Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

Archive for April 2011

#CCK11 Any Questions? (part 2)

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This continues my DIY questionnaire for CCK11 …..

How would you improve a MOOC such as CCK11?

Improvement for whom? This is not a straightforward question because of the extreme focus Connectivism places on learner autonomy. Improvement for me as a relatively unschooled student of education theory might well be the opposite for someone who has participated in previous CCKs and is active in research. However, bringing together a critical mass of like-minded individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise for discussion and debate in a ‘neutral’ environment is a worthy achievement. So, building on this as a foundation I would then:

  • Be more explicit in stating aims and objectives. Make it absolutely clear that a MOOC is not a ‘course’ in any conventional sense. Take into account the actual experiences of previous MOOCers so that ‘does what it says on the tin’ resonates with a far greater number of participants in the future.
  • Provide more guidance on the role of participants in organizing their own facilities – doesn’t have to be prescriptive. Explain clearly in advance the purpose and use of any software tools and facilities provided by facilitators. Avoid using unproven software (however brilliantly conceived!) in major supporting roles.
  • Somehow designate more facilitators / assistants / curators / helpers / greeters – whatever. A significant number of CCK11 participants appear to be ‘serial MOOCers’ and some do in effect play out some of these roles very well. It’s only human for a new participant to appreciate a friendly welcome and a modicum of structure rather than confusion and chaos. This doesn’t have to be ‘spoon-feeding’ – just a little holding of hands! A suggestion: encourage all participants to state in their introductory statements how they might assist others (eg language translation). This could help prevent the loss of so many initial registrants.

These points are not intended as criticisms of the facilitators. I’m very aware that at least some imply additional resources that may simply not be available. Being old and cynical, my feeling is that learner autonomy is something of an ideal that does not usually happen by itself but requires considerable nurturing in terms of social attitudes as well as familiarization with any technology.

What would you like to say to the CCK11 facilitators?

Thank you! Your efforts are much appreciated. The Daily Newsletter and the weekly Elluminate sessions are crucial in maintaining focus and momentum and must involve considerable behind-the-scenes work. My impression is that your direct involvement in CCK11 discussion is perhaps  less than for previous CCKs. Clearly your time is limited and in a free and open course you have every right to set your involvement at whatever level you wish. However, the fact remains that Connectivism is heavily grounded in your own work (as the readings reflect) and your elucidation and interpretation is greatly valued by participants. Maybe widening the scope of the course so that Connectivism is situated more neutrally with other approaches to networked learning might help? Perhaps other key figures could then be persuaded to take up some of the administrative burden including facilitator and other roles as I’ve suggested above.

What would you like to say to other CCK11 participants?

Thank you too! I’ve enjoyed interacting with you. I’ve not been able to communicate much on the finer points of learning theory etc. but I do appreciate the atmosphere of tolerance and give and take that pervades CCK11. If this is a result of participants’ education – then I’m all for education!

So many of you have contributed to my knowledge and understanding in one way or another and I’m reluctant to mention names but I will say this. If, for my sins, I was forced to assess the contributions of fellow participants then, although I’d probably mark down the out-and-out lurkers, I would not necessarily mark up those who happen to have blogged, Facebooked, tweeted or whatever, with the greatest frequency. In my estimation some of the most thoughtful and illuminating contributions have originated from those who have been more backward in coming forward!

This will probably be my last post here – anyone is always very welcome to contact me via my website. Thanks again! – I’ve enjoyed your company!

Written by Gordon Lockhart

April 7, 2011 at 7:29 am

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#CCK11 Any Questions? (part 1)

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I think I commented somewhere before that  if the participants of the CCK11 MOOC are accountable for anything, it may be towards the future use of this remarkable form of networked learning. So, for the sake of future research and posterity,  I’ve followed the connectivist DIY way to create, answer and record my very own CCK11 questionnaire. I hope this is a useful exercise – if anyone else wants to base their own questionnaire on my questions I have absolutely no objections.

  • What is your background?

I’m a retired academic. I worked in an Engineering Department at Leeds University (UK) and was involved in teaching, research and administration.

  • What were your learning objectives for CCK11?

(a) Since retiring I’ve studied a number of topics via internet sources but never indulged much in networked learning. I saw CCK11 as a means of furthering my knowledge of education theory while gaining personal experience of networked learning itself.

(b) I was looking for ideas in connection with my website (iBerry, ‘The Academic Porthole’). This is a non-profit I’ve run (with a little help from my friends) for more than 11 years. Although now attracting around 1,000 page hits a day, collecting feedback and connecting with users has always been difficult and a critical mass of interested users / facilitators has never been achieved. I felt that some understanding of connectivism and its practice in a MOOC might help in addressing this issue.

  • Did you achieve these objectives?

(a) I now have reams of interesting-looking but unread references and a much better knowledge of what I should know were I inclined to study education theory seriously. On the whole, my learning has been more in the nature of RPI (Removal of Pig Ignorance) than anything else!

(b) I’ve connected with CCK11 participants in various ways – blogging, comments on blogs, FB page etc. I believe that the insights I’ve gained into social networking and interaction will certainly be useful. As an example, in contrast with my earlier blog pontifications, I was astounded and flattered by the impact my MOOC infographic made! I should make much greater use of the visual – and pontificate less!

  • What do you see as the advantages of a MOOC?

Connectivist MOOCs seem to perform well in an ‘orientation’ mode where high drop-out rates and assessment are not very relevant (I blogged on this here). With a free-wheeling approach to learner autonomy and engagement, a MOOC can provide an enjoyable introduction to a topic while side-stepping much of the angst (assignments, deadlines, exams etc) associated with formal learning.

  • What do you see as the disadvantages of a MOOC?

It’s unclear what a Connectivist MOOC can offer in roles other than orientation, particularly when learning objectives are quite specific. I doubt whether a Connectivist MOOC can ever be very effective or efficient where time is limited and mastering a skill or understanding an issue is critical. Setting learning objectives with no commitment to anyone but yourself and then interacting with like-minded interesting people with different backgrounds and learning objectives may be engaging, enjoyable and an excellent approach in some circumstances but not in others. As far as ‘deep learning’ is concerned, I think a balance must be struck between the social support offered by learning networks and the need for private study where learners reflect, practice and nurture learning as individuals, in a space of their own and without distraction. (This can be Hard Work and not such fun – as many research students find out!) The concept of isolated study sits uneasily with Connectivism where knowledge itself is somehow identified with network connections.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

April 4, 2011 at 10:17 am

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