Friday, August 17, 2012

MOOCMOOC (μMOOC) Day 5 Reflections

OK, It's Friday, one more day of  MOOCMOOC, and today's topic is about creating our own MOOCs.  I've written about my own MOOC creation plans (centering around teaching of language).  I had hoped that I would be able to do this as part of a dissertation, but since a potential dissertation is way way way out there in terms of timing, I think I may have to move on this sooner, rather than later.  I wonder if I start collecting data be my dissertation is approved, if I can use it ;-)

In any case, here are my responses to the questions at hand for today.

What are MOOCs about? What are appropriate subject matters, theories, ideas that they can explore, explain, or explode? 
Initially, for me anyway, MOOCs were a curiosity.  I was out of school, and wanted to learn more. A MOOC was something I could explore beyond the content.  That being said, like my colleague RJH, I've gotten used to the form factor of the MOOC and it's brought me back full circle to the days that I spend a lot of time on forums dealing with mobile telephony, MacOS and PDAs.  I think that MOOCs are many things to many people.  For seasoned MOOCers, like myself, they are about ways to learn more about the content we care to learn about, while being introduced to and interacting with interesting folks on the web (sounds like an online course, or a forum, does it not?).  For researchers (and I put myself in this category as well), they are still curiosities to be explored, researched, and further understood.  For learners who are new to MOOCs, they are still both curiosities and ways to learn content.

Are there appropriate subject matters?  I think it's too early to tell. Most MOOCs up to now (cMOOCs) have been about content that is important to people in academia, as such the subject matter was narrow.  Also, up to now, xMOOCs have been about things that are easily machine-gradeable, also a subject matter constrain.  As we learn more about MOOCs, and experiment more, I don't think that there will be a subject matter restriction on what can be taught using a MOOC....but of course we won't know until we try!

Who leads a MOOC? Is it a single instructor, a team of people? Or is it the participants themselves? What leadership roles are necessary when building a MOOC, and what leadership comes into play during the MOOC itself? 
I think that we are a little preoccupied with leadership in this question, as if we are worried about the sage on the stage model.  We shouldn't be. Think of corporations that went from totally hierarchical to flat distributed models. That worked out well, did it now? (sure there were organizational development, org sociology, and org psychology factors in play as well, but exploring those would make this post unnecessarily long).

Leadership should always come from the student. If the student does not take the reigns of his education, no education will come from sitting in a (real or virtual) classroom.  An instructor, or a team of tutors can facilitate the learning experience, and jump in the driver's seat when required, but if the learner doesn't do something, learning won't happen.  As the ancient Greek proverb goes, the drowning man can pray to Athena for salvation all he wants, but unless he moves his arms a bit to try and swim, he will drown.

Instructional designers, instructors and tutors are tasked with the design, facilitation, and overall direction of the course, but leadership comes from the learner.

What formats and delivery systems are available for MOOCs? The learning management system (LMS)? Blogs? Web sites? Could a MOOC take place on Twitter? 
Let me start with that last one: Could a MOOC take place on Twitter?  Well, yes, it could, but the better question is should it?  Would Twitter provide the appropriate platform for deep reflection?  Of course, twitter could be the aggregation platform (like gRSShopper) that allows for other services (blogs, wikis, youtube, soundcloud, etc.) to post announcements of new MOOC content.

I don't think that any one technology is superior to delivering MOOCs.  This is actually a false way of thinking about educational technology.  We should go back to the drawing board: what are our goals for the MOOC?  What will learners learn?  How will they achieve it?  What methods, materials, tools, technologies and pedagogies will facilitate this? By going back to these "basics" we can pick the appropriate tools for our course.

What exactly should “massive” mean? 
I don't have an answer for this :-)  I participated in GamesMOOC this summer.  It was pretty cool, but compared to other MOOCs there were a lower number of active participants. I would define massive NOT by the number of registered users, but by the number of content generating participants. If a seasoned learner comes into a "massive" OOC, he should be able to expect that there is enough content there to reach that point of happy saturation, where he is content with what he's learned and how much he's interacted, but there is still more if he wants to continue at a later point.

What are the essential components of a MOOC -- everything from lectures, videos, collaborative activities, discussion forums? Which of these is most important? 
The most essential component of a MOOC is participation, and that is something that the instructor and course designer doesn't bring to the table.  It's something that learners bring to the table, and it loops us back to that leadership that is important.  Everything else in a MOOC is negotiable.  Most successful MOOCs I've seen allow learners to determine which tools they will use beyond the basic tools that the MOOC facilitators have chosen to start off with.

How do we decide what outcomes to expect from a MOOC?
That's the easiest question of all: What outcomes do you expect from an on-campus course or a traditional online course?  The outcomes of the course don't change with the modality of the course (IMHO).

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