In my investigations about MOOCs and open courses, I came across the article in EDUCAUSE "Through the open door: Open courses as research, learning, and engagement" by Cormier and Siemens. It was a pretty easy read (not an academic treatise) and provided a good overview of the goal of open courses.
One thing that struct me was the difference between "open courses" and "open courseware". The names sound so similiar but the concepts are so different.
"Open courseware" is a much more familiar concept and inevitably points to MITs pioneering project. Now, I don't think it is a bad idea, but I don't see huge amounts of value in it as a learner. I have tried it once or twice a few years ago, looking for an interesting lecture or two on philosophy or sociology, only to be let down by a sea of really boring recorded lectures – ugh. I've actually had more luck finding good lectures on iTunesU, but again, a lot of filtering was required. That is open courseware – perhaps valuable if you plan to teach and want to see how others teach the topic, or if you are taking a face-to-face class and happen to have a really poor lecturer so you seek out something better. It has its uses, but it isn't about to transform the way we do education.
Then you have an "open course". A MOOC is an open course, although, I argue that EduMOOC is not in fact an open course but let's save that for later. An "open course" involves participants rather than learners – this is because the foundation of an open course is that you participate in defining its structures and how you will participate within the community. Cormier and Siemens say that "One of the
key reasons for creating an open course is to bring a wide variety of perspectives to bear on a given topic" (p.34). Sounds like an excellent reason to create an open course to me. Is it going to change the way we do education? I don't know but it certainly is a more interesting way to learn.
As an aside, I not think that EduMOOC is an open course. Another statement Cormier and Siemens make is "Enough structure is provided by the course that if a learner is interested in the topic, he or she can build sufficient language and expertise to participate peripherally or directly" (p.34). As I've questioned in my post on learning objectives, eduMOOC just doesn't provide that guidance.
Another area that is highlighted in both this article and McAuley et al's report "The MOOC model for digital practice" is the idea of eventedness, that is, the MOOC is an event. Making the MOOC time limited makes it special. It is the specialness that draws us to participate – the feeling that if we don't do it now our opportuinity will be lost. I definitely agree with this need. I'm planning to attend the Change MOOC, but the idea of something lasting so long has me wondering how much energy I'll be able to put into it. I can put a lot of energy into a 6-8 week event, but 36-weeks is a lot to ask. I guess you'll see how well I do if you continue to follow my blog ;).