Thursday, October 18, 2012

Doin' a MOOC

eLearning folks have been talking about MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses)for awhile.

Like "Mobile" and "Gamification" and "Analytics" - MOOC is becoming another buzzword that is being thrown around our environment.  As in "Can we make this a MOOC?" 

Implied in that is they want to know if we have (or can purchase) an application that "makes our course a MOOC" vs. the hard work of designing a course as a MOOC and the support structure behind running those courses.

I hesitate to attempt to speak intelligently about something until I have actually done it.

To get a better idea of what a MOOC is, I found a course where I had decent background knowledge - PowerSearching with Google.  This way, I could better focus on how the course is designed and structured.

As I participated in the course, I realized "This is circa 2002 Distance Education with a couple of minor tweaks!"   Just this time, it has a cooler acronym.

I am defining "Distance Education" here as those time-limited multi-day courses that attempt to replicate / improve on the classroom experience without the classroom.  Often seen as semesters, but I've seen it as short as a week.
2002 - lectures / presentations appear at designated time. Most of the ones I saw were PowerPoints.  If I was lucky (and had really good internet access) - they had audio. Often these are the same length as the original "classroom" lecture (an hour is pretty popular).

2012 - lectures / presentations appear at designated time.  These are chunked much more finely into topics (in the PowerSearching with Google case - about 3-9 minutes in length).  Activities in between.  PowerSearching with Google used a lot of video.  It reminded me of 80s-era "learn to use your computer over educational television" - but they still used video. Today - the video quality is much better.

Digging the couch and the old theater curtains.

Here is an old Computer Chronicles from 1985.  This was sold to Public Television stations as a way to fill daytime.

2002 - community-building through message boards. Week 1 - getting to know you.  Participation matrix is important for evaluation.

2012 - community-building through chat, forums and virtual conferencing (like Google Hangouts - we can see FACES!).  Week 1 - getting to know you.  Participation in any of this optional - but strongly encouraged and designed in the assignments and activities vs treated separately.  Participation may not limited to the "official course forum". Jim Groom and Alan Levine's DS106 course at the University of Mary Washington is a great example of how this can work.

The DS106 class is a semester long MOOC - and does have grading for participation, structure and focus for each time period.   Clues to one possible structure can be found in the syllabus for Summer 2012.
2002 - assignments due at a particular time.  Submitted in a particular way (WebCT was my exposure to this).

2012 - assignments might be time limited or might not. Submissions can occur over multiple media over multiple locations (Twitter, Facebook, personal blog, YouTube....) Generally - it seems to be best to follow the course from week to week to be able to maximize your participation in the community (since everyone participating will be focused on the same thing) and the facilitators.

Dave Cormier, George Siemens and Stephen Downes are finishing up a cycle of Change in Formal Education Systems.
A new cycle appears to have started a few weeks ago.  Click here to see the schedule.

One of the areas where I am a bit cloudy is administration.  What it is like from the instructor perspective.  How does it work with a class of a few thousand (not that I am going to try that off the bat)?

I managed to find a few clues in this Educause paper.

Sally and I MIGHT be trying to MOOC our Telecommuting onboarding series. for the next round.
At least - I stuck the bug in her ear.

We are thinking that the population is reasonably small (about 60 per class), some folks in this next cohort will have difficulty getting away for an hour during designated course times, and it might be a safe opportunity to experiment with the format.

Couldn't hurt.....
Some articles by folks who have a much better idea about what a MOOC is and how it works than I do.
Review of MOOC Developments
Impressive MOOCs You Never Hear About

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