This week I've decided to focus on the "open education" topic and specifically to research and reflect more about MOOCs. It has being aparent to me that I need to do some more reading about what research has already been done about MOOCs, so that I have a better understanding of where my contributions to the field might fit.
To begin my exploration of MOOCs, I thought I'd share why I MOOC. More specifically, what draws me to the MOOC in general and what keeps me motiviated to post and share my reflections. This post was inspired by the narratives that were shared in "The MOOC Model for a Digital Practice" report by McAuley, Steward, Siemens, and Cormier.
The first MOOC I attended was MobiMOOC in April-May this year. This, eduMOOC, is only my second MOOC, but the MOOC format has me facinated. I was drawn to MobiMOOC by the idea of being able to converse with industry leaders. When I recognized a few of the names in the list of facilitators from academic papers I had read, I was excited about the expertise "in the room".
I signed up for the first MOOC to make connections. From my experience as an online learner, I know that meaningful discussions provide me with deeper learning than just reading articles on my own. Reflection and discussion with diverse expertise is valuable for me. The idea that other people would be willing to participate voluntarily in a discourse on mobile learning was exciting – I could throw some of my ideas out there and they would be validated or challenged – both very valuable learning experiences.
Another thing that made it easier for me to "jump in" was the clear description on the "Learning actions" page. The descriptions provide me with enough instructions on how I might choose to interact, that I felt comfortable jumping in. In hindsight, I can see that it also provided me with a level of motivation to stay active even when the topics didn't really make sense to me. Publically, I identified myself as "moderately active" but in reality (and as was recognized by the host) I was "memorably active". Secretly, this was what I really wanted to achieve, I just wasn't ready to admit it.
I participated in MobiMOOC through the Google Group. I scanned a digest of the posts (sometimes several a day, as the volume was pretty high at times), and replied to posts where I felt I could contribute. In addition, I created my own threads in the discussion. I started threads to address the questions and topics presented each week.
Only once did I try to join the synchronous discussion, but found the experience rather frustrating. There were technical difficulties and the audio quality was poor. I was busy, so I didn't feel that it was an effect use of my time, so I decided to skip that part of the MOOC.
When an opportunity to collaborate in an academic paper was presented, I jumped on it. I am a new Ph.D student, but I know that I publications will go a long way to helping advance my career and increase the likihood of getting scholarships and grants. This was my first opportunity, so I figured why not? I eeked out an afternoon in my busy schedule to read the paper, make a few edits, and add a few comments. I didn't think much else about it, so when the paper got accepted to mLearn2011, that to me was a sign – more on that in a future post.
After MobiMOOC wrapped up, I learned about eduMOOC. I was hooked on MOOC because I had many valuable discussions in MobiMOOC. On first appearances, eduMOOC looked better organized. The site was more visually appealling, so I sensed it was more "professional". I had high expectations of eduMOOC – which were pretty much crushed after the first week :(. In hindsight, I see how wonderful a job Ingantia did organizing MobiMOOC and have a great appreciation for her MOOC design skills!
With eduMOOC I increased my engagement. I decided that I would take the advice of more experienced MOOCers and blog. I take blogging pretty seriously, so deciding to blog was a pretty major step. In addition to blogging, I also decided to follow the twitter stream (#edumooc) and the Facebook group. Both of these existed for mobiMOOC and I now find myself wishing I had followed them back then.
After exploring the eduMOOC site further, I discovered a lack of curation; that is, the references provided on each topic were too broad, such that they didn't provide any focus. I found that the site just provided a "title" and expected you to go from there. I wanted more from the MOOC hosts. I want MOOC hosts to at least give me a sense of what they where thinking when they designed the MOOC. With that, I began discussions on learning objectives and MOOC design. I was happy to see some of my fellow MOOCers sharing my frustrations. Again, it was the shared connections, the meaningful discussions, that made the MOOC worthwhile. In the case of eduMOOC, it isn't the content – it is the connections.
So, I keep MOOCing. Each week, I decide what I want to reflect on. I use the title of the MOOC as a basis for my reflection, but when the title doesn't "fit", I stretch it until I find something that interests me enough to become the weeks topic. I also search for other conversations. I follow the very slow twitter feed, the very slow Google Group, and scan the daily paper.li eduMOOC news, and I take a look at things people advertise on twitter like scoop.it pages, hoping to find conversations that inspire me.
I keep MOOCing because I have an audience. It would be dishonest for me to not acknowledge the joy I get out of watching my blog hits increase throughout the MOOC. Knowing that you are reading my posts means I will make an effort to write it, and I will make an effort to contribute meaningful content. I keep MOOCing because I enjoy the shared dialogue – eduMOOC doesn't have much, but what little there is I enjoy.
I'm looking forward to Change MOOC – and seeing how a MOOC hosted by the creators of MOOC differs from MobiMOOC and eduMOOC.
So now I must ask you, why do you MOOC?