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Sunday, January 27, 2013

MOOCING on Gas: Early Thoughts on Three Concurrent Offerings

Brief Overview of the MOOC Scene

John Mak a long standing and leading analyst in the field of Moocs identifies five different types of Moocs in this article What are the main differences among these types of Moocs.  For simplicity and for relevance to this post, i shall identify what i consider to be the three main approaches which are i) primarily an instructivist learning approach ii) primarily a free form distributed approach and iii) primarily a project based approach. 

Currently we have a 'perfect' storm whereby all three types are running just about concurrently, we have in order of type as described above i) E-learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc) ii) Educational Technology (#etmooc) and iii) Online Learning Design (#oldsmooc). I initially joined up for #etmooc but have since got involved on both of the other courses.

When participating in a MOOC what are you looking for? What are you expecting?

For first timers especially, chances are that you are expecting a pretty structured learning path and this is what you can generally expect from xMooc courses such as those offered by Udacity or Coursera. Both these type of xMooc offerings are geared to a traditional classroom based individual study approach, allowing for the fact that coursera does promote the notions of active learning and peer assessment (see Coursera pedagogy),i'm putting this in the instructivist camp). This on the face of it is the type of offering for the E-learning and Digital Cultures course. 

E-learning and Digital Cultures Course
However if you sign up to a pure distributed cMooc such as #etmooc things may not be so clearcut. Not withstanding some guiding information about how to work in a cMooc environment you are very much expected to build your own learning environment using social media tools such as twitter, facebook and google plus, wikispaces, diigo etc whilst learning about the subject matter (on learning and technology moocs you will possibly be bombarded with all manner of useful applications (you won't remember everything, but you will learn a lot)).
Educational Technology and Media Course
The Online Learning Design (#oldsmooc) cMooc although encouraging the use of distributed social media tools revolves strongly around the in-house socially connective software cloudworks that for the purpose of the course acts in my opinion a bit like a VLE, but does include the ability to connect with all previous registered users ideas and interactions through the vehicle of clouds (individual idea, comments, questions, tasks etc) and cloudscapes (a collection of clouds). Because of the project based nature of the course it does have a community of practice feel to it.

Online Learning Design Course
Looking from a student perspective all these approaches will have a certain amount of structure and you can be sure that the use of social media tools will be encouraged and has been encouraged on all the courses.

Some thoughts on Moocs
The xMoocs have a great role to play in straight forward knowledge transfer and for me the big issue to address is when they may inappropriately be used with a topic that would benefit from more connective, distributive learning type approaches. Effectively they offer a traditional self directed individual study route that may benefit additionally from a cMooc approach but it may not be necessary.

With cMoocs the big question is can you get the connectivity, the distributivity and oxycontinicity ( @angelatowndrow and @trendingteacher inspired language) flowing. Do the learners feel the glow of support, encouragement and eureka moments that will sustain and nourish them in the tough task of being a blogging, connective learner. Are they MOOCing on Gas! Why is this important you ask?

It's important because cMoocs do three main things:

  1. They first and foremost are developing the lifelong learning skills that an independent self directed learner will need in their future learning.
  2. They very importantly act as a catalyst to expand and develop the personal learning network and environments that are crucial if a participant is going to flourish as a connective learner.
  3. It offers the opportunity for an intense period of study of a topic with built in peer support and the consequential vigour and energy that this intensity and support brings.
First Thoughts on ETMooc, EDCMooc and OLDSMooc

I started off by joining ETMooc. Having previously participated in a number of cMoocs namely CCK08, PLENK10 and CritLit10, I thought I knew how this was going to work. But WHAM it seems that there was a change to what i was used to. 

Previously i had known a clear weekly structure and access to initial reading and video resources to get one going with your blogging, this time there appeared to be no material to initially work with and this was a bit disorientating. I suspect this was an experiment to get more people to come to the Blackboard Collaborate live sessions where it seems most of the knowledge and information was being transmitted. Reading lists appeared to be accessible via the course social bookmarking sites diigo and delicious. I don't think I have truly recovered from this blow especially since a vibrant alternative suitor came along in the shape of EDCMooc (more about that later).

What has been a good innovation in ETMooc is giving two weeks per topic. So i think a massive thumbs up for that and a massive thumbs down for the initial lack of resources (a warning for old timers might have helped, however it is something that i will be much better prepared for in the future and has not put me off). ETMooc is still in my thoughts and is indeed the prime instigator for this post.

I initially liked the idea of a project based task and have got myself aligned to a group, but am not officially in a team mainly because i was late joining and it is hard to play catch up. I think the Cloudworks connective software has some potential but it does feel as though the mentality of the course is more inward looking because of the nature of the team tasks. Although oldsmooc is out there in all the right social spaces i don't believe connectivity wise it has really taken off because it is not a strong component of the learning design philosophy (be interested what the designers think about that), despite the best efforts of @penpln. I am behind with this, but hope to hang in there and fully appreciate the cloudworks environment.

Phenomenal and the course has not even started. This Mooc is cooking with Gas. Here is the funny thing, the connective cMooc mentality is massively strong on this xMOOC type course and it has nothing to do with the course leaders. So why, what are the lessons. I might be wrong but:

1. Massive lead in time to prepare the social distributive structures to support this informal connective network (2-3 months before course actually started).
2. Attitude of initial leading participants who fortunately had a connectivist mindset. The giving warmhearted attitude has rubbed off. (They have shined a light on the attitude and mindset required to foster cMOOC learning)
3. Clever, not to difficult, not to rigid events and tasks. For example i) Twitter Chat ii) Quad Blogging iii) Draw your thoughts e.g draw a picture of what to expect in this MOOC.

Love it that an xMOOC got cMOOCed - This will obviously bode well for the xMooc which starts officially today.

Final Thoughts 
I believe all cMoocs organisers can learn from the EDCMooc to make cMoocs better. Initial Instigators of EDCMooc you deserve a big hats off. I believe that EDCMooc will spawn a bank of cMOOCers that with the long lead in time can and will support other non technology MOOCs and we should try and encourage this emotional expertise that EDCMoocers, ETMoocers and OLDSMoocers have to offer.

to ETMoocers and OLDSMoocers i know that there are many of you with the same emotional expertise, i have highlighted EDCMooc because I believe that there are some very good practices (some by design, some by chance maybe) that could enhance the way Moocs are run in the future.



kelcy allwein said...

Great reference post, Steve. I'm going to have to go through it again just to learn all the new vocabulary that is new to me.

Alec Couros said...

Thanks for the information on #edcmooc - it looks like a worthwhile experience.

For the record, not having the information up front was part of the "community as curriculum" approach to #etmooc. As well, I don't know if I'd characterize the Blackboard Sessions "as where it seems most of the knowledge and information was being transmitted". I think most of our facilitators have been good about generating a great degree of interactivity and knowledge co-creation in these sessions - we even share a guide to facilitators to encourage interactivity in the sessions - see: This guide for participants may also be interesting to you:

The #edcmooc is an xMOOC, and #etmooc is a cMOOC so there are great differences in how knowledge is constructed and facilitated. Both types can be beneficial but that largely depends on characteristics and needs of learners.

I will check out #edcmooc a bit more - thanks for sharing your critique - it is much appreciated.

Sara said...

Hi Steve. Interesting write-up. I am also following OLDSMOOC, ETMOOC, EDCMOOC and the "other" e-learning course on Coursera. Let's call it FOEMOOC. EDCMOOC and FOEMOOC are incredibly different. When you look at the learning theories discussed in FOEMOOC, it is clear that they are not interested in any of "the new stuff" like connectivism... I am thinking of approaching FOEMOOC with an e-learning archeologist point of view :-)

Lisa Kay said...

I agree with your positive thoughts regarding the early warm embrace extended from the edcmooc team leaders. A fiery MOOC--propelled by this initial connectivity--is now being sustained by some inspirational people. Thanks for keeping the flame lit and for passing it on as well. Cheers!

Steve Mackenzie said...

Hi Alec

Fair enough on the "community as curriculum" approach. having participated in early cMoocs this was a departure, but i saw it as an attempt to try something different and i am not going to knock you for that.

I did subsequently look back on the participation guide. I think that because i expected to do all the things mentioned i glossed over it a bit.

ETMOOC looks like it is going great, but i still think that there will have been an expectation of a lot of people for the structure of a reading/viewing list and i think that could have been more clearly highlighted.

I think i said massive thumbs down, i actually would not say a massive thumbs down, maybe just a thumbs down for me as i did find it disorientating (maybe my fault for lack of preparation).

On the plus side i do think the two weeks per topic is a fantastic tweak to cMoocs as i know them.

The facilitators have been doing great. I just mentioned the collaborate sessions because having if you like started on mistaken ground it seemed the key way to get a handle on resources and general guidance was through the collaborate sessions. I shortly after noticed the diigo and delicious links and can see organisationally this is an efficient way to store and share key resources.

The interesting thing about the EDC xMooc was that it was cMooced

Steve Mackenzie said...

Kelcy, thanks for your comment - glad its opened new doors!

Steve Mackenzie said...

@Lisa many thanks for your comments

Steve Mackenzie said...

Sara - love your e-learning archaeologist joke. I see the FOEMOOC is in ruins now :-)

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