A tale of three MOOCs – part 1 – #minimedschool #clmooc #PR4E

Not that I don’t have a lot happening right now. I do. I’m crazy busy. Busier than I want to be. But I’m also looking to re-claim myself, and in that to re-invent myself, to figure out who and what I want to be. To help with this, I’m participating in three very different MOOCs.

#minimedschool

I had first heard of this concept of mini med school from a friend who was taking a face-to-face version at uOttawa. I thought it was an interesting idea. I didn’t take biology in high school, so I don’t have that great a sense for how the body works. I also thought that taking such a course might help me better appreciate medical education – an area that I have no expertise and yet fate seems to keep drawing me back into it. So, when I saw that the University of Colorado at Denver was offering a free Mini-Med School on the Canvas.net platform I signed up.

So far, this course is mostly about watching videos. The videos are followed up with a quiz at the end. The course is quite well designed for what it tries to do. It is all about knowledge delivery. It probably even models the concepts of undergraduate medical education well – at least in Canada, as I understand it, the MD degree is about knowledge acquisition. Most of the skills acquisition happens during residency, which in Canada is considered post-graduate medical education.

#clmooc

This one is more of a peer pressure thing. It is a MOOC about connected learning. I signed up because many of my friends and colleagues from #rhizo are participating in CLMOOC. It is a Maker focused MOOC – that is, the content is all about creating things.

With this type of MOOC I try to use it as a way to motivate me to do something I want to do, but I’m just not finding the time to do. One of my reflections while on vacation this summer (I blogged about my vacation on my goingeast.ca blog), was that I want to spend some time over the next year focusing on writing and publishing books. I have much of the content for several books – based on our world tour by bike and container ship, and my breast cancer blog – so, since the CLMOOC folks are tied into various writing groups, I am hoping to use the CLMOOC as a way to help me get kick started into getting these books written and published.

So far I don’t know what to think of the course. It is causing a fair bit of noise on my Facebook page, but the course itself hasn’t really started. Similar to #rhizo, I think the noise is mostly from people who participated last year. I have not yet figured out what it really means to participate in clmooc, or whether what I want and the ‘course’ align.

#PR4E

This is the hashtag for a Coursera course called Programming for Everybody (Python) offered by Dr. Charles Severance (or @drchuck). I discovered the course when a friend asked me about a beginning course on computer programming. She was looking for a place to get started, so I suggested this free course as a great way to see if learning online would work for her, but also if programming was something she was really interested in. After a couple of weeks, she is loving the course, so I figured I’d give it a try to. I have a degree in Computer Science, but other than web programming, I haven’t don’t much in a long time. I figured it would be a great refresher course – but also, it would give me a sense of computer science pedagogy too – how are people teaching computer science now? I don’t have any context for computer science education in the age of the web – I graduated with my B.Sc. in Comp Sci back in 1995 – 20 years ago!

This MOOC is similar to MiniMedSchool in that it has lots of content delivered by Video. Part of what makes it different is that it is completely open content. The instructor is committed to open education. The textbook he mentions and uses in the class is freely available. The course also has a lot of programmed activity – that is, you do an activity which is creating a program, and it is auto-marked by the system. Computer Science is a topic that lends itself really nicely to Artificial Intelligence and auto-marking.

<rant>I’m sorry to say that the critical theorist in me has to comment about the white male privilege in the ‘open’ community. The author is awesome, and I applaud his work. I just have difficulty with the idea that educators should be giving away their knowledge without any sense of compensation – mostly in that those who speak to this the loudest are doing so with great privilege – salaried professors who are still getting a paycheck for the work that they do. It reminds me of a story out of my experience at eLearn Africa, where African professors were not able to get jobs in part because of privileged global north professors ‘volunteering’ to teach in Africa. By volunteering their time, they are creating a system in which it is cheaper to have prestigious professors from abroad than it is to hire locally trained professors. Is there an easy answer to this dilemma? No. It is complex. I just feel the need to point out that participating in ‘open’ is a form of privilege.</rant>

Conclusion

In edition to my three MOOCs, I’m committing to spending more time every day writing. I’m also committing to spending more time exercising. And of course I have a bunch of other deadlines and things that I’ve already committed to …

Looking at the three MOOCs, what draws me to each of them is something completely different. The design of each of them is different. I would not say that one is better than the other – as each is well designed for its own purpose. And from that perspective, I am fascinated to see just how far open online education has come in the last four years!

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