Keep an open mind on the MOOC

Retro poster with candy red stripes, and words "Surprise inside", "Guess what's inside?"Yesterday I was sitting in the Ridgeway School staff room scanning summaries of blog posts and other excreta shared by participants in the #change11 Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). While my daughter was on a school visit I was giving the daily outpourings from MOOC participants a quick scan. I was doing this on my mobile phone.

A few of the posts touched on the topic for the first week of the course: Mobile Learning at the Open University of Malaysia. When I saw this topic was the opening salvo in a 35 week course I feigned indifference.

Yet, there I was engaging in mobile learning (of sorts). The irony wasn’t lost on me. It serves as a reminder to keep an open mind, and acknowledge that sometimes the best learning occurs when it doesn’t fit with pre-conceived ideas of what I think is relevant.

Deciding what to follow and how to get the most out of the course is a challenge I’m not the only one grappling with. A tenet of the MOOC is people will engage in learning most relevant to them – this means the course is a unique experience for everyone. Some will be transitory some will stay to the end.

Indeed, there isn’t actually a core list of participants. Who is joining is only revealed through action: as people write or share something. The majority of content is shared through blogs, twitter or other online tools. This means any content generated or connections made by participants are necessarily left behind when the course ends. This contrasts with many online courses where the teaching environment is separated from the rest of each student’s online world.

The change.mooc.ca website serves as a meeting place of sorts. Contents include a repository of generated by participants and lecturers, and discussion. The three course facilitators seek to coral things, but the sense making is left up to participants. Each weekday an email arrives bursting to the seams with new posts, discussion topics, comments, links and more. There are already other gathering places, such as a Facebook page and Diigo group.

Each week the facilitators have invited a guest to share their knowledge on a specific topic. As these are on at decidedly unfavourable time of 4am, I doubt I’ll make it to many sessions. No offence to the facilitators, but there are not many people I’d get up that early for.

Already there is a huge volume of material being generated. I’m not even pretending I can keep up. If you asked how I’m filtering what is relevant or interesting to me, I couldn’t easily put it in words. There a few layers to my filtering.

I’m starting the course because I want to extend my knowledge of approaches to shared learning outside the classroom. This relates to the work I’m engaged in supporting people to catalyse social change working inside and outside formal organisations.

A lasting residue of the course I’m hoping for is to connect with others with similar interests, preferably in the same or an adjacent time zone. This is something I’ll have a go at bringing to the surface as the course unrolls.

Another part of my filtering is pretty superficial: if the heading grabs, I’m much more likely to dig deeper. If I see the title reflections on week 2 or something similarly prosaic, I’ll read no further. Sure, writing a catchy title takes time, but in a crowded space it makes sense. I admit I’m still learning how to write the killer title so don’t have the perfect recipe. All I can is, “c’mon people, is that the best you can do?”

Now that I’m back at my desk, I might just dig into Zoraini Wati Abas’ resources on Mobile Learning at Open University Malaysia. It might just be relevant.

Photo credit:origamidon

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2 thoughts on “Keep an open mind on the MOOC

  1. Liz renshaw

    Loved ur post and ideas on levels of filtering.writing a catchy title will get me reading further however when I hit prosaic txt – forget it. People writing posts seem to adopt a range of genre from formal and well worked to informal and spontaneous. Your post was both thoughtful and accessible.

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  2. brainysmurf1234

    Thanks for this, Stephen. I wasn’t all that jazzed about mobile learning as a topic either but what I learned that first week about recovering from technical hiccups through the power of networks was huge. Showing up was the first step in finding something relevant for the week. Whether we ‘show up’ at the live session, or by taking action with links in the Daily or other web-based activities, we open the door.

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