Monday, September 10, 2012

MOOCs, and accreditation

It's quite interesting, but the topic of MOOCs and accreditation keeps coming up :-)
The post that prompted this blog post came from a post I saw on MobiMOOC today regarding information assessment and recognition of success.  In MobiMOOC 2012 one of the new things that is baked into the course is the awarding of badges, with an eye toward Mozilla's Open Badges. There are currently three types of badges:
  1. Wonderful Participant (for signing up in the course)
  2. Advanced learner (for participating in at least 2 topics in MobiMOOC)
  3. Memorable Collaborator (for being active in 3 topics) and writing a project overview for an mLearning project)
I've already achieved #1 by being there, and I think I will most likely get #2.  #3 might be a little more problematic since I don't have much time to think of a new mLearning project, and I don't feel comfortable just picking from my bag of existing mLearning ideas (even though I haven't articulated them before, or implemented them yet).

In any case, the issue of legitimate peripheral participation does come up, as it usually does with cMOOCs. I know that in #change11 I (perhaps) got a bit of a reputation for being anti-lurker. I am not anti-lurker, but I think that lurkers don't necessarily rise to the same level of recognition as active participants. After all, active participants not only take control of their own learning (like lurkers might), but they also enrich other people's learning by participating, adding resources, giving their own two cents and moving the conversation forward.

In xMOOCs, like the coursera courses I am currently enrolled in, you can have legitimate peripheral participation (i.e. view videos, take quizzes, write papers), and still get acknowledged.  Ironically enough cMOOC stalwarts sometimes look down upon this model because of the robotization of the grading and potential lack of human contact; but it is the same people who also defend the rights of lurkers ;-)  OK, OK, I digress!

One legitimate point, brought up by Nick Kearney, which deserves a little more discussion is that badges (and other ways of certifying people) promote certain outcomes of the course; and if a learner wanted to go down their own path (which isn't necessarily the path of the designer of the course) they won't get accreditation.

This is true, however there are a few factors to consider:

First, any course, be it on-campus, online, cMOOC, xMOOC, workshop, whatever - is designed (or should be!). The selection of content and tools is predicated on the learning goals of the course. In other words, all courses are already infused with certain values, predispositions and goals.  If this were not the case, we would not be calling it a course (the C in MOOC stands for Course), but we would call it a Social, a get-together, or Open Mic. Each course has a goal and those goals determine what I need to do to get the badge, certificate, or credit.

Secondly, even though courses do have these pre-determined values and for the course, it doesn't mean that the learner's freedom is impeded.  In a MOOC, learners can go off and tread their own paths with no consequences because MOOCs are self-directing for the most part.  In a paid college course, learners can also do this, tread their own paths, but the caveat is that they have to do any silly little assignments that everyone else is doing (that they might not want to do)  in order to pass.

In a MOOC, learners do no need the accreditation from an official body.  They can easily create a portfolio that showcases what they've learned and show that off.  A blog of reflections can be a type of portfolio for instance.

Finally, Nick writes:
The result is that my freedom to engage with the MOOC in my own way is curtailed. You move away from the OPEN and more towards the COURSE. The idea of levels also created distinctions that may be counter-productive. What about LEGITIMATE PERIPHERAL PARTICIPATION.

I think that Nick misses one thing here.  OPEN and COURSE are both part and parcel of a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course).  You cannot take one, and leave the other if you are running a MOOC.  As I've stated above, in a MOOC you do not need to do what the rest of the Course participants are doing, so no freedoms are curtailed.  Open, unlike closed is not a binary.  Closed either is, or isn't. Open, on the other hand (IMHO) is a whole variety of shades of gray, with different degrees of open.  At the end of the day, it's up to the course designers and presenters to assess  why they are there, what they want to accomplish, and what their roadmap is for doing just that.  If one wants to make their own path, so be it ( :-)  ) but that doesn't mean that they ought to accredit everyone and anyone who goes their own path. That's just untenable, and we are back to robograding, and criticisms of xMOOCs ;-)


What do you think? :)
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