The image at the right is a snibit of an image from a contemporary artist, Robin Dickinson and the full version can be found on his blog post, What’s the real value of a fully connected world? I am not going to answer his question here today but I will use the image to help paint the picture of students learning online. Obviously different strategies, designs, and pedagogical viewpoints for doing so.
I recently started catching episodes from e-Literate TV which is a new webcast of “conversational” segments created by Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein from Stanford University. The purpose of these is to share a conversation about the issues related to the use of technology in support of education, e.g., MOOCs, online learning, etc.
One of the episodes that I caught is an interview with Phil Hill and Dave Cormier at the MOOC Research Initiative Conference. Dave is the web communications and innovations manager of Prince Edward Island University who has been heavily involved with MOOCs and credited for coining the term, “MOOC” back in 2008. I am glad I caught this and I look forward to following Dave’s Educational Blog.
In the video above I loved how Dave describes what makes a MOOC a MOOC which is abundance. The “M” stands for “massive” and it means that there should be massive amounts of (but may not include all) abundant participants, sharing, openness (free), connecting, content, and most importantly… learning. If it is not doing at least some of these then it isn’t a MOOC.
Dave also says, a MOOC is usually “one part massive and one part open.” These parts mesh well with the massiveness and openness of The Internet. He gave us an example of experts in the field of physics all collaborating in a MOOC to create a core physics textbook. Getting all of the experts together in one “place” but also imagine also millions of students all around the world coming to learn in this same space as well? Yes. This does afford the use of abundance provided by The Internet.
In the interview Phil asks Dave, “What are the different types of MOOCs and what are MOOCs are good for?”
His discussion of the different types of MOOCs and what they are good for is all related to different types of audiences, learning, and objectives.
- xMOOCs and Remedial MOOCs – Dave tells us that these are used to teach people the basics of things. He says that they are very good at teaching specific people… specific things. These could be things people need to know to break into a field or perhaps the background material students need to get into a university or class. The objective of these MOOCs is to get all of the participants up to square 1 so that their basic skills established for future learning.
- cMOOCs – Which are my personal favorite because they have allowed me to “connect” with likeminded people all around the world with the objective of learning and sharing. So obviously I have attended ones that were geared toward educational technology, online learning, instructional design, teaching, etc. Over the years I have participated in some where this learning happened rather easily and others not the case, but that is a topic for a different post. Dave talks about how these “Connectivist MOOCs are really good at complexity.” He shared an example about how in Canada there was a MOOC created for HR professionals to connect, learn, and become more aware of mental health issues. Obviously a very broad topic but one that I assume HR professionals are very interested in. This instructional strategy is very different than the xMOOC mentioned above where the specific participants are expected to learn x, y, and z. When the HR professionals came together in the MOOC they brought diverse experiences and different perspectives to share. The MOOC was essentially a community of practice where the objective was to grow, share, and learn with each other. I love how Dave said that this “connecting” was the “curriculum of the conversation.” What a beautiful pedagogical statement.
- Brand MOOCs – These a quite interesting and I hope to find one I can participate in one day so that I can get a better understanding of this type of MOOC. Dave shared that in these, the main objective is for the “provider” to get the word out about their company, train their clients, and train their service providers in a specific type of thing. Perhaps thousands of people could take a MOOC created by Apple? Sounds fun. Dave didn’t use “Apple” as an example provider, but he did share that this would afford the provider to be 1) seen as a valuable member of the overall community, 2) more people get to know about them as a company, 3) they get a better/positive brand message, and 4) they educate all of these people and really do good work so that they can write it off as a community activity.Dave then went on to remind us what providers or “brands” usually do which is spend millions on advertising and marketing through traditional approaches. But what is the ROI? In the end they may not even know exactly who they have reached and how they have reached them. Although when a Brand MOOC is used, thousands of participants are potentially engaged with your brand, you have more data on your audience because they have signed up with some geographical/demographical information, and you can monitor their participation in the MOOC and perhaps know more about who they are and the types of things that they do to get at more psychographic data. But think about it. In the end, both participant and the provider are learning things about each other that you could not have learned with traditional approaches.
To conclude the interview Phil asks Dave, “What is the future of MOOCs?”
Dave’s conclusion ties everything back to this notion of “abundance” provided by The Internet. While these MOOCs described above isn’t the instructional strategy of traditional online learning, I agree with Dave that the future ahead is bright and that the abundance is going to spread! But what does this mean? He shared a few thoughts but I am sure he has more:
- Charging people for content is going to become difficult. So our current business models are going to have to change.
- There will be more creative opportunity for brands/providers to connect with their clients and they will get farther with marketing than they ever have before.
- Sub cultures of MOOCs will become more prevalent where MOOCs will be adapted for different languages.
What are your thoughts on the future of MOOCs?