MOOC, alors

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Earlier this week,  I said to someone, “I’m so over MOOCS…”.

Having participated in a couple in 2008-9 (they were okay, actually I took some comfort in the lack of strong learning design – what “they” were doing in MOOCS was different from what “we” were doing in regular, online university credit courses. And “ours” was better). With the growing public interest in MOOCs, I was hopeful they would create interest in online/blended learning, but I was a bit worried people might get a poor impression of online learning if they hit on a “bad” MOOC.

Anyway, later this week, I got an email from my Director with a link to the Design Thinking Action Lab . Her comment was the timing is “ripe and right” to consider taking this MOOC.  We are in the process of significant innovation and overhaul in how we support learning design, including developing an exciting new physical and virtual space.  So I checked it out, signed up, and so far, I’m very impressed.

At my institution, we have a long tradition of supporting robust learning communities.  It’s one of the key features of our well-articulated Teaching & Learning model, and the “cohort experience” is one thing our alumni say repeatedly was a critically important highlight of their learning journey.

In my experience of early MOOCs, I felt learning community support was lacking – in the overwhelming volume (coupled with the overwhelming volume of other messages we all get from other sources), it was easy (for me, anyway) to stay unconnected to people.  I just wanted to get through the course/content.

But this MOOC (so far) seems different.  There is a huge focus on developing “learning squads” in week 1. There are 70 (!) “catalysts” (mentors, with experience/expertise in Design Thinking) to help support the learning community. There are a number of short, inviting media pieces to help bring you in, with more to come each week.  The instructor is very present. The course is well organized. Expectations are clear. The intended use of a variety of free 3rd party tools for creative collaboration is clear and well supported with tutorials and explanations. And, so far, I have to say, the online environment itself (NovoEd) is very easy and, actually pleasant, to spend time in. This course does not lack learning design.

So this is great, and I’m looking forward to my MOOC experience. And then a few thoughts bubbled up (blinding glimpse of the obvious):

  • the students are (or will be) watching.  And their expectations of their courses (learning design, engaging, authentic activities,  technology support/integration, use of a variety of tools and media,  etc), will increase.  If this MOOC continues as well as it’s begun, and others too, this will raise the bar for all –  (yet another)  great example of the “positive pressure” created by being “open”
  • MOOC = OER. The 5-week MOOC I’ve been talking about  is geared around learning a concept/process (in this case, design thinking), everyone applying it to the same problem (so we can all give and receive feedback, have a shared experience, learn from others, etc), and then applying it to our own problem.  I can imagine a scenario where an instructor adopts this MOOC as an OER, and have it comprise, say,  the first half of a 10-week course.  We should be looking at ways to integrate high-quality, media-rich MOOCs in such a way.

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