Moving Towards a Culture of Learning #MOOCs

Update: I couldn't help but notice an influx of visitors from the revered OlDaily Site (Stephen Downes). There, 3 types of MOOCs are incorrectly attributed to me, a self-confessed ignoramus on MOOCs (at this time!). Here's my note to Stephen about the correction:
Stephen, please note the citation at the bottom of the section dividing MOOCs into 3 areas. I do not claim credit for it, only quote it as an example of how MOOCs are being classified.
The credit goes to Lisa's Online Teaching Blog at 
Please correct this as soon as possible. I do not want to be a MOOCing expert. ;-)
With appreciation,
Miguel Guhlin

Over the last few months, years, I've done my best to ignore MOOCs. I mean, who needs one more approach to eLearning? And anyways, who wants to grade that many assignments from students? I have trouble managing 20 eLearners...several thousand? Unbelievable.

However, the MOOC engine is picking up steam and capturing people's interest. I'll need to inventory my biases, reflect on why I'm not on the bandwagon yet, and whether I should try to get on, aside from intellectual curiosity. After all, will MOOCs turn out to be the latest beneficiary of established institution slipping on the internet banana peel?

When I look at the university and college systems around the country I see the newspaper industry. The newspaper industry was once deemed indestructable. Then this thing called the Internet came along and took away their classified business. The problem wasn't really that their classifieds disappeared. It was more that they had accumulated a ton of debt and had over invested in physcial plant and assets that could not adapt to the new digital world.
When revenue fell the debt was still there, as were all the big buildings they had purchased, all those presses they had bought and the acquisitions they had made declined in value, but the debt accumulated to pay for them never went away.
They were stuck with no easy way out.
The exact same thing is happening to our four-year schools. (Source: Mark Cuban)

The idea of 3 types of MOOCs--there we go classifying eLearning--is fascinating but I suspect that we'll soon have many more types of MOOCs since the concept seems so amorphous (IMIO=In my ignorant opinion):

Network-based MOOCs are the original MOOCs, taught by Alec Couros, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier. The goal is not so much content and skills acquisition, but conversation, socially constructed knowledge, and exposure to the milieu of learning on the open web using distributed means. The pedagogy of network-based MOOCs is based in connectivist or connectivist-style methods. Resources are provided, but exploration is more important than any particular content. Traditional assessment is difficult. 
Task-based MOOCs emphasize skills in the sense that they ask the learner to complete certain types of work...Class focuses on different topics for each week, and skills are demonstrated through sections on design, audio, video etc. in an effort to expose learners to many different formats and styles in online teaching. Community is crucial, particularly for examples and assistance, but it is a secondary goal. Pedagogy of task-based MOOCs tend to be a mix of instructivism and constructivism. Traditional assessment is difficult here too. 
Content-based MOOCs are the ones with huge enrollments, commercial prospects, big university professors, automated testing, and exposure in the popular press...Content acquisition is more important in these classes than either networking or task completion, and they tend to use instructivist pedagogy. Traditional assessment, both formative and summative, may be emphasized.  (Excerpts from Source: Lisa's Online Teaching Blog)

Hmm...Reading up on MOOCs this weekend, I was surprised by the web site. 

Notice the concept of "Get Paid to Write About Your Favorite Topic--Yourself." This is an online class you can partake in and people can attend for $50.

I like this idea of professional learning, where people can subscribe to a class. The question is, how can we get more of our teachers involved in teaching what they know about teaching (meta-teaching?) and sharing that as professional learning model? Contrast this approach to the traditional model we have now--district specialists sharing their insights, and/or hiring "experts." The biggest shift (IMHO) isn't just going from F2F to online, but helping individuals believe they have something to share/teach to their peers. 

If you wanted to build this culture of sharing, how would you do it face to face? 

“Every day we negotiate the level of hypocrisy we will tolerate.”  Rick Wormeli
...each day we walk into our organizations and wrestle with that very concept.   What we can and will take on…or won’t.  What we will and won’t allow.  What we are willing to address…or dismiss.  What we will seek out and what we will fail to notice. 
Source: Overcoming the Status Quo 
What are we willing to do to get the culture change we want? Given that there are many people around the world sharing learning for free online, how could we tap into that to enhance learning options without overwhelming the workshop presenters?

Finally, instead of charging people to participate in the classes, could they earn credits towards earning something?

I'm not sure I have a handle on MOOCs or district professional development. I'll need to keep reading and ask myself, How can this be valuable in K-12 setting or is it just another fad? I'm more interested in the SkillShare approach to professional development, though. 
Source:  User Generated Education BlogEvery Educator has a Story - Just Tell It!

I want a culture of teachers who share what they're learning as they're learning it. 

Do they?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


I like the idea of MOOC because I can find something I'm interested in, register, "meet up" virtually with other interested people, and learn something. But part of the attraction is that I can stop when I'm not longer engaged/interested. I want just enough on a topic or just a little bit more, and then the freedom to roam where my curiosity takes me. The challenge for me in more formal environments is that I have to curb my natural curiosity because I have a timeframe in which to complete some tasks to achieve a credential. So for me, the power of MOOCS is the opportunity to pursue my curiosity, something that is frequently missing from formal education. The current incarnation still feels a bit ephemeral to me though and I wonder about the evolution.
carson k said…
Great point Damianne, the proliferation of MOOCS does open up a huge variety of learning opportunities to a wide audience. Allowing them to satisfy curiosities and develop new interest but they may not be the best vehicle for professional education especially if there role is gradually going to exploited by institutions or educators.

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