Response to ‘Uncomfortable with MOOC’

Online Teacher, in her 9/9/13 post, “Uncomfortable With MOOC” (TOMOOC), says:

I’m an experienced online learner and teacher, but seem to be having difficulty understanding WHAT to do in this course so far. Anyone feeling a little lost? Are we supposed to post here? On our individual blogs? Where does the interaction take place? When we find out how to comment on others’ blogs? Do we need a gmail address (someone mentioned Google+)? It looked like things were organized until I started trying to DO them.

Response

The web is ultimately a massive publishing platform. Thus, one way I get a feel for a particular course (MOOC or whatever) is to quickly scan the publishing footprint. Let’s take your post, for example.

As a TOMOOC participant, you published “Uncomfortable With MOOC” in your Teach Online Course blog:

Online Teacher's blog post.

Online Teacher’s post in her blog.

It was automatically fed via RSS to the TOMOOC site . . .

Your post on the HowTOL site.

Your post on the TOMOOC site.

. . . and FlipBoard . . .

Your post on FlipBoard

Your post on FlipBoard

. . . and shared via email:

Your post in a HowTOL email announcement.

Your post in a TOMOOC email announcement.

It could also be mentioned in the TOMOOC Twitter feed via the #tomooc hashtag:

xx

Twitter feed option.

When your post is mentioned by fellow participants in their blogs (and other social media platforms), it is further distributed. When it’s absorbed by search engines and listed in searches, the circle expands exponentially.  And this process is ongoing.

Thus, when you ask, Where does the interaction take place?, most would find it tough to answer. I suppose one answer is that it takes place on the TOMOOC site, but that answer would be misleading. The site is the hub for the MOOC, but the action takes place throughout the fluid and ever-expanding network (and embedded subnetworks) that forms the course.

In a sense, the answer is in the word “MOOC.” TOMOOC is a massive, open, and online course. Like a massive open superhighway, you decide when and where to onramp and offramp. Destination and speed differs for everyone, determined by personal needs, resources, and preferences.

Greg and his team are showing us strategies that we might consider incorporating into our online courses. By doing, by jumping in, we’re learning. “Real” learning is by definition challenging, and at its best, scary. It’s a departure from the familiar, from our old constructs of reality, and it invariably involves failure and confusion, stumbling and mistakes. We could save ourselves a lot of misery by simply dropping out or sitting on the sidelines, but we also wouldn’t learn.

You’ve asked a good question: What’s in it for me?

The problem is that you‘re the only one who can answer that. This answer may sound like a copout, but it’s the only one that makes sense. You have to decide if this process, which is frustrating to some extent for everyone, is worthwhile.

Is this MOOC approach effective pedagogy?

If you’ve worked with technology for a while, you know that an important part of the “best” approach or practice to learning is determined by the task. The problem is that, in the world of technology, tasks worth learning are complex, and we quickly realize that simple linear or rote approaches just won’t work. Thus, instead of giving students fish for a day, best practice is to teach them how to fish.

Learning how to learn is the pedagogy, and the bottom line is constructivism. Jump in and see what happens. Build your version (repurpose) of the course with your posts — posts that reflect who you are and what you’re learning. Add or remove (deconstruct) features as you go. This is all part of the active learning process.

I think you’re already far ahead of most of us in constructing your presence, sharing your thoughts, generating discourse, shaping others’ thinking, contributing your expertise and experience, etc. You’ve made me question MOOCs and why I’m here, and you’re changing my construct of the course.

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11 Responses to Response to ‘Uncomfortable with MOOC’

  1. Pingback: Response to 'Uncomfortable with MOOC' | Digital...

  2. techtamers says:

    Jim – I love this quote from you:
    “In a sense, the answer is in the word “MOOC.” TOMOOC is a massive, open, and online course. Like a massive open superhighway, you decide when and where to onramp and offramp. Destination and speed differs for everyone, determined by personal needs, resources, and preferences.”
    It’s such a great visual picture.
    Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful response. While you seem to echo some of the comments about learning being messy and everyone needing to learn in their own way, I tend toward the learning with constructs. It’s like learning to walk in rehab. You could put someone out there and let them bounce around the room, but having bars to walk between means they have support – and actually make faster progress. I see prerequisites, learning outcomes, and structured discussion tools as the “supporting bars” that help us make faster progress.
    While we are truly creating a lot of content and a lot of links, is it really the best use of our time to jump from one place to another, trying to comment and follow a discussion? How much more efficient might it be if we had a simple forum where we could ALL talk, respond, and read – where we could vote topics up or down.
    Kudos to you for your well-thought-out response. I particularly appreciate the visuals and the extra care it takes to provide those. I look forward to many more exchanges over the coming weeks.

    • I do not think forums are good for creating something is “ours”, and we choose to share it with others. I think forums are insufficient since you are just part of a string of text in a walled garden. There is no take way “ownership”. So really an outcome from this course is to have a personal blog that that expresses your ideas,opinions and plans for teaching online.

      I do think there needs to be more constructs to meet the needs of the participates in this course. Prior knowledge of this new way of learning is minimal at best. in the other MOOCs I have been involved with the participants seemed to have an easier time of self navigation.

      I like the idea of a list of posts where everyone could talk, respond, and read and vote posts up or down. Do you know a tool that collects and sorts blog posts based on participant voting?

      • JimS says:

        Greg: “I like the idea of a list of posts where everyone could talk, respond, and read and vote posts up or down. Do you know a tool that collects and sorts blog posts based on participant voting?”

        Response: One possibility is to create a “TOMOOC Forum” blog in WordPress where all participants would be given an “author” role. They could log in to the forum to post and comment.

        One of the settings options is to enable ratings for posts and comments. The ratings can be placed above each post or below. For posts, there’s a five-star scale and running totals. For comments, a thumbs-up or -down.

        There’s a sidebar widget option that lists the highest rated posts and comments.

        Participants, in their own blogs, could then simply link to their posts/comments in the TOMOOC Forum — or copy them to their own blogs.

        To initiate the process, participants could be asked/reminded to take a moment to rate each post and comment they’ve read.

        Greg: I do think there needs to be more constructs to meet the needs of the participates in this course. Prior knowledge of this new way of learning is minimal at best. in the other MOOCs I have been involved with the participants seemed to have an easier time of self navigation.

        Response: WordPress offers a large number of thematic templates, and one that I like and use often is the Digg 3-Column. It has a left and right sidebar and a wide center column.

        For TOMOOC, one possibility is to create a TOMOOC Course Page. The center column could be set to static (rather than “live” with the latest posts on top), with a comprehensive schedule of activities for the full course, divided into weeks. The left sidebar could be used to list widgets linking to resources and other TOMOOC sites. The right, to spotlighting and linking to the latest activities.

        With this combo, I think you would more or less be able to replicate what you’re doing on the current site.

        Caveat: The features I’m referring to are in the free (wordpress.com — not wordpress.org) services. One of the restrictions pertains to RSS feeds. You can include a limited feed as a widget, but you’re not allowed to mirror posts, wholesale, from other sites.

        Let me know if I can be of help. I have quite a bit of experience with wordpress.com. Here’s a link to one of my current course sites. It uses the Digg 3-Column with a static center column option. However, I haven’t enabled the ratings options.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Techtamers, and thank you for your kind words and thoughtful comments. I like your analogy of “supporting bars,” and I agree that, to be considered well designed, online courses (including MOOCs) must have them in strategic places. Without them, students wouldn’t be able to get the most out of a course.

      You’re right. My freeway analogy falls short in terms of explaining support bars. In hindsight, I’d add that the freeway itself is the system of support bars. It has lanes, signs, rules, navigational aids, police, emergency help and rescue, and other motorists to monitor us and give us feedback. In the same way, a well-designed online course has supporting bars.

      I think TOMOOC is beautifully designed with strategically placed schedules for each week that are filled with a wide range of exciting learning activities that are all interactive in open ways. Together, stretched out over weeks, they form a clear progression from basic to more complex activities.

      I also think TOMOOC is designed to be empowering and peer supportive, with complete reliance on teacher and staff being shifted to the participants themselves. Via discussions — such as the one we’re having right now — we help one another in our construction efforts. The result is the realization that we’re in charge of our learning, just as we’re in charge of our performance on freeways.

      My freeway analogy also fails to distinguish between MOOCs and “standard” online courses. In a way, this is deliberate on my part. They’re different in important ways. (I missed the Tony Bates webinar, but I’m sure he must have touched on some of the key ways.) But they’re also similar in important ways. My guess is that they’re slowly gravitating toward fusion. -Jim S

  3. Pingback: Response to 'Uncomfortable with MOOC' | Anti-MO...

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  5. Sue Waters says:

    Hi Jim,

    Excellent post! I think it is one of the best posts I’ve read that explains the processes involved in these types of MOOCs.

    Greg – which tool are you using for email syndication of the posts?

    Regarding voting of posts there are ways you can do it using plugins. One of our networks has a custom plugin developed for their University that does something similar. It allows you to connect student blogs to the class or course blog; and for students to vote on posts. They’ve been using it for years however I’ve never had any feedback on the voting aspect.

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