I responded to a recent question on Quora this morning, If a MOOC is offered in both scheduled and self-paced versions, how should students choose between them? What’s the tradeoff for setting aside a dedicated schedule to keep pace with a scheduled MOOC? (see http://davehallmon.sharedby.co/share/ZbPg2D)
It is my opinion that students should choose based on their expectation of learning. Do they want to learn in a community with other learners? Do they want to learn, self-paced. These lend themselves to very different designs and one of which I would say isn’t a MOOC. According to Wikipedia:
A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs). MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.
Please let me stress that the “interactive” piece is so key for what makes a MOOC a MOOC and in my opinion, a self-paced MOOC doesn’t have “[classroom] participation.” So in order for this to happen effectively, the MOOC does need to be scheduled so that the community of learners can be built during that time frame just like a brick and mortar course at an institution. A MOOC isn’t a public website. Recorded lectures on iTunesU isn’t a MOOC! A MOOC is a “course” with enrolled students with the expectation of learning together. Downloading lectures and not talking with the instructor or students isn’t taking a course.
It is important to note the interactive community is primarily asynchronous and activities take place outside of real time often with collaboration tools, e.g., discussion forums, collaborative documents, etc. These enable flexibility. A MOOC is “massive” and the students can receive the information that they want and interact with the class when it’s most convenient for them.
The asynchronous interaction affords less pressure to act on the information or immediately respond in some way. People have time to digest the information and put it in the proper context and perspective before they interact. Because MOOCs are so “massive” it is difficult to have all of the course content delivered in a synchronous format, but I do believe having some synchronous moments, (e.g., a Twitter Chat) in a MOOC can strengthen and personalize the learning community.
If there was a self-paced MOOC that was always open it would be no different than something like we have here with Quora or sites like Facebook. We are all members, the information is here, but we can access it one day and not come back to it for a year.
While there is interaction, the expectations of the community of learners is much different. When you are sitting in a classroom there is much more expectation of participation even if it is sleeping in the back of the room. A specific group of students is still there for a specific amount of time, in a specific place, with an expectation of learning.
If a MOOC is offered in both scheduled and self-paced versions, how should students choose between them? What’s the tradeoff for setting aside a dedicated schedule to keep pace with a scheduled MOOC?