Week 4 Reflection: Outed as a fan of MOOCs

Some ponderings on the differences between “formal” online learning modules I have been on so far, and my MOOC experiences to date.   This is of-course drawn only from my rather limited experience of both!

I added the video (11/5) as it fits nicely with the Week7 Badge Activity (there’s adaptation and reuse in action!)

Formal Online Module MOOC
Tutor’s role Encourager & supporter.  Subject expert who can bring additional resources into play as relevant, draw out conversations, and bounce ideas off.  A valued “Guide on the side” Likely to appear absent due to numbers.  Self formed groups require motivation, self-regulation, ability to critically appraise viewpoints presented.
Tools/Platform Closed and behind logon box. Even if I get email alert about forum posts I don’t respond quickly because it’s a faff to sign in, and the editor doesn’t work properly on my tablet.Doesn’t support my mobile multi-platform life Same issues (but worse) on Openlearn Platform.Gloriously frictionless using my preferred PLE (Chrome with: Google+, Feedly, Hootsuite), which works on my 4 main devices (Home PC, Android tablet + Smartphone, Work PC)
Possible Connections Your tutor and tutor group. I’ve been fortunate on H817 and H800 to have had very positive experiences of sharing, collaborating and peer-support. You connect with those you share interests with.  I’ve added (and removed) people from my Feedly subscription.
Who determines
the tone
The small group tutor is influential in setting this, but the individuals in the group are key too.   If you are in a “flat” group who are going through the motions, it will be dull (and one of my modules was, indeed, both flat and dull). The ‘vets‘ of on-line learning do this.   I can consume the blogs of the folk whose communication style I enjoy and graze on others in a serendipitous way
Who’s in and
who’s out
It seems to take a few weeks to work out who is actually going to contribute in the module and who is going to participate less (due to work pressures/family etc) It’s obvious, those who contribute regularly and comment are “in”
Going slow In smaller groups if more than a few people drop out (eg for holidays, exams) the group is a bit poorer.  You have to keep up with the pace. Chances are there will still be people to engage with at all points of the MOOC.  Dipping out for a week will have less overall effect. There is still a critical mass of contributions and you will find others who are at the same stage.
Language of forums/postings by participants Academic writing mixed with banter Informal, anecdotal, a place where opinions and experiences have refreshing validity.  Situated aspect that can be missing in formal situations.
Group work Painful to negotiate by distance/time with varying levels of buy-in to contribution Thankfully avoided on H817open.  (collaboration light)Only those who want to be there are there
Forum Fatigue On 7-8 month marathons this sets in around June.  If everyone drops out, motivation becomes tough. Declining numbers over the MOOC, but probably still enough completers to maintain a sense of event.
Sense of Personalisation The curriculum rules – you can take a surface approach to some of it as long as it won’t be in the TMA! Freedom to duck in and out, follow what I want.  The self-directed learner is empowered and in control.
Hoops to jump through to prove learning.  Carefully crafted assessments can encourage deeper learning. In generalised forms though they will rarely align with individual learning goals. It’s OK to journey along and pursue those things that are of interest.  Completion certificates and badges are a bonus (to those already deemed “educated”).
Value of Accreditation Trusted by employers and would go on my CV Value of these not yet trusted or established by employers.  Badges would go on my CV from H817open for TEL positions, as a discussion point rather than proof of attainment.
Enjoyment “education as gym membership” no pain no gain. Enjoyment increases with – personalisation of learning goals, connections and pace – if you have the literacies to engage and connect

I started off on MAODE to give me a broad understanding of the issues and debates in Technology Enhanced Learning.  For this it has been really good, and I am committed to completing it all because it has currency in the sector in which I work.

However, I have no doubt that any future employers would wish to check out my online-identity.  Their questions *should* include: who am I connected to? How do I contribute? How has my thinking changed and developed?

An MA, like a BSc, is only proof that I can operate at a certain level over the period that I engaged with that qualification – these “badges” prove an amount of acquisition and ability to participate.  Once those boxes are ticked the thing that matters is the participation and currency.

So, Mr MOOC if you can work out your sustainability models I am up for doing a few more over my working and retired life!

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4 Responses to Week 4 Reflection: Outed as a fan of MOOCs

  1. Paige Cuffe says:

    Nuala this organised evaluative approach is very useful, not only in and of itself, but as a point to come back to over time to see if MOOCs and/or your view of them shifts over time. Of the things you value in the MOOC format, are there any you think should be carried back in some form into formal online courses?

    • NualaD says:

      Thanks for the comment and question Paige. The major mismatches I see are in terms of assessment, norms of communication and previous learner baggage.
      [1.] Assessment on my two prior modules has *only* been text based, individually constructed pieces of work. Surely this neglects to confer any value on new media, on collaboration, or on online practices that build PLNs. I’m not quite with Cormier in terms of dumping assessment completely and letting students determine curriculum, I think that is far too much of a culture change for HE, but we seem to put too much emphasis on the assessment driven milestones rather than the journey. [2.] Communication: academic writing can be dull, dull, dull – yes it’s good to reference sources, but stories and experiences and original thoughts have value too. If we skew fora on formal courses towards academic writing it becomes hard to situate learning. (thankfully not an issues with our vibrant group, but one I have experienced). [3.] As a learner I could apply MOOC style thinking to H817. I could follow things that are of interest to me and take a strategic (50% will do) attitude to the imposed assessments, but the framing of the course meshed with my school based conditioning persuades me that this type of approach is wrong/bad, even though I have clearly defined goals.

      • Paige Cuffe says:

        Nuala I think it takes great courage to step away from traditional frameworks with a clear purpose (thought the caveat would be it is stupid to do so just for the sake of it?). I don’t see that learning as a child and as an adult should be regarded as the same thing or requiring the same approach. As such, re-defining how we choose to learn as adults perhaps requires firstly that we define for ourselves the priority level of all learning activities. I do have some lingereing concerns, that those who’ve managed to cross the river before me might actually be able to give good advice on which points of crossing to avoid. So choosing to make the course work for you, to re-frame the learning process to be relevant to your goals could be argued to be a learning progression. Of course, I might not make this statement to a Level 1 learner… Would you?

      • NualaD says:

        It is interesting Paige, no I wouldn’t say this to a level 1 learner. Perhaps trust and confidence are key issues here. As a “formal” student I have committed to spend time (and my own £££) to engage with H817. Part of counting the cost at the beginning involves me putting my trust in the clever people that have put the course together and recognising that I, as a learner, can only really evaluate it at its end. I don’t really have enough confidence in my judgement to work out whether to engage with or disengage with an activity, as I don’t know what is coming next, nor whether something I skim now will be foundational later on. Because you as a course team have our completion committment you can give us hard,lonely and taxing things to do (and we just have to trust that that will be good for us).

        It’s so different in the land of MOOCs. As a reasonably educated person from an affluent country, I’m unlikely to come with a completion mentality, less likely to do hard things, and more likely to succumb to social. That is unless the course is short, I have specific (clearly articulated) learning goals, and the MOOC matches or provides a superset of these. In this arena I can have more confidence in my judgement.

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