Across the Steep – of MOOCs and Skiing


I’ve enjoyed a most excellent time in Morzine skiing.  My long-suffering-friends have endured me waxing lyrically over vin chaud, as I didn’t quite manage to leave my education hat at Uni.  

I couldn’t help but draw analogies between learning in a ski play-park and a good MOOC.

  • Ultimately, skiiing is about my leisure time.  I can choose to take (and pay for) lessons, if they help me.  As a relative novice, this extra support was well worth-while ..for my lesson fee I got lots of encouragement, quality coaching, an expert guide of the area, and easy connections with my ski-school buddies.  It is doubtful that I would have made such good progress with my technique without our lovely ESF instructor.  But, more experienced holiday-making friends were able to perfect their skiing and exploring together without the need of this support package.
  • My goals as a holiday maker and learner were central.   I had two goals: enjoy going down a red run and ski to Switzerland, so I practiced from our morning instruction and adventured with a friend on the uncharted (to us) lifts and routes to squander some Swiss Francs.
  • The ski-zone: it’s lifts, runs and occupants provide the backdrop to my learning adventure – just as in a MOOC there are chance meetings, conversations, words of advice, great ideas shared: on the hoof, off the cuff.  Top tips on “getting to Switzerland” interspersed with advice on the best  Apres Ski.   These conversations spice up the adventure and add to learning, but they are only possible because we are in together in the same “let’s share our enjoyment of skiing” space.
  • Limited absolutes –  individual goals reign:  It would be stupid to set a goal for 30 hours of skiiing to  “get everyone to ESF level 3”  because, everyone starts at a different point, there is no entry standard, and, let’s face it some may be more interested in the apres than the ski!  Instead I am free to set my own goals, to finish each day when I am “full” and to take personal satisfaction from setting and reaching my own goals.  Hey – it is my leisure time! – while someone else can challenge me to aim higher, they have no right to steal my joy by defining success in terms of absolute standards that I won’t reach.
  • Falling over is such a normal part of being a beginner, everybody has been there!  You just dust off the snow, put your skis back on and have another go – it’s part of learning.  Great learning communities remember life as a beginner, provide encouragement and celebrate success.  But, just as ESF put people of similar levels together in ski-school, so good MOOCs provide the opportunity to connect with those running at the same level ( operating in similar ZPD). You don’t have to connect with everyone, just enough to be able to learn from and with each other.

You know, I’m not sure that I have learned all that I need to, maybe I should go again next year?

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