MOOC MOOC – Day Two

Day 2 of MOOC MOOC was very enjoyable. We were given our first formal activity, which involved creating a 1000 word collaborative essay, addressing the following questions:

  • What is a MOOC?
  • What does it do, and what does it not do?

Based on my reading and my familiarity with using Google Docs, I jumped straight in and began to respond. One or two others did likewise. Eventually, we reached a collaborative impasse, realising we needed to do some more reading and take some time to reflect. In particular, I needed to understand better the difference between the two different types of MOOC that were being discussed: cMOOCs (Connectivist – developed by the likes of Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Dave Cormier) and xMOOCs (the Coursera/Udacity model – currently being lauded and vilified, depending on which end of the Media spectrum you choose to read).

cMOOC vs xMOOC

As one of the early developers of cMOOCs, George Siemens writes: “Our MOOC model emphasizes creation, creativity, autonomy, and social networked learning. The Coursera model emphasizes a more traditional learning approach through video presentations and short quizzes and testing. Put another way, cMOOCs focus on knowledge creation and generation whereas xMOOCs focus on knowledge duplication.” Marc Bousquet, sums this up more concisely, writing about cMOOCs that: “Good MOOC’s…foreground and sustain the social dimension of learning and active practices, i.e., knowledge production rather than knowledge consumption.”

What we have then in MOOCs is little more than a continuation of the age-old debate between progressive, student-centred learning and traditional transmission-based teaching/learning that has dominated education for a long time. When taking this dichotomy at face value, there is little that is surprising. In that, the institutional model (xMOOCs) is essentially an extension of the pedagogical models practiced within the institutions themselves, while the more progressive model (cMOOCs) built by a ‘connected’ group of ‘individuals’ is relatively free from institutional constraints.

Does this mean that within institutions such as Stanford and MIT no social, creative, networked learning occurs? Certainly not, but like in many educational establishments I would suggest that such models of learning are the exception rather than the norm. Why is this? In my experience, it is not one facet but a combination of factors that result in such situations. Infrastructure, finance, time and leadership all impact on educational practice within educational institutions. I have no doubt that, in the eyes of institutional leaders, xMOOCs represent an opportunity to increase marketing and revenue. When Watters asserts that “the pedagogy – watch videos, take multiple choice quizzes – is an indication that these courses are retreading old practices rather than really rethinking how the technology can transform how we teach/learn”, she is not only right, but also raises the question: why? Is this simply a case of educational practitioners ‘not getting it’? Or is it a case of professors and teachers being asked to produce content for something they have not had time to come to terms with? I am not making excuses, as I sit significantly far to the cMOOC end of the spectrum when it comes to my own pedagogical classroom-practice. However, working within an educational establishment myself, I have witnessed a number of potentially progressive projects and initiatives be delivered very poorly. Why? Usually, because the leadership wants to jump on a bandwagon and little to no time is afforded for professional development or research to develop understanding of the potential pedagogical benefits, let alone best practices.

MOOCs are not about broadcasting education although that is what many xMOOCs appear to be doing. cMOOCs on the other hand have huge potential to be both a disruptive and progressive force within education. They can:

  • Develop and fostering connected, collaborative learning beyond traditional classroom settings
  • Provide learning that does not fit neatly into the curriculum
  • Connect groups of like-minded individuals who share interests
  • Provide a platform for the development of learner independence and resilience

Having developed a better understanding of the cMOOC and xMOOC paradigms, I returned to the Google Doc which had taken further shape. I enjoyed helping to edit and refine it and feel that I was able to make a better contribution having taken some time to step back, allowing my thinking to evolve.

You can read the finished essay here: A Mooc by Any Other Name (4)

Final Thought

In the video interview above, George Siemens expresses that MOOCs are about learners embracing chaos, making sense of it themselves, rather than someone doing it for them. The collaborative essay was a perfect example of this, we began with chaos but through initiative, reflection and connection we were able to make sense of the chaos and produce a piece of succinct writing. Is it the case then, that the online aspect of MOOCs is what is most important? Owing to the fact that, through the use of web-based tools (Google Docs, Canvas, Twitter) we were able to form connections and collaborate effectively.

MOOC MOOC – Day One

Yesterday I enrolled and began participating in MOOC MOOC a week long, Massive Open Online Course about Massive Open Online Courses.

This is the first MOOC that I have participated in although I have been following the development and growth of the MOOC phenomenon for some time; aided by blog posts and tweets from the likes of Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Dave Cormier, Jim Groom and Audrey Watters. My interest in such courses is obvious… just a short perusal of my blog will tell you that I have a vested interest in e-Learning, independent learning and learning pedagogies. I am currently writing up my research proposal as part of the Masters in Education I am undertaking. I am seeking to answer the following question:

To what extent can virtual courses support the development of independent learning beyond ‘real time’ curriculum delivery?

I hope that spending the week participating in MOOC MOOC will provide additional ideas and lines of enquiry, as I continue to develop and refine my thinking around both online learning and learner independence. I am also interested in the role such courses can play within the education landscape and the challenge that they can pose to traditional-systematised models of education. I hold strong beliefs about learner independence and feel that we are currently reaching a point where learning has the potential to be more democratised and available to learners, free from economic and geographical constraints. Moreover, I see potential in MOOCs to be a piece of the puzzle in enabling learners to be autonomous; self-managing their learning pathway. I’m not sure how far this view reflects others’ thinking and that is something I hope to discern over the course of the week.

I am also interested to see how a MOOC is/can be different from any other online course? What is the balance/relationship between pedagogy and technology? What is most important within the ‘Massive Open Online Course’? Scale? Openness? Online? Or something else? I have many questions and I don’t expect to necessarily come out the other end with answers but I do expect my thinking to have moved forwards.

Day One: Orientation

What follows here is a collection of my thoughts after the first day of MOOC MOOC

Having enrolled, participants were invited to edit their profile, sort notification preferences and introduce themselves, all within the confines of the Canvas LMS. While I understand the decision to use such a platform to structure the course, it immediately raised questions. Canvas certainly looks nice but is no way different to Blackboard or Moodle in its infrastructure and approach. Does the use of such platforms limit MOOCs? Are our perceptions of what a MOOC is/can be being defined by previous experiences of online courses that have and continue to be delivered within such platforms? How is MOOC MOOC different from any other online course? I don’t have an answer yet but as with all learning, I believe it’s imperative to look beyond the technology. If we do that then, what we are left with is a discussion and a selection of articles to read. Not particularly ground breaking but then it is only day one. I tried to engage with the forum discussion, introducing myself and responding to one/two other people’s posts. However, I found myself becoming irked by the platform; the threaded structure and limited functionality made the process cumbersome. Furthermore, given that a Twitter social was scheduled for 6pm, I have to ask what the point of using the forum was? I am reminded of a discussion I had a while ago about the value of distribution and multiple platforms. However, I remain unconvinced. For each activity I feel it is best to pick one medium (hopefully the one that is best suited to the task).

Finding myself a little underwhelmed, I decided to spend some time reading. A number of articles were posted, several of which I had not encountered before and others that I had. In this process, what a MOOC is began to reveal itself; not only in terms of varying definitions, which I plan to explore as the course continues, but also in terms of my role as participant/independent learner. Writing this on day two, I have already had a number of discussions on Twitter and via a Google Doc about the difference between cMOOCs and xMOOCs. There is clearly a history to be understood and a lot of information to be digested however it’s becoming clear that connecting, discussing, and debating is an integral feature of MOOCs. Dave Cormier says as much in the following video.

Now, a day and a half in, I have oriented, declared and sprinted head first into sharing, collaborating and debating with the network. Like I have experienced during my M.Ed studies, and with my own students, it is the dialogue that is most important. Perhaps then, a MOOC is nothing more than a beginning, a platform to jump off of? Each article, each activity a way to evolve thinking and generate further discussion?

Reflective Professional Development: A Literature Review

Yesterday I submitted my latest M.Ed assignment: RPD: Literature Review [Google Doc]

It is part of a Reflective Professional Development module. We were required to submit:

A literature review of 3 – 5 books, articles or papers which have influenced your practice or understanding and have helped to shape you as a professional.

Each of the texts I chose to include made me sit up and reconsider both my values and beliefs about education as well as informing my approach to teaching and learning in the classroom.

The texts are as follows:

I hope that you find it to be a stimulating read. Comments are welcomed.

If you would like to know more about the MA in Education that I am studying towards, look here.

Looking Forward to Junior Year

Red Royal Typewriter

The second year of writing and maintaining this blog was both the most rewarding and at times the most difficult. Rewarding, in that I believe my writing improved, the blog saw more traffic and consequently more meaningful discussions were generated. It also provided a useful space for me to share my latest journey; working towards an MA in Education. But, there in lies the rub. My commitment to both my actual job and the aforementioned MA made it difficult to find time to write; and resulted in extended periods of inactivity here on the blog. About this, I am philosophical. It was my decision to take these breaks and I am pleased with the progress I have been making with my studies. Moreover, some time away from writing here, did me good. I returned with renewed energy and a plethora of material to write about and share.

12 posts of note

I am going to keep the rest of this post brief. Here are twelve posts from the last twelve months that I think are worth reading. They are a combination of the most widely read (according to Google Analytics) and those that I enjoyed writing the most.

…on writing and maintaining a blog

I wouldn’t say that I have not learned anything new about writing or maintaining a blog this past year. But as my energies have often been engaged with other endeavours I will point you instead to the post I wrote one year ago today. I believe that it remains sound advice for fellow and aspiring writers/bloggers:

And with that, I will close. To use an American analogy, having gotten past the sophomore slump, I am looking forward to life as a junior.

Image cc: 500CPM on Flickr

Reflective Professional Development: Opening Statement [#mainedu]

In a previous post I discussed my plans to write the various assignments for my current MA modules publicly online. I completed and submitted the first of these assessments yesterday. To begin the ‘Reflective Professional Development‘ module we were asked to write a brief, reflective ‘Opening Statement’ considering a number of questions, including:

  • What were the motives and experiences which led to my choice of profession?
  • What were the motives and experiences which led me towards MA study?
  • What are the specific areas which I am concerned about in MA study? Which gaps am I hoping to fill in my skills/knowledge/experience through MA study?
  • Where am I now as a practitioner and what are my main concerns and challenges?
  • How can the MA help me in these areas?

I am not completely satisfied with my response. I found this far more challenging than all of the assessments I have completed thus far. The word limit was particularly restrictive and as such I ended up making significant edits, impairing the quality of my writing IMO. Nevertheless, the assignment is available to read here:

The reflective process itself was useful, helping me to further clarify what I hope to achieve through MA level study.

I would welcome any comments or observations that you may have, particularly with regard to my views about education and the direction of my research.