Explain yourself, MOOC

I joined a MOOC without even knowing it which illustrates how little I know about this odd sounding acronym. I registered for ECI 831, Social Media and Open Education, as it seemed like a terrific fit to my program in Ed. Tech and Design. I am one of about 25 people taking this course for credit and last Tuesday I met them online. At first glance this looked very familiar to my other online courses. My classmates are spread out across Alberta and Saskatchewan, mostly teachers and all bringing ideas, passions and resources to the experience. But at tonight’s class there will be a knock on the online classroom door and over 100 additional, noncredit participants will be joining us. With ECI 831 I am not just part of an online course, I am in a MOOC, a Massive Open Online Course. Without understanding it I have the sense that I am part of something exciting, evolutionary and responsive to the digital and networked world. It is just a feeling, a tone, an energy that came from the first class without even the true MOOC in place but the promise of it and the mystery of it sparked an interest to understand it better. And if I am going to continue announcing to my family and friends that I am in a MOOC I had better be able to alleviate their concerns that I have joined a cult.

Using the open, online resources from ECI 831 I watched Dave Cormier’s videos discussing MOOCs (What is a MOOC, Knowledge in a MOOC). He explained a MOOC as “an ecosystem from which knowledge can emerge.” The term ecosystem resonated with me. It represents interconnection, interaction, synergism and community, all of which embrace essential elements of learning. It seems natural that knowledge would emerge from such an environment where these are the values and underpinnings of the group. A MOOC is an event where people gather together around a topic that they care about and this is the starting point, from here the knowledge emerges from an unpredictable base. I am intrigued by this process of learning where the outcomes vary and are not tightly defined or controlled. I am drawn to the open acknowledgement that by virtue of distributed discussions and sharing we cannot dictate or monitor the direction of the learning but we trust there will be learning. “A MOOC is a catalyst of knowledge.” (Dave Cormier)

These elements of a MOOC remind me of Will Richardson’s webinar, Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. He believes education is not being responsive to the challenges and opportunities of a changing world. In the digital world we can link together passion, self direction and access to create a new platform for learning. A MOOC is an environment that is participatory, authentic, and distributed so not only is it being responsive it promotes lifelong learning and the development of a learning network that transcends the course. Just as Richardson encourages us to do in education, a MOOC reframes how we look at the opportunities. I am grateful to be able to experience this through a lens of a student, a learner, an explorer and a teacher. I think it will be quite a journey.

“It is an amazing time to be a learner.” -Will Richardson

I would love to hear from you if you have been a part of a MOOC. What was your experience? How did it influence and impact you, as a learner and a teacher? Has the learning network that began in your MOOC transcended the course?

**Update: Here is a map illustrating where the network mentors and non-credit students for EC&I 831 are located around the world. It is amazing to me to see the scope.


19 thoughts on “Explain yourself, MOOC

  1. This too is my first MOOC and I didn’t realize it either. I am still unsure as to how this will change me personally. I know that I am already addicted to my Iphone and do find myself now checking and using twitter regularly. Profesionally, I just came up with a list of things I want to accomplish this year with technology. It is so exciting! I also find it crazy how two classes in I have learned so much already! This is definitely going to change the way I teach and learn!

    • It is amazing how much you can learn in a short period of time and the world of learning just keeps opening up…especially with the rich networks out there and people so keen to share. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I’ve asked in Twitter for others to come here and share their experiences (if they have participated in a MOOC previously). Hopefully you will get a few comments. I am not totally convinced #eci831 is a MOOC as it doesn’t quite try to be ‘massive’. I did provide those videos on the first day (with Dave Cormier) as I do think some of the same principles apply (declaring oneself, etc.). think Rick Schwier has something to say about the distinctions next week (he alluded to it, but wouldn’t spill the beans, but I’m curious!).

    If you are interested in another current MOOC, check out http://change.mooc.ca/ … it’s a year long, and has already started. That would probably be more MOOC-like than this course.

    Also, I must say that I love your writing style as you’ve already picked up how to write socially and hypertextually. I look forward to reading more throughout the class.

  3. in the http://change.mooc.ca you could find some text and video about mooc.
    I did join some MOOCs. I met some very interesting people and in MOOC I will meet them again. We share a view on education. A Mooc with less than 200 people in it is a very strange mooc. and a mooc with people from North America only is not a very exiting mooc. The fun of a mooc is meeting people from all over the world with very strange beliefs and habits coping with unknown problems and learn they all are human.

  4. I have participated in several MOOCs, including being a student in this one last year, and now I’m kind of running one (without the Massive part) and all those are related. It has been fascinating to watch how people set them up, and the wide variety of skills and experiences people bring. I’ve learned a lot, guided my own learning, and made great connections to both individuals and the larger network through these open courses. They seem to provide, in the limitation of time allotted to a “course”, a place to focus on a set of topics with others who are motivated and interested. Seems like it’s what the web was meant for! 🙂

  5. I am just finishing a high quality MOOC on Eportfolios that was designed, coordinated and facilitated from Australia.
    I also participated as a semi-requirement of an online University course for ICTs and elearning.

    I loved the MOOC experience and especially the opportunity to connect with and create learning relationships with other people interested in the same topics. The collaboration and cooperation within the community of learners was VERY positive. It was well structured but with scope to stray a little off topic – especially when it supported a tool that assisted in the learning and skills for an Eportfolio. Some MOOCs may seem overwhelming due to the abundance of content and participants but I was lucky that my experience suited just nicely my current knowledge and abilities of both the content and the online tools.
    In my opinion MOOCs will grow in popularity in the next 3-5 years, similar to the growth of Social Networking since 2006ish. I am just a participant but an enthusiastic supporter of the MOOC format so far. I agree wholly with the comment above from Lisa Lane. “seems like its what the web is meant for”!

    • Thank you so much for sharing your positive experiences with MOOCs, Adrienne. I am interested to see how they will take off in the next few years for I agree with you, I think we will see more of them. Hopefully MOOC will be a household word. These are exciting times!

  6. Hello, I’ve taken part in several MOOC and uncourses, rather the lurking kind to assess the format, reactions by participants, etc. Promised myself to become active here and in Change11 🙂 The beginnings are rather chaotic, I do love getting lost to then finding myself (& others) in unexpected ways, but I realise it may not be for everybody, probably one of the reasons for the attrition rate in not-for-credit MOOC.

    So, get overwhelmed by chaos, toy around with paths, re-discover your learning style(s), devise, remix, mashup your PLE, make friends and have fun!! And, yep, if one takes cares of the network odds are it will evolve and grow, exactly the same as with any other human relationship.

    I realise discovering you’re to mix up with non-credit participants may seem odd, but here we are, delighted to learn with you, no matter whether participants/students/mentors or rich/poor we are all willing to connect and construct/re-invent or whatever metaphor you prefer knowledge/learning in a holistic understanding.

    I’m based in Spain, and synchronous Blackboard is unrealistic for me (my 3:00 AM), but if you need whatever, want a chat, express your hatred of MOOC or have a laugh, (gone through it all) please gimme a shout!! We’re in this together.


    • I love “get overwhelmed by the chaos”! I really appreciate your outlook on MOOCs as you encourage exploration, letting going of the “known” and jumping in. That is a great way to learn! Your comments and perspectives sparked even more excitement about the potential and possibilities. Thank you!

  7. I have participated in some open online courses (MOOCs) like PLENK2010, CCK11, LAK11, PLEK12, MobiMOOC11, and recently in Change11. However, for some of them I have been more active and for some just kind of lurking. But, in overall, I like the way courses are run and the extent of interactions take place there.
    Actually, I started my first MOOC with Alec’s eci831 (however it might not be as massive as other moocs!). I was a non-credit participant of eci831 but I enjoyed it a lot, I learned a lot, I developed my networks, I developed my technological skills to apply more tools and online applications for the purpose of my research and also as learning tools. No matter how much and in what ways a learner is engaged in an open course what s/he can eventually learn really matters. The whole processes and experiences of a MOOC are overwhelming and challenging and it’s learner that can find the best way how to get best out of them.
    Now, I am enjoying my networks across different platforms which I have developed during the moocs and after that. I understand now how to apply different tools for different purposes and how they are helpful for my learning and research also for my professional development. Although, it’s not all because of moocs but they were kind of stimulating. Nonetheless, I found that learning in networks and being engaged in so many tools is distracting and time consuming and I think sometimes it is really difficult to control the level activities.
    All in all, open and networked learning matters as Alec Couros says!

    • I really appreciate you taking the time to comment on my blog post-thank you! I am inspired to see your MOOC journey began with EC&I 831, and that your networks have continued. I agree that my technical skills and digital tool awareness is growing from this experience. Having so many people sharing their resources and favourite tools opens up a whole new world. It definitely can be hard to manage the sheer volume, sometimes it feels like I am drinking from a fire hose. 🙂

  8. Hi Tannis

    On your “About” page, you say that you have “physically and metaphorically removed the walls” of your classroom. In a way, we all sign up for our first (and never-ending) Massively Open Online Course when when we do just what you have described. My MOOC started a few years ago when I made a conscious decision to pursue open strategies and practices. I published my first blog post and began experimenting with podcasting and social media tools in my teaching and research. I soon discovered that good conversations are more important than even the best content, and I started talking to like-minded people at my university about the need to replace an outdated model of education that most of our colleagues thought was working just fine. A group of us drafted a kind of manifesto and presented it to the appropriate committee. We were thanked for our efforts, and our report was filed where such things are filed. But it got some of us talking, and we are talking still. I’ve pasted a paragraph from our report below. The only way to realize an imagined future is to first conjure it up, using language to “make it so.” If we want to change the world, we have to begin by changing the way that we think about and talk about the world. The rest will follow.

    “Imagine that the classroom is surrounded by permeable screens rather than opaque walls with restricted points of entry. These screens are constructed from course descriptions, aims and objectives, schedules, and assessment criteria that serve as the perimeter that defines and contains a course of study. The screens are flexible and moveable. Imagine that this structure sits in the middle of a public space dotted with other permeable structures. Inside each of them, problems are posed and questions are raised. People work together under the guidance of an expert investigator to find solutions to problems and answers to questions. They call upon others beyond the screen as required, and they access information that passes freely into and out of the structure and between structures and other spaces. They venture out to consult with other experts and to gather new information, which they bring back to the group. People outside the structure can overhear some of their discussions and can peer through small openings to watch some of the activities. An archive of their work, which is created as part of the process of investigation, serves as a shared history that anyone can use and build upon.”

    Mark McGuire

    • Thank you, Mark for your comment and the hope and inspiration it holds. The conversations and learning I am experiencing in my course work in my Master’s program has validated and further fuelled an enthusiasm for change. I am energized by the possibilities for change in education. However, I know the reality too and I find myself struggling with how? How does this change happen when reactions like the one your report received is the norm? So I deeply appreciate your commitment to the process and the fact you are not giving up. We need people like you with vision and courage. I agree that change starts with thinking, talking, doing and believing. Awesome!

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