Value of TOMOOC Webinars?

Anonymous 9/13/13: Another perspective on the webinars is that they have been largely informal and questions are welcomed at any time. Similar to live class, the presentation is only as good as the questions asked. It is one step better than watching a recorded session or TED video because it is a chance for participants to engage each other.

Response

Hi, and thanks for your thoughtful comment on Responses to Veronica, Ida, Sara: 9/13/13. I agree with you re the potential for webinars to be very effective. The better ones are, as you say, less formal and focused on questions from the audience rather than on straight delivery — the idea of flipped classroom transferred to a live web platform (btw, Bates had originally planned his seminar as a flip).

My concern is neither antithetical to nor critical of webinars. It’s more a question.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of online learning is the anytime-anywhere factor. This elimination of time and space barriers to learning is, in my mind, the greatest invention since schools and the printing press.

At once, online classes even the playing field for those who can’t and can afford to be in a classroom or hall located at a specific place at a specific time. And with MOOCs, the gap between the have-nots and haves is also eliminated.

This is the online advantage, and I’m reluctant to give it up. It’s disruptive, opening the doors of higher ed to a whole new population of learners. However, when we insert time-bound activities into the online learning environment, we automatically lose the anytime advantage and eliminate all those who can’t be there. The medium is the message, and when a MOOC devoted to How to Teach Online, such as this, emphasizes live webinars, then the message seems to be that webinars are best practice.

I guess I’d like to see the delivery emphasis shift, even a little, to using asynchronous methods to create engaging learning experiences.

I think the planners of this MOOC are moving in this direction by archiving recordings of sessions. Perhaps another kind of “flip” might be to ask the presenters to, first, post their presentations in TOMOOC and, second, to participate in a week-long asynch forum on their topic. All of this would be asynch. Would this non-live version be less dynamic than a live webinar? My guess is it would be just as if not more dynamic — but in a different way that doesn’t disparage synch modes.

The point is that each approach, synch and asynch, has its strengths. The asynch forum I’m suggesting may be better for online learners with varying schedule demands, but it also changes the burden on the presenter, requiring a week-long commitment to participating in a forum with course participants. An interesting variation may the posting of video responses by the presenter to questions and comments in the forum. The short videos could be posted once a day, covering posts up to a certain date and time.

In the interest of more dynamic asynch MOOC learning activities, perhaps the planners could add a new dimension of forums, a discussion board with different forums, some ongoing and others for specific periods of time. Each forum could be devoted to important topics aligned with each week’s objectives. Other forums could be devoted to special interest groups. Some webinars could be presented as forums or both. Just a thought . . .

By exploring and experimenting with asynch strategies for online learning, we increase the range and value of common tools that are available to all online teachers.

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