Friday, September 23, 2011

Language Learning MOOC

I am happy to see that the topic of MOOCs as a language learning tool have come up in Change11!

Again, even though I am not a PhD student yet, I am considering topics for a potential dissertation. The idea is that if I have an idea going in, and it's partially developed, I won't be stuck in dissertation purgatory :-)

In any case, I've been participating in, and observing, various MOOCs over the past nine months and what's emerged is that different MOOCs take different approaches to the running of the class.  Some are more loose (see eduMOOC) and some are more controlled (I think LAK11 was more controlled), and of course there are other MOOCs that are somewhere in-between those two spectrums.  In thinking of a language learning MOOC (at least my potential dissertation topic), I am thinking of a MOOC that is more on the controlled side. The MOOC is going to be an introduction to Modern Greek, so there are some standards, some criteria, that students would have to meet in order to consider their participation in the course as a success. Of course, students will have their own goals as well, but I see those as additive to the learning process, not in-lieu of instructor goals. This is where, I think, instructors and participants need to come to an understanding of what is the minimum part of the MOOC.

In my implementation, when designing the MOOC, I was thinking of integrating, among other things, ACTFL's standards, Quality Matters standards, and factoring in what level of ACTFL Spoken Proficiency level I would like students to get out of the course.  One of the areas that I am a bit stuck on is assessment. If this is truly a massive online open course, and massive amounts of people come, how can one assess the learner's attainment of a certain level language proficiency? Do you elect to test everyone? (potentially a massive undertaking) Do you take volunteers? (this means you might skew results because only those confident to take the tests will do so, and might skew results in favor of MOOCs) or do you do a random sample? (and how do you ask someone to take an exam when previous MOOCs don't really have exams?)

I was thinking of the Digital Storytelling MOOC, and how those students had deliverables.  What if I incorporated DS components as deliverables and assess language use there?  What if I assessed discussions? Hmmmm.... So many questions!  I am happy though that there are others out there pondering these things - good opportunities for collaboration!
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