by The Style PA
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.