Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Month, new MOOCs, new learning, more grazing?

September is here! New academic year has begun, the campus is again full of life (and lacking parking), and I am back to school as a student, this time at Athabasca University!  I am also looking forward to a number of MOOCs that are beginning this month, among them Connected Courses, which promises to be an interesting cMOOC.  Perhaps I am insulting the course by calling it a MOOC (MOOCs these days seem to have a bad reputation), but it seems like the label that works best for it at the moment.  When compared to xMOOCs, there aren't a lot of cMOOCs offered, so time to savor the learning opportunity here.

Once again I've signed up for quite a few MOOCs (almost all of them xMOOCs) on coursera and futurelearn but I've decided on a different tactic for them.  I've decided to give grazing a try.  In previous attempts at MOOC learning I've been quite determined to follow the path set out by the course designers and facilitators.  Dot every i, and cross every t. The freedom of cMOOCs meant that I could define some of those objectives on my own, but xMOOCs, with their certificates of completion, had meant that there was an element of external motivation (carrot or stick, you decide) that was there that was poking at my need for collecting "stuff", beyond the knowledge that I gained in the MOOC. I guess I needed to have that gold star that said I completed the course, that external recognition.

I've written about this before in another post - but I think it's something to be repeated: be weary of poorly implemented external motivators. They may erode the the scaffolding that was there before by those internal motivators, and if you pull the external motivators once that internal scaffolding is gone...well, you might have spectacular failure ;-). I came across this in an article (or two) a few years ago when I was working on the literature review for the Academic Check-ins article. I wish I had retained my notes from that time because these articles on motivation keep coming back into relevance in my explorations of MOOCs (maybe I should implement the filing system that Pat Fahy demonstrated in our EDDE 801 orientation going forward!)

Anyway, back to the point, now that certain courses no longer offer a certificate of completion, I am thinking hard about my time investment in these xMOOCs and deciding where to devote my limited time. Some courses don't have content that is new to me, but I signed up for them regardless because there is always a nugget of info you might be missing, and there is opportunity to engage with others. The videos and readings represent the nugget of info while the assignments (and to some extent the forums) represent interactions with others.  I have enough time to watch the lectures (commuting makes this possible), but not enough time for writing and engaging with others. Thus, I am saving my writing for courses like Connected Courses where the engagement between peers promises to be higher, instead of taking on the role of the more knowledgeable other in the xMOOCs I am signed up for. I've decided to give this dip-in/jump-out idea a bit more of a trial this semester and practice some xMOOC grazing, going through and cherry-picking materials (mostly video) from courses that seem interesting, but not really engaging a lot in the community. I guess I will be going to the lurking side this semester :)

As a side note, as I was pondering about this course, and trying to get comfortable with my grazing experiment (maybe I should call it my filtering experiment, maybe it has a better ring to it), I thought about this.  I do not know if it's an original thought (probably not), but here it goes: A good course has the capability to engage the learner long after the course is formally over.

What are your thoughts? How you do deal with the glut of xMOOCs available? What do you think of my course design philosophy?
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