Half way through #crit101…


As we have reached the half way point of Critical Skills 101, I thought it was a pertinent opportunity to reflect on how the course is shaping up; including the successes, failures and challenges that lay ahead.


There is clearly a lot of learning taking place. This is both evident in the quality of work produced and the honesty of many participants’ blog posts. In some ways the course has become more than I expected with the three tenets: “openness – social media – student voice/choice” (Cronin, 2012) being placed firmly at the heart of it. The syndication of blog posts and the decision to move to Google+ for week four’s discussion are evidence of this. Moreover, the feedback I have received from many of you has been significantly positive. There have already been numerous tweets, emails to that effect; as well as several of you expressing to me face-to-face how much you are getting out of the course.


Based on my experience of MOOCs I did expect some participants to drop out of the course, nevertheless I consider this an issue that I need to evaluate and act on. Some of you are fully engaged, embracing each week’s reading and activities with fervour. However, some of you are not. While the nature of the course speaks to independence and autonomy, one of the principle aims of the course is to encourage and develop this. Clearly, for some of you the course is not achieving this aim. Whether that is my fault, something to do with the course content or structure, or something else entirely I am not sure at this stage? This will certainly feed into my evaluation of the course once it has been completed.


One of the principles that underpins MOOCs is connectivism. It was my hope that all participants would freely interact and support each other. However, this has not been the case. Interaction between us (I include myself as a learner in this process) so far has come at times that I (as course leader) have specified, such as week two’s collaborative assignment and the weekly Twitter discussion. I do not know if this is simply to do with the fact that most of you are 14-18 year-olds. As such you have a limited experience of learning in this way. It may also have to do with the time that the you feel you can put in to the course. Most of you have full timetables as it is and this is additional learning. And I suspect that for some it may also come down to confidence. The willingness to share openly in your learning does not come naturally for everyone.

However, as Dave Cormier explains in the video below connection and collaboration are important to being successful in a MOOC. Please take the time to watch the video and reflect on your participation so far. To what extent has your approach met with Cormier’s thesis?


So success in a MOOC is about connecting. This is both an opportunity and my challenge to all of you. As week four dawns don’t wait for me to give you permission to connect with each other. Use Twitter, use Google+, use your blogs; share your docs; or use a means of communicating/sharing that suits you but don’t feel that you are on your own. Many of you expressed, in week one, that interdependence was important to being a successful independent learner. Lets put that into practice during week four.

Image cc. ®DS.

Week One: Goals, pushing boundaries, and the c in MOOC

This morning I finished reading and commenting on your blog posts from week one. They were thoroughly enjoyable to read and provided a diverse range of thought on both the motivation to participate in the course as well as definitions for in(ter)dependent learning.

Two key ideas that I felt came out of the posts were: ‘setting goals‘ and ‘pushing boundaries‘. Both concepts have given me a lot to think about in terms of how I understand independent learning.

Many of you when discussing your motivations for signing up for #crit101, set goals for yourself. Are goals integral to independent learning? Are they the starting point for the journey towards becoming a more autonomous learner? These are questions I don’t have answers for yet but they are the start to a discussion that I think we need to have. Moreover, the emphasis placed on goals bring the concept of success into sharp focus. How is success to be defined for each of you in a course that is about independence; and has no grades?

The notion of pushing boundaries is something that I had not associated with independent learning at all. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel that it might be significant. I consider myself to be a highly effective independent learner and one of my main aims is to push the boundaries and challenge myself. How integral is that in my makeup as an independent learner? The minute we decide to work within the boundaries, is that when we start to lose our independence? Is systematised education a boundary that needs to challenged in order to enable learners to become more independent?

Additionally, a further discussion that is developing is about the very nature of the course itself. #crit101 is, to a degree, inspired by MOOCs. A question that we are pondering is that of how important the ‘course’ aspect is to MOOCs and the process of independent learning. To what extent does the c in MOOC effect motivation. If I was not here responding to posts, reminding you about deadlines and lectures, would you still show up? Or could this course run through peer-interaction and your own desire to learn?

Please take some time to read over each others posts and the comments. I have left many questions to be considered and I want to know what you think. I look forward to reading your replies!