Friday, August 17, 2012


OK, I am a little behind on yesterday's questions at hand, but I am catching up today.  This one topic a day is a little too much ;-)

How might reimagining assessment prompt us to rethink not only our pedagogical processes, but also the law and policy that governs traditional academic environments? 
I must admit that I am having a hard time with this question. Assessment ought to be driving our pedagogy, since we are starting with our end-goals in mind.  Maybe this is my inner instructional designer speaking, but we don't just teach and then figure out what we are going to do.  We figure out what we want our learners to know or be able to do, and in what contexts, and then we teach with materials and methods that are appropriate to the goals at hand.

That being said, I am having a hard time with the "laws and policies" that govern traditional academic environments.  It is my understanding, that under academic freedom, the university cannot tell me how to teach my course, or even how to design my course.  So, what does assessment and pedagogy have to do with university policies?

What are some major chances and challenges of MOOC-style learning when it comes to traditional (as opposed to digital) humanities classes, specifically those that focus on such seemingly elusive, long-term outcomes as the honing of close reading and critical thinking skills, as well as sustained writing and research? 
These are good questions! I am thinking of "cMOOCs" when I answer this, and I think that when it comes to learning, and online learning more specifically (including MOOCs) the learner needs to be metacognitively aware to a degree where they have some tools to learn how to learn. If a learner is not prepared to learn how to learn, and to adjust their learning on the fly as circumstances change, they will not be a successful learner.

That being said, I don't know of any college where an instructor watches the learners like a hawk to determine close reading and critical thinking skills when they are undertaking a task that requires those skills. The challenge is not  at the course level, but at the program level.  These long term goals and skills aren't things that one course deals with, and only that one course deals with it.  With the appropriate scaffolding, preparation, and sequencing of courses, I think that these long term goals are achievable no matter what the modality of the course is.  That being said, the major hurdle, that I see, are departmental and academic politics.  No one likes sitting in curriculum committees and discussing the nitty gritty of program level outcomes and how everything fits in (well, I sort of do, but that's another story), so the main hurdle is competing goals and group dynamics - not course content and pedagogy.

How would you describe the desired learning outcomes for this course, the MOOC MOOC? How would you assess and document your own or your peers’ achievement of those outcomes?
I honestly have not had much time to spend on this course, with the exception of responding to these daily questions. It seems to me, at least from my participation, that the goal of this course is a philosophy of education around MOOCs.  It would be really nice if we had more time to read other people's contributions.  If I were to assess my own peer's achievements, I would assess them in relation to my own.  How much have this individual progressed my own thinking through the course? For the other person's learning, I would probably want to see a learning reflection to see how they've changed and assess that. Since, for me, this is a Philosophy of Education course, this seems like a good way to assess learning. Impact to self, impact to others.

Should our ability to assess certain kinds of student work in a MOOC environment determine whether or not we assign that sort of work? If we can’t assess it, can students get credit for it in other ways? 
We live in a culture of accountability, sometimes false accountability. If we cannot assess something, we need to investigate what exactly about it we cannot assess. It's hard to speak in vague terms here, since I do not have a concrete example, but it would suffice to say that just because we cannot think of a way of assessing certain kinds of work, that we should not just discount it.  We, as educational professionals and subject matter experts should be able to find ways of assessing these kinds of student work that at first glance elude us.

Who should be allowed to enter, observe, and participate in a MOOC? How does the kind of radical openness present in some MOOCs change our pedagogy? Should it change our pedagogy?
In my opinion MOOCs and permission are antithetical terms.  A MOOC requires (or at least should require) no pre-requisites for participation.  Learning should be based upon the skills and knowledge of the learner, NOT some sort of permission obtained by some authority.  If the learner is not at the skill and knowledge level required for participate in that MOOC, the learner can figure out what to take in conjunction with that given MOOC (co-requisite in academic parlance) to be successful, or they can drop the course without stigma and take a pre-requisite to be able to step up to that MOOC.

I don't think that permissions to participate in a MOOC ought to change the pedagogy.  In course design we have certain entry level behaviors (think: pre-requisites), if a learner does not possess those, it's not up to the instructor to tutor that learner up to that starting line.  If you are thinking of pedagogy and the masses (i.e. having a thousand students in class versus 15), then perhaps your pedagogy might need to change a little.  I hope it doesn't change to the "record a lecture and broadcast" model, but to something better.

The other thing that comes to mind is compensation, and mental saturation.  If you are paid to teach 15 credit-seeking students, but you are running a MOOC with 500 students, your attention as an instructor might include certain tutor-level or individual feedback for those 15 students, and not for the remaining 485. This is OK.  Even if you are doing this for free, for the love of teaching, you WILL get saturated, and you WON'T be able to read and respond to everything.  That's fine.

Anyway, that's all for this day :)  I have reached my saturation point :)

I'll skip the storify - too many other things to tackle today! :-)
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