#CCK11 Nature of the MOOC – and a Challenge for 21st Century Education
While I responded to Susan’s comment on my silly MOOC illustration I suddenly had the idea that, for me anyway, engaging with a MOOC was rather like a young student starting out on a traditional university or college course for the very first time. You meet fascinating strangers with interests quite outside your own experience. You have serious discussions about stuff you know little about. You’re bombarded with readings you skim or ignore. You make fun of the professors. You please yourself what lectures you go to and if you do go to lectures, you pay more attention to the chatter of your new friends than what the prof has to say. You commit indiscretions and blunders – you learn informally.
Some of your fellow students are bright, attractive and enjoyable to interact with – even when they talk nonsense. Others you find boring, or even upsetting and you learn to avoid them – diplomatically. Some simply drop out never to be seen again while others lurk around making little impact although there may be good reasons for this. Quite a few are repeating the course and like to offer advice to the newbies. This happy state of affairs is usually curtailed by the intervention of real life, probably in the form of assignments and examinations.
There are obvious parallels here with progress through MOOCs in general and CCK11 in particular but I don’t want to push the analogy too far! It may be unclear whether pushing out the boundaries of a course into the informal social environment that normally surrounds it makes for efficient or effective deep learning but it certainly can be an enjoyable, exciting and motivating experience for those who are new to a learning topic. A MOOC seems ideal in this role of induction or orientation where formal assessment is not particularly important. Further advantages are:
- High drop-out rates are less of a concern – some participants will dip their toes in the water only to realize they’d rather do something else!
- A critical mass of participants with diverse academic backgrounds and expertise will be attracted if the topic is of sufficient interest and wide enough in scope.
- The risk of domination by individuals or groups with their own agendas is reduced by encouraging participants to set up their own blogs, forums, FB pages etc.
A Challenge for 21st Century Education ?
Here’s a hypothetical example of how a MOOC might be exploited in an orientation mode. Take a topic of truly global importance such as ‘Climate Change’. This is a complex topic with wide-ranging scientific, economic and political aspects, all begging for intelligent solutions, yet locked down in controversy and suffering from ignorance and prejudice.