Phillip Smith

Learning lab update: invitations to go out tomorrow. @jjg & @mohamed confirmed to lecture.

Yes, you heard that right: I was able to corner both user-experience pioneer Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path and Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of Online for Al Jazeera English, at the Civic Media conference last week, and both have agreed to deliver a lecture for the first Knight-Mozilla learning lab.

Who’s working hard for you? :)

Okay, now that I’ve got your attention, here’s a quick update on our progress toward concluding the challenge phase of the program, and moving into the learning lab phase:

  • Roughly 300 submissions were received during the challenge. It was a bit more than we were expecting. The quality of many of the submissions was quite high. Generally speaking, we wanted to ensure that each submission was reviewed thoroughly, and that each entry was seen by two pairs of eyes.

  • We expanded the review team and extended the review period by several days to ensure that each reviewer had enough time to read and comment on each entry. (Not a small amount of work, I assure you.)

  • That work is now complete. Ben and Jacob are going to send out invitations to the learning lab this week. I’m hoping the invitations go out tomorrow morning – fingers crossed! – but there are some remaining technical hurdles to get past before they can go out.

  • If you don’t receive an invitation tomorrow – fear not – you’ll be automatically added to a waiting list. We’ll be inviting people from the waiting list as we hear back from the first group of invitees. We’re aiming to have the process completed by Friday, July 1st.

I’ll post further updates on the invitation process and progress here throughout week.

Now, on to the learning lab itself. You may be asking: What should I expect if I’m a learning lab participant? Well, here’s a preview.

  • Just a reminder, the Knight-Mozilla learning lab will run from July 11th - August 5th, 2011. Those that receive an invitation will be expected to commit at least 10 hours a week to the lab.

  • The lab will focus on four key themes, one each week, which will be roughly: How to work open: the secret sauce of Mozilla’s software and community; How to take an idea from concept to product; Challenges that newsrooms and news users face today; and News is evolving: What journalism might look like tomorrow.

  • To explore those themes, each week will include two mandatory lectures – Monday and Wednesday at roughly 8AM Pacific Time, 11AM Eastern Time, 4PM British Standard Time, and 5PM Central European Summer Time – and one optional lecture the same time on Friday. Each lecture will be approximately 30 minutes, with 30 minutes for Q&A.

  • The optional lectures will be just as amazing as the mandatory lectures, but will focus a bit more on practical skills and understanding vs. the big picture of the mandatory lectures. For example, if you arrive at the lab as a programmer with lots of product development experience, but little or no understanding of what a journalist actually does, we’ll have a lecture for you. And vice-versa: if you arrive as a tech-savvy journalist but with little experience building software, we’ll have a lecture for you too.

  • Each week participants will be asked to complete an assignment that builds on the information from the lectures. Participants will submit assignments by publishing it on their own blog. So, if you don’t have one yet, get moving. ;)

  • Last but not least will be your lab project. The lab project is the ‘big idea’ that you’re working on – perhaps your challenge submission; perhaps something new – throughout the four week lab. You’ll present your personal project for review at the conclusion of the lab.

The lab will be delivered entirely online. We’ll be using the Peer-to-Peer University platform for course material, assignments, and discussions. The lectures will be delivered synchronously (and attendance will be taken!) using the rather awesome Big Blue Button platform.

Your ship’s crew for the lab will be Alex and yours truly, and four excellent course shepherds that I’ll be introducing over the coming days.

I’ll be posting updates as we confirm the remaining lecture spots, and as we make progress with getting the invitations out. Stay tuned and let me know if you have any questions.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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