Thursday, October 27, 2011

Synchronicity in MOOCs

I was reading a blog post from inlearning titled Is Demanding Synchronous Bliss Missing the Point of Change? Quite an interesting blog post to read so head on over there after reading this post ;-)  It's interesting how different people have different preferences.  I for example dislike synchronous online meetings, and  I have never attended a synchronous MOOC meeting as long as I have participated in MOOCs. Instead I download the MP3 later on, put it on my iPod and listen to it while commuting to work. I know other people feel differently about the topic, but I fit it curious.

If the point of change (change in education in general, not just Change MOOC) is to get away from the sage on the stage and seek out our own peer learning groups, aren't Massive synchronous sessions antithetical to that?  Why would I want to attend a Massive synchronous voice chat (where only one person can speak at a time)?  My voice would be drowned and I wouldn't have an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation and learn something.  As Tim Owens argues, it becomes (or actually is ) a broadcast, so why not take pre-recorded questions for the experts and have them do a radio show?

As anyone has observed in massive gatherings, people tend to cluster together. They move from group to group until they find a suitable topic for them to explore with others.  Instead of one Massive synchronous sessions, it would be better to develop smaller SIGs, throughout the week and then MOOC participants can elect to attend (or not attend) any SIG they want.  The Massive in MOOC works because it is distributed throughout the time frame of a week (it also works because previous weeks become OER, so people can access them whenever they want event after the cohort has moved on). Massive in synchronous does not work because it is time and place bound. :-)

Update: I know that I used the term experts above. Expert is really a loaded word, with certain connotations of putting someone on a pedestal and pointing to them as the authority. I have problems with that word - especially when people call me an "expert" because I simply don't know everything - but it's also a problem in MOOCs because most MOOCs that I have been part of seem to go with a Freirean approach to education which doesn't privilege anyone in particular. Perhaps "guests" would have been a better term, but that also doesn't really get to why one "guest" gets picked to broadcast over others. More to discuss later I guess :-)
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