Your Source for Learning
Technology, Strategy, and News
ARTICLES       RSS feed RSS feed

Explore a New Learning Frontier: MOOCs

by Inge de Waard

July 25, 2011

Feature

by Inge de Waard

July 25, 2011

“As educational technology is becoming more mainstream through social media and mobile devices, there is a rising interest to find methodologies that build upon these new technologies to enhance the learning and teaching process. MOOC is one of these emerging formats. A MOOC can boost your institutional, corporate, or NGO knowledge, if you are open to its innovative approach.”

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. It is a gathering of participants, of people willing to jointly exchange information and collaboratively enhance their knowledge.

Over 10,000 learners worldwide have participated in MOOCs on a variety of topics. MOOCs appeal to knowledge workers, trainers, and teachers. Why? Because MOOCs enable a high-end knowledge exchange to occur. It is a learning model that fits expert training, interdisciplinary learning, ad hoc education — any type of learning that allows information to flow within a network of peers.

MOOCs fit the contemporary shift towards networked learning. George Siemens, one of the pioneers in this area, wrote, “Learning is now happening through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks,” in an environment in which, “know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed)” (2005, p. 4).

Use of educational technology is becoming more mainstream through social media and mobile devices. Thus there is rising interest in finding methodologies that build upon these new technologies to enhance the learning and teaching process. MOOC is one of these emerging formats. A MOOC can boost your institutional, corporate, or NGO knowledge, if you are open to its innovative approach.

MOOCs are organized on the Internet. They can be organized for a short period or take up several months. MOOCs started out as Web-based courses, but following the mobile learning MOOC of 2011 (MobiMOOC), a quest started to see if MOOCs can be delivered and followed through mobile devices or in a ubiquitous environment as well.

In this article, I will describe the benefits of a MOOC, its learner demands, the facilitator options, and of course the tools needed to set up a MOOC. Those hungry to know more after reading this can also have a look at the MOOCguide in Wikispaces.

History of MOOCs

The term MOOC seems to be the brainchild of two individuals: Bryan Alexander and Dave Cormier. The Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (CCK08) course, first organized by George Siemens and Stephen Downes in 2008, picked up the label. They are seen as the MOOC pioneers.

The idea of connecting to others in order to gain knowledge derives from the Connectivism theory. “In connectivism, the starting point for learning occurs when knowledge is actuated through the process of a learner connecting to and feeding information into a learning community” (Kop & Hill, 2008, p. 2). This idea of collaborative knowledge growth comes from the old idea that we should “stand on the shoulders of giants” to reach outstanding results, as Bernard of Chartres and, later on, Newton suggested.

Benefits and challenges of a MOOC

Because a MOOC is a new learning and teaching methodology, it unavoidably has its own evangelists and bashers. This results in fruitful debates clarifying what does and does not work. Here are some of the benefits and challenges of MOOCs:

12 benefits of a MOOC

  1. All you need is an Internet connection and a device that can connect to it.

  2. A MOOC can be organized at low cost, using free tools to build the course.

  3. You can move beyond time zones and physical boundaries.

  4. You can organize it in any language you like.

  5. You can use any online tools that are relevant to your target region, or that your target population is already using.

  6. It can be launched as quickly as you can inform the participants (which makes it a powerful format for priority learning – for example, in aid relief).

  7. All can share contextualized content.

  8. Learning happens in a more informal setting.

  9. You can connect across disciplines, and, if needed, across corporate/institutional walls.

  10. You don’t need a degree to follow the course, only the willingness to learn.

  11. MOOCs add to your own personal learning environment and/or network.

  12. Lifelong learning skills will be improved, for participating in a MOOC forces you to think about your own learning and knowledge absorption.

Possible challenges of a MOOC

  1. It feels chaotic as participants create their own content.

  2. It demands digital literacy.

  3. It demands time and effort from the participants.

  4. It is organic, which means the course will take on its own trajectory.

  5. Participants need to self-regulate their learning.

To guide or not to guide: a MOOC trainer is a guide on the side

A MOOC is a peer-to-peer knowledge exchange or learning method. This means you do not necessarily have to have one or more facilitators. However it can be useful to provide some guidance during the course to keep most of the interactions focused.

An overall facilitator or coordinator can function as the glue of a course. An overall course facilitator is ideally someone with content expertise and great communication skills. They also need to be social-media savvy to keep on top of the MOOC.

Most of the time a MOOC will last for a couple weeks, with each week focusing on a particular subtopic related to the overall subject of the course. As such, many MOOCs have a different, specialized facilitator for each week. This approach ensures high-quality content on expert topics.


Topics Covered

(87)
Appreciate this!
Google Plusone Twitter LinkedIn Facebook Email Print
Comments

Login or subscribe to comment

The intro says tools will be covered but I didn't see any discussion of them.
Anonymous poster on 08/11/11: Did you read page 2?
Related Articles