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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Making a Massive Open Online Course Work (for me)

Here we go with some ramblings, ideas and unrefined thoughts on participating in a massive open online course.

Logistically I think the infrastructure is in place and everything is setup nicely for whatever develops or is to come. Some people love the Daily, My favourite is the Connectivism wiki HUB page. This is my anchor, home base. The Daily email is also a valuable connector to keep you in touch with the many things that are going on.

What I Like
So what do I like about participating in this massive open online course. I like the fact that it is an experiment in determining whether such an unwieldy beast can be harnessed for effective learning purposes.

It’s Unworkable
The premise I presume from most people would be that it is unworkable! And they are right (only joking). Well maybe not. The good thing about participating is trying to fathom ways of making it work. I am not exactly sure what I hope to learn or achieve, perhaps this does not help, but here are a few unrefined thoughts on the course so far.

Emotional Connectedness
If the course is attempting to show connectivism in action, at the moment I do not think it is working. For me connectivism has an emotional quality that due to the abundance of people and information and my own external workload is currently missing. The discussions could lead to some emotional connectivity for me, but I have not got deep enough into a conversation yet. I think to get some emotional connectivity out of this course I need to start working with others on an activity, even if it is just one other person. This is a slightly eureka moment in that it has confirmed for me that activity theory and the notion of learning by doing are very important to learning. Putting the idea of working on a practical task aside I have a few other raw thoughts on ways to increase engagement and connectedness for this type of massive open online course

Strategies to improve emotional connectedness
In a massive open online course how can emotional connectedness be best facilitated.

1. People tagging with visual map to identify clusters of interest, controlled by slider to change views. Participants need a quicker method of finding out about people and if there are any mutual interests. On enrolment similar to many sites that ask you to list 5 things that you are interested in, there could be a form that identifies general interest tags, course goal tags, aspiration tags, learning needs tags, service offered tags, I need tags, work experience tag etc etc. Access to this information should be by an interactive visual ‘map’. This type of thing I’ve seen done in flash with slider controls. There was an interesting map to do with the changes in population for the worlds cities as I recall that surfaced on the web 18 months or so ago. I cannot find an example readily to hand at the moment.

2. A Game: The course could be delivered in the style of a game or a competition.

3. Synch Breakout Rooms: Use of breakout rooms for smaller groups in synchronous meetings to discuss issues, a scribe takes notes and back into the massive auditorium  for quick review of small group notes.

Well just a few ideas there. Better out here than stuck in my head. Hopefully this might trigger an insight for other colleagues on the course.


Maru said...

Hi Steve!
I liked the way you describe what is happening around you and how do you feel. I also feel isolated despite the fact that I know quite a few Webheads around; they are not taking the course for credit, their extensive online careers override getting credit.
I feel unsure, did I had to join a special website for credit learners? If so, please let me know.
I saw your comment on Carlos' blog, I agree, it has an interesting title and I enjoyed the content. I noticed a Babel translator on the side bar of his blog, so if you wan to read it you can use it.
I wish I had time to read all your post, maybe after the course ends I will spend time here now I am falling behind on readings :-)
See you at the forum
Love: Maru

Richard Hall said...

"The good thing about participating is trying to fathom ways of making it work". I think this is the key, Steve.

Vera Dolan said...

I was so relieved to read your message, Steve! I love what this course is about; however, I just can't keep up. I've been a lurker, which is NOT typical of me, but I feel that whenever I could have something to say, the conversation has already moved light years ahead.

Also, my impression is that the creators assumed from the very beginning that all participants are totally familiar with creating blogs and RSS feeds. For the life of me, I haven't got there yet, which is totally frustrating. I'm not an idiot when it comes to technology, but I'd never used RSS feeds before, so I don't even know how to refer people to my blogs.

In my country, when we are this lost, we say that "I am more disoriented than a dog on a moving day." You just don't know where to go. :-)

So yes, making smaller groups and dividing people according to their level of expertise on the subject, experiences and interests would be great.

Anonymous said...


You mentioned course as a game. I believe they did something like that with an Intro Econ course at UNC-Greensboro. The replaced almost all of the course content by having students participate in a simulation.

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