Saturday, March 2, 2013

Here a MOOC, there a MOOC, everywhere a MOOC ...

and much has been written and said about the MOOC ... massive open online course.  Thanks to Cormier, Downes and Siemens, the word MOOC is now in our education lexicon and has disrupted the face of education delivery as we have know it.

Now I know that the open online course has been around for a long time.  In fact, the UK has had the Open University for decades and MIT has offer Edx courses for quite some time now.  So what is different about this time?  Well, the "notables", the traditional and elite HE arena has promoted the MOOC as the next best thing since sliced bread ... or at least since the traditional lecture hall maxed out at several hundred students.  Once the commercial enterprises of coursera and udacity promulgated MOOCs as the answer to further HE success; or touted the benefits of a disruption of traditional learning modes, the bandwagon has taken on as much baggage as possible ... as many HE institutions that they can garner.  And that brings us to the question: what, exactly, is a MOOC?

Lisa M Lane has posited in a blog post, that there are 3 basic types of MOOCs: the networked connectivist, or cMOOC; the content driven, or xMOOC; and the task driven MOOC, much like ds106 offered by Mary Washington College in Virginia. But, what is a MOOC?

What makes a mooc massive? more than several hundred? more than several thousand?

What makes a mooc open? merely that it is open to anyone for participation? or that it is open learning to be networked, mixed, remixed and redistributed?  that the content is purely creative commons material free to be reused in any manner that is not commercial? or, that it is free for any and everyone who wish to participate? or is it open for any interpretation one desires? If one has to sign an agreement not to distribute any personal learning materials or, the educational facility claims to "own" everything produced by learners or faculty ... is that open?

As for the online aspect ... it would seem somewhat obvious that the internet is what is meant by online.  or is it? Does it require access to a computer or will a smart phone work as well? hw about a tablet or a watch? what does online mean now? can social networks drive learning or must we try to couch everything in the traditional educational model where scaling, assessment, outcomes and analytics drive the learning over fast, slow or blocked internet venues?  If you do not have broadband access, some forms of communication for learning do nor exist for you.  Waiting 7 hours for an instructors video to upload is mind numbing; stultifying learning progress.  Some countries block access to many of the networking and learning sites used: Google, Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and Blackboard Collaborate.  This tends to remove the ability to collaborate, connect or communicate outside of the vaccuum.

How do we define course?  Who controls the learning? the learners? the methods of learning?  Who is in charge?  The faculty, the facilitators or the learners?

And my last question, for this post ... why is the mooc disruptive? Why must learning be controlled, assessed, quantified, qualified and stamped for approval? Learning should be fun, free and a lifelong pleasure.  Why do so many of us think it ends with a degree? Why do so many think a degree is terminal ... as in end of the line in learning?

We all have personal answers to many of these questions, no answers to others and hope for answers that will make learning more interesting, more engaging and more meaningful.  In what ways could MOOCs be beneficial in discovering answers to these questions? How can creative approaches to learning benefit each of us, benefit our communities, benefit society on a larger scale?

What are your thoughts? Why not select one, or more, of these questions and write your thoughts, suggestions or disagreement with any aspect of how we learn? how we might change the ways we learn?  How you learn?

Answers tend to offer us bigger and better questions and this is a good thing.  What are some of your questions?


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