A MOOC from the Outside

I’m not registered for George Siemens’ PLENK 10 MOOC but like anyone following edtech feeds over the past few weeks I’ve found posts relating to it impossible to miss. Every post I read seems to stimulate a thought and eventually I decided that I should record some of them. This is an outsiders view – I obviously don’t know how the course is being run from within – so apologies if I misrepresent anything – this post isn’t meant to be at all judgemental.

So, why am I not participating? – well ultimately because I registered for last year’s mooc and didn’t participate, so I decided to save myself the guilt this year. Also,  I suppose somewhat arrogantly, I don’t really consider myself as part of the target audience: I’m familiar with the concepts, and have colleagues locally with whom I can exchange ideas. But perhaps I could benefit from participation  – the course creates new knowledge, so even if I am familiar with the input I am sure I would learn from being exposed to the new ideas stimulated by the course readings. As it is, this post (as close as I’ll get to participating) becomes an orphan, separated from the rest of PLENK, despite including some reflection about Personal Learning Environments and Knowledge Networks.

Engagement with the course. A couple of people I follow on twitter have been participating (@pfidalgo1 and @aeratcliffe), and I have been impressed with the level of engagement they’ve shown there (as opposed to in the elluminate sessions or moodle forums which I have not visited). Indeed to return to the point above, Patricia has highlighted a few good resources in her tweets.

Pedagogy and MOOCs As well as posts from participants, there are of course posts from the organisers. Dave Cormier’s recent post reflecting on the challenge of information overload offered by the MOOC – Dave talks about cluster and focus – refining your network and defining a focus. This got me thinking about ‘goals’. The ‘lack of structure’ inherent in the MOOC demands that the individual develops a clear goal for what they want to achieve, then use this to drive their participation in the course – without a clear goal, the individual ends up trying to comprehend everything, and quickly becomes overwhelmed.

I got this far with the post then hit a block with it. Not happy with the substance of it, I published it  and left it there – didn’t tweet the link etc – and given this is a low/no readership blog knew that it could languish without an audience.

Now another post comes along. This time from Steve LeBlanc, a MOOC participant. Steve reflects on the MOOC he has participated in, focusing specifically on the difficulty of having none of the traditional safety features – tests, common goals etc. Steve gives a great summary of the problems and outlines his approach to coping with the tsunami of information and knowledge a MOOC. I particularly liked this quote:

Chart out a plan to learn all you can about some small slice of the puzzle.

This is the key to participation in the MOOC – it relies on participants actively deciding what they want out of the course. I’d go a step further – find other people who want to learn the same thing. Or in other words, set your own learning goals, and find others with similar learning goals. … this starts to sound a bit like Charting. I can imagine a shared learning goals system which allowed people to adopt other people’s goals  would work well within the context of a MOOC.

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