Sunday, 18 September 2011

My virtual ears are already ringing...

I reviewed all the good advice provided by our newsletter, and posted by other MOOCrs and I got partway. But then my monitoring devices started to twang; my Diigo group posted some interesting stuff, the RSS feed pages in the blog started displaying some thought-provoking statements, my Google search and Youtube search started yielding some videos I put aside to watch when I had time. I'm already finding that I'm getting scattered.

Hopefully today I can do what George suggested:  FOCUS!

One path to explore:  conversations around George's posting Who are MOOCs for? Confused personal thoughts
(backchannel thoughts - so, now should I comment on George's blog post? Should I comment on the comments on George's blog post? Should I follow the links in some of the comments and comment on their blog posts/comments? I'm not used to commenting on other people's posts - do I link back to my blogpost about their blog posts? Seems very iterative (or dog-chasing-tail) rather than enlightening.)
George poses the question in his blog title, changes it in his first sentence and then talks around it (seems to me). "Who are MOOCs for"(title) seemed self-evident to me. I always thought MOOCs were for Stephen and George so they could test their theories around connectivism and connected learning. I joined previous MOOCs because I saw them as a group exploration of some interesting ideas of how teaching could be envigorated and learning could be collaborative and potentially exciting and lifelong.
"who participates in open online courses.." (question) to me changes the focus of what I thought George was asking. He goes on to talk about people from other countries or people who don't have the same technological and other supports as many of us do. So his hope is that MOOCs can benefit those with fewer "privileges" or "supports".
I also think we need to think about participants in non-geographic or non-economic ways. Perhaps we should look at what level of knowledge people enter with and what they leave with. If you are teaching a course that has specific outcomes that require that a certain body of knowledge and conceptual understanding have to be gained by participants before they can move on to other related topics or jobs or whatever then the MOOC model seems too slow, too unwieldy, too potentially divisive or confusing for participants.
Even for motivated, mostly highly educated participants, the first week of a MOOC is spent in orientation. And it would be interesting to have had a chance to do exit interviews with people who drop out so we could discover whether the tasks of knowledge management within this model become too onerous for some.
I read some of the related blog posts about George's question. AK, who seems like a highly educated and thoughtful fellow, Where does a MOOC begin life?  responded with some good questions about how you can develop a course this extensive without having some thoughts about who your learners will be. It made me think about how I approach new course development. Do I think about what I'd like to teach? Yes. Do I try to envision who my students will be and how they will benefit from taking my course? Yes. Do I think about holes in what my educational institution offers that I could fill - benefiting the institution, students and me?  Yes. Do I think of a course as an environment in which I can test new approaches to teaching, new learning activities, new ways to engage my students? Yes.
So, I think that George had other reasons for developing MOOCs. And I guess where I've ended up is that I'm still not sure that the MOOC isn't just another way of offering learning opportunities to new audiences. It's not the only way; it won't meet the needs of all potential learners who could benefit from the topics that will be explored in the coming weeks. But it's flexibility, adaptability and openness are still relatively unique characteristics in higher education and are worth some focused exploration.

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