ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

The mystery of MOOCs – Stephen Downes in India

Posted on: March 29, 2012

Serenaturri (di Firenze) motivated me to read Stephen Downes’ article “Education as Platform: The MOOC Experience and what we can do to make it better” (EdgeX2012, Delhi, India, 12 marzo 2012) – grazie 🙂

The next paragraphs are extractions of Stephen’s article, summarizing the most relevant aspects for me.

  • The idea of MOOCs is largely about self-education, is largely about how we create our own learning.
  • A MOOC is open. Anybody with a computer and an internet connection, or access to one, can enter a MOOC. Openness also means that novices and experienced people are able to merge together in the same space and communicate and interact with each other.
  • The MOOC is structured as a network. We conduct learning in a MOOC through interactions in this web.
  • The MOOC is also about aggregating or bringing things together.The software gRSShopper (written by Stephen) analyzes the content of the websites of the MOOC participants and extracts links – it creates a web, and then creates a variety of ways of looking at that web, for example, a daily newsletter.
  • The Massive Open Online Course has a different attitude with respect to content. MOOCs involve not just individual participants and the material but these individuals working with other people. The action of the course is predominately interaction with each other. There is an element about personal development and personal learning that is central to a MOOC.
  • Learning in the MOOC means developing “my” art of learning via connections to other learners and in this was the MOOC influences my teaching.
  • The Change MOOC has right now 2600 participants.
  • (Tony Bates) MOOCs themselves are highly dependent on students already having a high level of understanding and an ability to learn independently, and to think critically. – Stephen’s answer: our standards aren’t quite as high as he suggests.
  • Half the process of learning in a MOOC is learning how to explore, is being an explorer. – yes, I haven’t finished yet to develop exploration tactics.
  • In the MOOCs too much of the interactivity has been focused around the facilitators. Learners gather in small clusters to listen to George and Dave and myself and it’s hard to get them to gather in small clusters to communicate among themselves. So it all becomes centrally focused, and if you can’t find that centre you become lost. – very interesting aspect, I like to reflect it in detail.
  • People feel for some reason that they need to make a personal connection with all 2000 people in the MOOC. And then they worry that they can’t.
  • Again, we need this middle point between the solo and the social. We need this middle point – maybe aimed at Dunbar’s number of getting to know 150 people. – wow, I  “know” about 15 learners in this MOOC, or maybe 20, but never more than 100!
  • “What is it the learners in MOOCs are learning at all?” (no content, no credits) “The facilitators don’t support learning” – In this 6 months of the MOOC I have learned a lot but it is not easy to formulate what I have learned in detail …. 
  • Stephen’s reconceptualization: MOOCs are open. Open means being able to participate, not just at the expert level, but at your own level. Open means participating or doing things publicly so other people can watch (no “safe” place for learning). But if nobody else is watching nobody else is learning, and nobody else can learn. Openness means doing things openly, publicly, sharing them, watching them, and being able to be watched. It’s a hard concept. It takes a little courage. – That’a an interesting aspect as well. Online many learners are very shy to post contributions openly.
  • The MOOC is about the process. And the process is greatly aided by being online.
  • To the extent that a MOOC is about content, the MOOC fails. We drift away from process. Our MOOCs are based almost entirely on conversation. And the more our MOOCs become about conversations the more they become about content, and this distracts us. What we need to be doing is looking for other ways to connect.
  • We need to rediscover the connective aspect of MOOCs. The future: “MOOC, meet game.”  “Game, meet MOOC.”
  • When we think about these connective courses we should be thinking about the connectors. Third party services, plug-ins – whatever these connectors are, these are the mechanisms that foster the learning. And that’s what we’re missing in these connective courses – the connectors. Blogs and discussion lists are not sufficient. – hmmm, have to think about it. 
  • The connector is about giving the learners a field, or an environment, on which they can play their own games in their own way for their own purposes, and they will learn in that way.  – sounds similar to my approach of designing the virtual room.

Stephen’s slides

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