Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

#CCK11: Massive Open Online Learning Events – acorns to oaks?

with 5 comments

I had an interesting and productive exchange with Damien Clark who has coined the term ‘deliveryware’ to denote the open delivery or facilitation part of a course as opposed to its ‘content’ such as Open Courseware. This led me to think that the baggage many people associate with the word ‘Course’ in ‘MOOC’ can initially encourage false expectations followed by perceptions of lack of focus, chaos, confusion and the end of education as we know it – and consequently, high drop-out rates. Connectivism may teach the value of chaos and confusion in learning but, rightly or wrongly, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

What is the essence of a successful MOOC-like learning event? The virtual proximity of a critical mass of connected learners over the same period of time seems a good starting point. Perhaps a general term for online learning events might help so for want of a better description I’ll adopt, ”Massive Open Online Learning Event (MOOLE?)’ as a generic term and consider (speculate!) on the implications.

  • Massive – Current MOOCs demonstrate that connecting large numbers of learners to others with similar, though not identical, interests is crucial. (Maybe there’s also a future for the ‘OOLE’ too but drawing together a critical mass of participants seems necessary for sustained interaction, whether it’s between 10, or 1000 participants.)
  • Open – Openess almost goes without saying but in practice some restrictions, logins etc may be imposed for various reasons, good or bad. Young kids might interact with their peers in a protected environment (rather than YouTube!) and logins can be useful for confirming identity or spam protection.
  • Online – Powerful tools for communication, recording and sharing can be exploited in numerous well-known ways. (Further erosion of the boundaries between the Internet and everyday life can be expected.)
  • Learning – Open Educational Resources (OERs) are now reasonably abundant (the problem is more in finding the right ones for the job) but they usually come without the deliveryware and any means of assessment / creditation. Approaches to online education can be many and varied, and whether one particular learning theory is ‘correct’ or not is probably less important than openly experimenting with different methods of delivery in a wide variety of circumstances.
  • Event – How might a MOOLE be created? Bringing together numerous learners for the event is clearly time-critical, as is the provision of human online facilitation over a set period. Let any individual, institution or commercial body simply attempt to ‘seed’ a Learning Event by openly declaring an interest and a putative time frame. If this acorn is sufficiently well-nurtured and publicized then could an oak tree grow as symbiotic connections form between other interested parties with or without different agendas? For example, websites supportive of online learning that have problems running well-populated, subject-based discussion groups may welcome opportunities to connect their users to a wider network of peers. Similarly, public bodies representing education at various levels might be happy to cherry-pick content, live presentations and forums for their learners from various sources within the MOOLE while retaining their own deliveryware – and so on.

Topics that are reasonably well-covered by OERs (say, ‘Global Warming’, ‘Modern Physics’, ‘International Relations’ etc) could command widespread global interest and attract large numbers of participants with very different backgrounds and learning objectives. In its final, ready-to-run form, the MOOLE might develop as an ill-defined, loosely-connected network of special interest groups and individuals with numerous parallel and overlapping paths available for particular educational purposes. School groups might exploit publicly-funded ‘courses’ complete with trained facilitators who jolly kids along with engaging videos, global discussions with peers and some sensible degree of protection from complete open access. Another thread, more like current MOOCs with readings, project suggestions and open discussions, might be aimed at non-specialists wishing to progress their understanding. Experts and professionals might conduct their own seminars and forums but also be prepared to facilitate other activities for non-specialists or children.

With no inherent bias towards any particular educational level or mode of instruction, the infrastructure of the MOOLE would simply be there to be used, reused, saved, molded and extended by anyone anywhere to whatever form is desired. There would be nothing of course to stop with-profit enterprises selling their own documentation and providing services with paid facilitators operating in closed sessions but provided everything was above board (CC licenses respected etc.) this does not have to be a Bad Thing.

Fantasy or future?

DSCF2066 200 yo oak in my garden


Written by Gordon Lockhart

January 31, 2011 at 11:43 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] else. SC: Eh?? ME: I don’t think it should be called a course and I’ve already said so here – though nobody paid much attention! SC: I’m not surprised man! So “The virtual […]

  2. I began my first MOOC about a week ago. I’m finally understanding how this whole thing works thanks to a few of your blog posts especially this one :

    “ME: You don’t get it do you? We’re all in it together – scores of us from different countries, backgrounds, ages and experience in all types of education. There’s little hope of teaching so many people anything very specific, let alone indoctrinating them. It’s more of an open friendly forum – up to anyone, including the facilitators to read, study, interact and collaborate with others in any way they find useful. You call me Gordo again and I’ll throw you off this blog!!”

    I am happy to finally relax, kick back and make some connections in this course amongst all the chaos. Thanks for helping me understand more.

    Aaron (@Aaronatcollege)

    September 21, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    • Hi Aaron – and thanks for your comment! The “.. this MOOC is Something Else” post was a bit of light relief for me at the time but made a much greater impact than anything else I did – food for thought!. As you say in your own blog – “It’s about making connections and enjoying the ride.”. The capacity of the MOOC to confound initial expectations may be its most distinguishing and valuable feature!


      September 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm

  3. […] I had an interesting and productive exchange with Damien Clark who has coined the term 'deliveryware' to denote the open delivery or facilitation part of a course as opposed to its 'content' such a…  […]

  4. […] with ‘xMOOC’  along with all the associated hype. Some time ago I suggested using Massive Open Online Learning Event (MOOLE) as a neutral and generic term for just about any learning event that’s open and involves […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: