Monday, June 27, 2011

eduMOOC is upon us, and more chaotic than ever!

Well, eduMOOC starts today!
This will be my fourth MOOC, and it seems to be the most chaotic to date, even more chaotic than CCK11! It seems like LAK11, perhaps due to its theme, didn't have many active participants, which made it easier to follow. CCK11 was a but more chaotic, but gRSShopper made it easier to find and prune blog posts of interest to read and comment back on. mobiMOOC was less chaotic than CCK11 (at least for me) because all discussion was in a central place - like in LAK11, but it was a manageable volume of information.

eduMOOC seems to have two strikes against it - A TON of volume and it's a bit chaotic. The course is hosted on google groups and it seems like some of the participants don't know where to say their hellos, as a consequence there are many "hello, I am..." threads (in addition to the official thread), and people respond to those which makes thread mushroom out of control and fragment the discussion. I do wonder if this is an etiquette issue, or a user training issue. If this were resolved it would probably help a bit with the perceived information overload (no that I read each and every email that comes my way from eduMOOC).

This MOOC ought to be interesting, both in terms of its theme, and in terms of the volume of learners on it. It should be a learning experience for my own MOOC planning :-)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Academic writing - collaborator or lone wolf?

One of the things I've been thinking about recently is the topic of research, writing, and publishing. If you want to be in academia research and publishing is a must while if you want to be in the private sector it may not be as important (I am guessing it's not - but if you are of differing opinion leave a comment!) In thinking of research and publishing one of the questions that comes to mind is to go at it alone for the most part (i.e. researching and publishing mostly stuff you work on your own, and keep collaboration limited), or to collaborate with people for the most part keeping some special topics for yourself (something that you don't want to share with others or something that is so specialized that you can't collaborate).

Having worked in groups, and alone, through four masters programs I haven't come to a conclusion which method I prefer. As a lone wolf I can set the tone and the schedule. If I want to slack off one day but really go at it another I can. You can't really do this with collaborative group work. On top of that with group work you have the potential problem of the person that does little or no work but still expects to be part of the project or get the credit. In grad school you can't really eject people from a project, but I guess as an independent researcher if someone isn't contributing or has fallen off the face of the earth you can easily remove their name from the credits.

I haven't decided whether I would want to pursue the tenure track, but publishing matters in tenure decisions (right?) so what would tenure committees look more favorably upon? Collaborative (and sometimes transdisciplinary) research and publishing work? Or lone-wolf style research and publishing? My feeling is that collaborating with others not only distributes the weight of the work, but also gives people an opportunity to learn from one another; however if that work is discounted because you were one of two (or one of three, or four) people that worked on a paper, does this serve as a disincentive for collaboration and cross-discipline learning?

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MOOCing away for college credit?

Note: I had originally written this for the UMassOnline blog, but since it's not posted yet, I am cross posting here :-)

This past December I graduated from the Masters in Applied Linguistics program and I am no longer a formal student [i.e. someone in a degree or certificate granting program]. This doesn't mean that I haven't been busy.  A relatively new phenomenon in learning has cropped up in recent years - that of the Massive Online Open Course (or MOOC for short). These past few months I've been taking part in several different MOOCs, dealing with topics such as Learning Analytics [LAK11], Connected Knowledge [CCK11], and more recently mLearning [mobiMOOC]. There are other MOOCs that I decided to skip this time around (Digital Story Telling and PLENK).  Some MOOCs use traditional Learning Management Systems like Moodle, while others use a more distributed architecture, using freely available Web 2.0 tools to create content, comment on this content, and aggregate this content to learners. It's an interesting idea, albeit kind of chaotic at times, and there is definitely a lot of content out there and a lot of interactions. As a participant you can't really expect to read every message and every comment because you just don't have the amount of time that you would need to do so.

Now these MOOCs are free, you can come and go as you please; you are not obligated to participate in each of the week's discussions, and of course there is no college credit. One of the things that has come to mind is how can one utilize this vast resource for college credit.  Students who are self-motivated and can keep up with the workload imposed by a MOOC could use it as an independent study. Most independent studies are one-to-one affair with a student and a faculty mentor.  The benefit that I see of MOOC used as an independent study is that you are tapping into not just a few experts and interested parties that are organizing the MOOC, but you are also tapping into one vast community of motivated learners, like you, who want to learn more about the subject.   

MOOCs are quite diverse, some of them have projects (even though you don't get a final grade from an instructor), and some do not; most however do have homework in the form of readings and participation, and many learners in such MOOCs actually provide additional sources and readings that enrich the original "assignment." So my open question is this: What if more students wanted to be part of a MOOC? How does a faculty mentor reconcile the lack of control he or she has over the direction of an independent study? Does the faculty member have any control over an independent study anyway?  As people in institutions of learning should it be part of our missions to organize some MOOCs in our areas of interest?

Note: Since I wrote this post there are two more MOOCs planned eduMOOC (summer 2011) and ChangeMOOC (Fall 2011 and continuing Spring 2012)