Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

#Change11 :: MOOCs, Education and The Infinite Hotel

with 4 comments

A MOOC isn’t a course of course. Courses are about curricula and the management of time, resources, learners and teachers. A MOOC is Something Else – I think it belongs in the Infinite Hotel and there’s plenty of room there for any number of different types.

Connectivist MOOCs were first to arrive in the Hotel and surprised everyone by attracting a vast multitude of guests even though rather less turned up for the learning party. Some complained about chaos and confusion as the party spilled over into scores of different learning spaces. Some guests were happy to welcome visitors in their own room while others quietly lurked, content to study by themselves – or not. Some even left the Hotel never to return! With as many learning objectives as participants nobody was very clear about what was learned – but no matter – how they engaged! It was a great party and, for better or worse, they called it a ‘MOOC’.

Then along came Stanford AI, Udacity, Cousera and Edx with their ‘instructivist’ MOOCs. The few large rooms they took over were still open and free but there was some huffing and puffing about spoiling the party when the instructivists took over the gigantic Hotel Theatre as a learning space and herded in thousands of new guests. Several sages wowed the guests with expert stage performances but relied mainly on old stuff and tricks taken from home. A friendly bunch of facilitators were employed to answer questions and keep an eye on the guests. They could be difficult to find but the more knowledgeable guests did try to help others when they could. The original MOOCers thought it wasn’t much of a party and re-labelled their own rooms, ‘Connectivist MOOC’, to underline the distinction.

I don’t think that connectivist and instructivist MOOCs are so fundamentally different that features of each can’t be usefully exploited according to different objectives. Hasn’t it happened already? What type of MOOC is DS106 or fslt12? Connectivist MOOCs blazed the trail and deserve much credit for that but word gets round and I can see a succession of ‘hybrid MOOCs’ joining the party.

MOOCs demonstrate that education reform doesn’t have to be done chunk by chunk in terms of the traditional stuff – lectures, tutorials, labs, classrooms, homework and so on – supported by a considerable amount of scaffolding. The many excellent presentations in Change11 and the discussions flowing from them point to the future and exhibit a great deal of consistency. All seem to recognise the worth of learner autonomy, peer support, openess, authenticity, diversity, mobility, internationalism, OER, OCW etc etc. The devil is in the detail of course but the Infinite Hotel of the Internet allows plenty of room for experimentation. Best to plan for a time when bandwidth and data storage pose less of a problem and irksome technological wrinkles are ironed out. Automatic speech recognition and language translation will be much more effective in the future – virtual or augmented reality could converge with reality itself. Really effective learning spaces will be manipulated far more effortlessly and moulded as circumstances dictate – by whoever, whenever and wherever – the party’s just begun and we ain’t seen nothing yet!

Written by Gordon Lockhart

May 23, 2012 at 5:20 pm

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  1. I’ve been following (or whatever) fslt12 with an eye to evaluating moocs about teaching as affordable PD for the unsupported, which also means wading through a threaded Moodle discussion of what is learning what is teaching pedagogical and cognitive theory. My threshold was sinking fast, and your post, a welcome life preserver.


    May 28, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    • Thanks Vanessa – extraordinarily difficult to sort out the MOOC plus extensions these days and I’ve just about given up. It’s all happening so quickly – I fear research will struggle for some time before the dust settles.


      May 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      • Frustrating… but even more so trying to explain the phenomenon to both misinformed and totally unfamiliar ~ still trying and always relieved to come across clarity among the excesses of jargon and rhetoric


        May 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm

  2. […] background-position: 50% 0px ; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 6:26 […]

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