstorm ways to change those routines and systems to make them more sustainable.

Works Cited

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