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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Downes’

You Ready to MOOC?

Posted by Ellen on August 8, 2011

All the recent discussion about how we learn from information has spurred me to post on MOOCs, before I’m really ready for it… but I do have a bit of insight to share, so that’s where we’ll start.

Haven’t heard of MOOCs yet?

MOOC = Massive Open Online Class. All the rage.

Okay, maybe within some circles.

The MOOC Guide on Wikispaces describes them this way:

“It is a gathering of participants, of people willing to jointly exchange knowledge and experiences for each of them to build upon. As such it is within the hands of the participants and organizers of a MOOC to change it to their needs. This allows them to use the information and to construct their own ideas or projects. A MOOC is by itself a non-defined pedagogical format to organize learning/teaching/training on a specific topic in a more informal collaborative way…. Connectivism theory … (paraphrasing heavily here) says that learning/training in this era will be successful if we learn how to connect and build relevant networks. This idea of connecting to each other to construct knowledge is one of the key dynamics of a MOOC….The MOOCs were following the trend of Open Education movement described by Iiyoshi and Kumar (2008). The open educational movement focused on open technology, open content and open knowledge. The MOOCs have given rise to a more specific focus on the actual human networking factor within these open courses.”

Touches on a lot of thought-provoking (and — therefore, for me — comment-provoking) threads… social learning… connectivism… where to start?!? (You can find more info from this source here.)

Interested in jumping into a MOOC? Here’s an opportunity for you to join the EduMOOC, offered by The Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois Springfield. Topic? “Online Learning Today…and Tomorrow.” It’s going on now and continues through August 19.  Here’s their description:

“It is totally open, free, and collaborative. It can be totally asynchronous, or those attending can join in weekly panel discussions with experts in various aspects of the topic. This is an active and growing resource and networking center on the topic of “Online Learning Today, and Tomorrow.” You will have the opportunity to meet many people around the world who share your interest in this topic.

“You are invited to register (see right column) with only your name and email address so you can be given access to all materials, panels and discussions. Within a day after you register, you will admitted to Google Group Edumooc which will allow you to enter into discussions and – if you so designate – to receive a listserv of postings. You are invited to list your networking contacts such as email, blogs, twitter, etc. at the form linked in the left navigation column….

“We are elated to see enormous interest in this topic!  Since the Monday morning announcement of the MOOC, we  have  enrolled more than 2,500 participants from some 65 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas; still no one has identified as themselves from Antarctica, but we remain hopeful!  Those participating are from colleges, universities, community colleges, libraries, school systems, educational association, and many other entities.”

I signed up, but — quite frankly — I wasn’t keen on creating yet another e-mail address (a gmail address is required). If you’re game to see what’s going on, here’s the link.

A lot of great information is appearing on the Web about MOOCs… mostly because the sessions themselves generate thousands of posts and links and … stuff!

Here are just a few places to start:

“A Massive Open Online Class for Edupunks” from the Education-Portal.com site.

“U of Illinois at Springfield Offers New ‘Massive Open Online Course'” via the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Marc Perry.

And in this Chronicle article, credit goes to Stephen Downes and George Siemens for offering the first MOOC and the rationale behind it.

What Does This Have to Do With Associations and Non-Profits?!?

Plenty!

First of all, they’re relatively inexpensive to produce — free at their most basic level, because they’re conducted online and utilize readily available Web apps (wikis, bookmarking sites, etc.). If you want to pump it up a level, you could include the occasional Web conference event so participants can connect directly over the phone/Web, which would add $$ to your MOOC budget. If you do that, however, be warned: the point of a MOOC is to involve as many people as possible, so if you include this, you have to be mindful of the factors that can make Web conferencing counterproductive to the MOOC culture (i.e., time zones in particular are a challenge).

Second, the nature of a MOOC is in line with how knowledge is usually shared within association communities. Experts and novices alike come together at our annual conferences all the time to learn and re-learn and connect and share best practices, seek solutions to challenges, and in general swap resources and ideas. All of this happens in a MOOC, too.

Third, the MOOC facilitators really just facilitate! And participate. The facilitator’s role is to keep the resources roughly categorized (if needed) and maybe offer some guided questions or areas of discussion… The facilitator is never supposed to be the “expert.” Sage on the stage becomes “everybody on the stage.” Think of a MOOC as an educational flash mob 🙂 Everybody is an expert. Everybody has something to share and something to learn.

Finally, MOOCs are catching on really quickly, and they’re sure to keep growing. They’re particularly popular right now in the academic environment and for those involved with developing online learning. Those who have participated in MOOCs are (as far as I can tell) coming out of those experiences like the newly converted — ready to carry the message, emulate what they’ve experienced by offering their own MOOCs, and advocating for their benefits.

MOOCs won’t replace any of the things we’re doing. As we’re always saying here, there are appropriate uses of various educational modes, and that’s true of the MOOC. But you need to know what they are, how they work, and how they’ll fit into your curriculum.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore MOOCs

One of the biggest challenges you’ve been facing is increased competition for your members’ time and money. Maybe another organization beat you to the punch with Webinars. Maybe social networking sites such as LinkedIn are cutting into your membership renewals — why join your organization when people can connect for free outside of it?

Now imagine what happens if someone announces a MOOC on a topic that hits right in the heart of your members’ industry or cause?

Here are a few pretend examples (with apologies to any real-life organization with one of these names) :

  • The National Beekeeping Institute discovers that someone is offering a MOOC on starting your own beekeeping business. Who’s doing it? A passionate beekeeper — who’s also one of the orgs most respected leaders.
  • The National Novel-Writing Coalition discovers a famous romance writer is offering a MOOC on writing and publishing.
  • The Association for International Envelope Manufacturers discovers a vendor member is offering a MOOC on equipment — finding, selecting, re-selling, and recycling. This one MOOC will cover at least three face-to-face events the organization offers each year.

But remember: these are “MASSIVE OPEN Online Classes.” They will attract people from around the world. Competitors. Members. Non-members. Everybody.

So this is the promise — and threat — of MOOCs. As with all innovations, you need to figure out how to leverage the promise of MOOCs to your advantage. You need to be aware of the potential risk they pose, if you have content that’s highly prized. With a MOOC, if it’s not proprietary, it’s fair game.

What To Do?!?

So… what should be done about MOOCs? Refuse to stand on the sidelines. Ignoring MOOCs is not a good idea. This leaves two primary options:

  • Offer your own. Amass a greater body of resources around a topic than you currently have. Involve your members and attract non-members. See the power in numbers, the value in “more heads are better than one.”
  • Make your resources available to MOOCs by others. Instead of fighting a MOOC on “your” topic, join the MOOC and offer up your own links, white papers, articles, blog posts, and comments. If you can’t fight ’em, join ’em!

You’re either in or you’re out. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

 

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Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Online Learning in General, Social Learning, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »