Following on my previous post, here is my deeper analysis and reflection on why this course worked for me and my peers.
To start with, below is the #edcmooc course details as mentioned on Coursera site:
“This course will not be taught via a series of video lectures. Rather, a selection of rich resources will be provided through which you can begin to engage with the themes of the course. While the teachers will be present in the discussion forums and in various other media environments, there will be an emphasis on learner-led group formation, and the use of social media to build personal learning networks and communities of peers. Rather than approaching this course with the expectation of exacting teaching methods or precise learning routines, we invite all participants to collectively experiment with what the MOOC experience might be.”
“E-learning and Digital Cultures is aimed at teachers, learning technologists, and people with a general interest in education who want to deepen their understanding of what it means to teach and learn in the digital age.”
On this course,
you will be invited to think critically and creatively about e-learning both as a process and as a topic of study;
you will be able to try out new ideas in a supportive environment, and gain fresh perspectives on your own experiences of teaching and learning.
The course assessment will involve you creating your own digital artefact: something that is designed to be experienced digitally, on the web. Our definition of ‘digital artefact’ is intentionally imprecise to invite experimentation and creativity: it will be evaluated via guided peer-assessment.
From all the above description alone, it was crystal clear that this course was going to be way different from the normal reading, video lecturing and quiz taking courses that are offered online.
Key factors that worked for me and my peer Fraingers in #edcmooc:
edcmooc environment/platforms: #edcmooc took place on multiple platforms and mostly outside Coursera. There was the classic Coursera forum and then there were Google groups, Facebook group and twitter chats which were initiated and led by the participants. Now why was this? The platforms outside Coursera was where the participants felt most comfortable. Most of us were familiar with Facebook, twitter and Google communities. Those who were not familiar, were very interested to communicate build a network of peers and thus learned quickly. These other environment were friendly, informal and thrived on collaborative effort and support.
Goals and Objectives: I believe every one of us had different motives and objectives to take this course and we all achieved success in our individually defined objectives from this course. We had our own meaningful learning experiences as individuals and as a group and they were linked in some way or another to our personal and professional development.
Freedom to experiment: As mentioned on the Coursera site, “we invite all participants to collectively experiment with what the MOOC experience might be.” This experiment for our group started way back in November when we first received an email from the course organisers. Soon, we had groups on Facebook and g+ and the rest was history. Here is a post by Ary on how we formed our small community of around 150+ participants on FB and Google. On a document on Facebook, we defined our own objectives and what we all expected or wanted from this course. We created our own learning paths, learning objectives and tailored this course to suit our personal and professional goals. See here.
This was all before the course had even begun! Once the course started, the content structure and organisation, its reflective nature and the brief summaries and questions posted by the instructors further fostered our intellectual freedom to experiment, contemplate, reflect and create our own ideas and thoughts around the topics. We experimented with tools and some of us who are in the teaching field, have even started using them with their students. See here for the list of tools suggested by participants.
Treatment of participants as peers: The instructors treated us as intelligent experienced adults who had come into this course with a substantial experience in the learning and teaching field. Instead of bombarding us with opinionated lectures and telling us how it is done, they treated us as peers, honoured our opinions, listened to them and even appreciated them. The Google hangout sessions were more of a mutual discussion than lectures. They took an eager interest in our opinions and encouraged our ideas by reasoning and providing feedback at every opportunity. They worked more as facilitators rather than teachers to integrate and enhance our learning experiences. In the forums, the instructors even commented that they were learning as much from us as we were from them.
Self-directed learning: We had been provided with enough food for thought in the form of videos and readings to carry out our learning at our own pace. The task of reflecting on the materials put the responsibility squarely on us – the participants, where we had to do our own understanding, reflecting and learning instead of listening to instructors’ thoughts and opinions on any given topic. This led to more brainstorming sessions, Google hangouts within our Fraingers group and more introspective blog posts from participants. There were just enough thought-provoking questions posted in the weekly topics that worked as triggers to initiate our critical thinking. This I think was a wonderful opportunity to form our own opinions and ideas around the concepts. It also provided us with the freedom to explore materials that we found interesting and continue our research on it. If you comb through the forums, you will find that the instructors posted links to further readings and papers in response to participant comments who showed interest in particular topics and wished to explore them further. We were responsible for our own learning.
Active learning environment: The organisation of material, resources and the brief explanatory introductions were a starting point and introduction to the concepts. We had the freedom to pursue every topic in as much or as little detail as we wanted. Instead of passively listening to lectures, we tried out new ideas, tools and communication methods. We explored concepts that were interesting to us, did further research and brainstormed back into our group. We even had a participant led weekly twitter chat activity which was a wonderful way to brainstorm our ideas about the concepts discussed in the course. The posts on g+ and the hundreds of blogs were a deep wealth of reflective thoughts!
Assignment – artefact: No essays or quiz questions but something more substantial – creation of an artefact that reflects our learning! To all those who know about Bloom’s taxonomy and also the new flipped one, did you not think that by creating artefacts and reviewing them, we achieved the higheer levels of Synthesis and Evaluation – if not entirely then at least in parts?
Synthesis by definition means the ability to put parts together to form a new whole. Learning outcomes in this area stress creative behaviours, with major emphasis on the formation of new patterns or structures.
In creating our artefacts, we came up with our own ideas and responses to the concepts that we learned and internalized from this course. Many of us used multiple concepts, came up with line of thought – a response – a reaction – a reflective opinion, a pondering question – an idea – and converted it into the digital artefact to make our learning visible. Most of our artefacts are on display here.
Feedback mechanism – assessments: I have read a lot of complains about the peer assessments and feedback. But here’s why I think they would work. Peer assessments empower the learner in the learning environment. It would be highly impossible to evaluate others’ work without developing a deeper understanding of the content and that is how it helps in improving our ability to reflect and self evaluate. When you assess other work you improve your own understanding about the topic and you develop the ability to look at your own work objectively.
So this is what was so different about #edcmooc
This course provided an environment – a platform for collaboration and action which was focussed on creating creative and substantial experiences that were personally meaningful to the participants than what is offered in traditional online learning. If you look at the target audience for the course, you will notice that it was aimed at teachers and learning technologists, in other words, it was meant for adults. And one thing is for sure; adults learn way differently from how children and kids learn. There is no single theory how humans learn and there is no single adult learning theory that has emerged in the field of online learning. The best known theory is Malcolm Knowles’ Andragogy. The theory shows how adults learn and it suggests that there is a difference between learning in childhood and learning in adulthood. If you know about the underlying principles of Andragogy, you would agree that this course was rooted in it.
#edcmooc: Not a child’s play!