Musing about MOOCs
The two MOOCs I’ve played with in the last two weeks couldn’t be more different. #Change 11‘s 1,000+ participants puts the Massive in MOOC, making Alec Couros’ EC&I 831, with 31 credit students and 131 non-credit students, feel positively cozy.
#Change 11 is loosely structured; participants are directed to create a Web presence, tag all their Web documents, and find kindred spirits. E&C 831 is a different animal. First off, the fact that it’s a credit-bearing course sets up an expectation from the start: somebody must be running the
asylum class; Alec, the credit-awarder, is. He keeps a running GDoc of class resources and notes. He’s also gathered all the for-credit students’ blogs into a G-Reader bundle, created a spreadsheet of non-credit students’ contact info, and facilitates class each week. In short, Alec has a slightly different presence (set of responsibilities?) in EC&I 831 than organizers George (Siemens), Dave (Cormier), and Stephen (Downes) have in #Change 11.
I started #Change 11 intending to participate as fully as possible for as long as possible. I lasted three days. I consider myself a fairly Web-savvy person, but I have to admit I could not figure out what was happening, or where, or, ultimately, why I– or anyone– would bother. Some of this is because I’m working on my dissertation proposal and have not got much of a life outside of that. But I also felt uneasy with all the talk of connecting, connections, collaborating. I don’t believe that learning occurs simply by virtue of connecting with others; I worry that we don’t spend enough time talking about the differences between cooperating and collaborating; I wonder if the word “community” gets thrown around too loosely; are “knowledge” and “information” the same thing? I could go on.
Alec’s course is starting its third week. I’ve attended the non-credit sessions, responded to some student blogs, & plan to continue. Despite the different course designs and my different experiences in #Change 11 and EC&I 831, each has been and will continue to be a complete success. That’s because, as a doctoral student in English Education, I’m thinking a lot about what it means to be a teacher and a learner in this digital age. I’ve long been convinced that Web-based technologies have the potential to blow the roof off of education as we’ve known it (and, yes, when it comes time to write my dissertation, I will need to find a different way to say that). The question for me (and for many) is, how?
What’s possible in higher ed is not likely to be feasible in secondary ed. What works for one student or teacher won’t work for another. I teach a class about literacies & technologies in the secondary English classroom in an M.A. program & I do it differently that Alec does. In a few weeks, Bud Hunt will be starting to facilitate a six week course through P2PU and I’m pretty sure he’ll do it differently than anyone else I’ve mentioned here. I’ve written in this blog about initiating professional development webstitutes on the English Companion Ning, which are yet other models of online learning.
Going ahead, I’m going to be thinking about the assumptions and beliefs that undergird the designs of these and other Web-based learning assignments & experiences. What social or cultural or educational philosophies or practices do they challenge? Affirm? What kinds of questions emerge?
I’m looking forward to finding out.
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/66164549@N00/1326778091 via CC BY-SA 2.0