MOOCs

My experience with MOOC’s is limited, which includes reading about, participating in, or enrolling students in massive online courses. The first time I remember hearing about MOOC’s was when our former Vice Provost for Learning Innovation and Student Success discussed the topic in 2013. I heard rumblings about it being offered for an intensive writing, research course (UNIV 200), but it never took off. I wonder if VCU was quick to jump on the MOOC bandwagon like many of the other colleges and universities mentioned in the articles without thinking through the instructional design in more depth? Zemsky explains that “The readiness of so many higher education wonks to give serious consideration to this possibility is but further evidence of higher education’s vulnerability to ideas that hold that there is no connective tissue holding together either those who seek or those who provide an undergraduate education.” Zemsky’s argument reminded me of Judith Hughes’ article on supporting the online learner. She argued for the necessary exchange of information that needs to happen between the learner, institution, and instructor. Zemsky’s explanation about higher education and marketplace philosophy was interesting to say the least and led me to thinking about VCU parallels. 

What a MOOC can provide however is that opportunity for collective learning. MOOC’s support complexity pedagogy because they have the ability to move learners away from the teacher as expert toward a more collaborative workspace.  I agree with Macdonald and Ahern that a MOOC can serve as a great resource guide “providing topical information from a field expert” in which learners can discuss the material using a variety of online platforms. I don’t see it as a viable option for true teaching and learner-centered education because MOOC’s are too content-heavy and less process-driven. Baggely writes that “The UID set no longer stresses the need for the teacher to provide the students with feedback and knowledge of results, nor the importance of active, motivated learning, nor the need to accommodate cultural differences in one’s teaching.” After reading the articles, everything about a massive online course leads me running in the other direction, especially if there is little teacher presence involved. The other issue to me would be what I discussed in my constructivism post – social isolation and lack of humanity. I wrote that after a while communicating through a computer instead of a real person has the ability for others to become desensitized to human emotion. Baggely mentions that MOOC’s create a situation in which “data is simply ‘pushed’ into communication channels, while communication itself is not necessarily improved. In large populations particularly, the technology is maximized while human contact is minimized, and isolation and psychological distance are amplified.” 

With that being said, I do not want to turn my module into a MOOC and don’t think it should. The self-development process (90 day challenge) involves a lot of instructor and student feedback, which physically can’t be done with 10,000:1 student-teacher ratio. If I turned my module into a simple resource guide, a MOOC could work great – easy access to a list of readings, resources and pre/post tests open for discussion. 

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