Non-Linear Uncourses – Time for Linked Ed?

Make of this what you will… the class is in session, so here’s your weekend reading:

Some ramblings about how blog posts (at least, the ones that get “reused” in an online, better-link-to-that sense) sit in some sort of link context or link neighbourhood, where the links are directed, either going from the post (links out to other resources) and links back in to the post (from tweets, trackbacks, bookmarks etc): Trackbacks, Tweetbacks and the Conversation Graph, Part I.

Some amplification by Patrick Murray-John, who’s not scared by databases and tending-to-big data in the way I am: Linkage Graphs in UMW Blogs. The demo shows the results of link-mining/trackback graphing between some of the UMW blogs. The ability of UMW blogs to republish content through syndication in different parts of the URI-space that UMW blogs covers leads to some interesting observations. Like this one:

[I]n chasing through what links to conversations, it throws in the idea that the same conversation could split into different directions from exactly the same content, but presented in different contexts. This would also show up in tracking retweets.

(UMW blogs, if you don’t know it, is, well, what can I say: tending to awesome? Pushing at the frontiers of blogs in higher-ed? Here are some of the ways users are encouraged to use UMW blogs – though of course they can make up their own ways too: Ten ways to use UMW Blogs. For some techie background, check out Syndicatin’ Welfare: UMW Blogs’ Syndication Framework on the Cheap.)

My own dabblings with the trackback graph in the Digital Worlds uncourse blog suggests that that multiple possible forward paths through blogged uncourse content are constructed by the process of linking back to earlier content from later produced content (got that?) as well as links back to the future from earlier posted content, e.g. by people linking to “future” posts from the comments on older posts (think about it…)

So what? So I have no idea… but building context and support through links to other content is one way of reusing that content (or at least, pulling it into a new context and making it (re)usable in that new context).

So when George Siemens notes:

I haven’t come across research to date that discusses how open educational resources are being used. Yes, we get information like “MIT’s OCW gets X number of million hits per month”.

and then goes on to ask: “I’m interested in whether or not universities are using open resources produced by other universities.” I guess my answer is – if I simply link to a relevant OER from an appropriate context, then I’ve provided the opportunity for that resource to be reused?

So links make for easy reuse, at least in a blogged uncourse sense… which means URIs (URLs, whatever…;-) are important… which brings the idea of Linked Data into play… Why? Here’s one example: Telling (non-linear) stories (which also appears here: Building coherence at

As to why you should go and read that post now? It’s illustrated by this:

BBC non-linear story telling

Now go do your homework and prepare to make some changes when you get back in to work next week…

The notion of linear courses has just left the building…

… again…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

7 thoughts on “Non-Linear Uncourses – Time for Linked Ed?”

  1. I’ve been saying this for years. Some blog posts (not all) are learning objects. Hooray for microchunking!

  2. In a link to this post from OLDaily ( ) Stephen Downes commented: “Time is where the linear meets the non-linear.”

    Yes – I agree; what I meant to say was that there are many different linear paths through the networked content; that the content is often created in a ‘linear mode’ – that is, I have read through a series of posts, comments etc, in some sort order then add my own; that the time order in which content is created is not necessarily the order in which it will be read (for example, suppose post A and B were written yesterday, independently of and in ignorance of each other; I post a comment C to A that furthers the argument A and then links and leads into B which takes the argument yet further; the linear reading order is ACB; the content creation order could have been ABC or BAC).

    To a certain extent, there is an element of luck involved in the path a reader takes as they click through a linked network of resources. So does that mean an uncourse might be an aleatoric course? Maybe…?!

  3. Aleatoric course? Interesting idea. So subscribing to almost any blog is an aleatoric course?

  4. Actually, I fear databases as much as the next person. Maybe more, since they seem to delight in trying to make me cry (as I’m doing right now, discovering that my database just got screwed up!)

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