My MOOC experiences

conversations and learning in the digital world


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Why #edcmooc worked! – Reflecting

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.”

Target audience:

“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.”

Course objectives:

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.

Assessment:

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!

References:

Bloom’s Taxonomy:
http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html
http://tep.uoregon.edu/resources/assessment/multiplechoicequestions/blooms.html
http://www.businessballs.com/bloomstaxonomyoflearningdomains.htm

Andragogy:
http://www2.southeastern.edu/Academics/Faculty/nadams/etec630&665/Knowles.html
http://teachinglearningresources.pbworks.com/w/page/30310516/Andragogy–Adult%20Learning%20Theory

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When the student is ready, the teacher will appear #edcmooc

I am reading a lot of negative comments about the course on the forum and in some posts. Participants are complaining about “absent teacher”, “no videos and quizzes” and no “formal assessment”.

I am thinking MOOCs are not for everyone, especially not for those who think MOOCs can be compared with face to face learning. As Hamish said, it’s a happening. We are still in the revolution phase. Nobody yet knows fully, what MOOCs are capable of and what they can and cannot achieve. It is still too soon to reflect and draw conclusions. I read an article somewhere which said that we cannot compare MOOCs with the same metrics drawn for classroom teaching. We need a new metrics system that would incorporate all the aspects of moocs.

I find it ironic that people who detest traditional classroom teaching styles complain about the absence of “teaching leadership” or lack of “talking head lectures” in a mooc. The concept of a student has changed to “learner” and “participant” with a general acknowledgement that such a person does not like to be spoon fed by the teachers, especially not an adult learner. Perhaps it is time to look at the concept of “teacher” in a new light. Perhaps, just perhaps, teacher does not have to be a person, it could simply be experience itself or it might have been so all along.

There is a Buddhist saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. Maybe something is preventing these people from being able to learn, their own stubbornness, biased pre-conceived notions about what a mooc is or isn’t and how it should or should not be, wanting to do it their own pre-decided way, or perhaps they found the truth too painful to face, or they were simply distracted with their mundane life, this list can go on.

Instead, when one is ready to learn, the teacher does appear, maybe in the form of instructors, or maybe in some other forms such as Google, Facebook groups, g+ community, peers, PLNs, Tweets, blog posts, images, videos, artefacts and so on! When you are ready to learn, the teacher suddenly appears and you start to notice things which were there all along but you only just noticed it in a meaningful way. With further intrinsic motivation on your part, you can dig deeper, learn more, be more open and receptive to gain knowledge and understanding. It is all about opening your mind and being receptive!

On another note “When the student is not ready, the pop quiz will appear.”


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My thoughts on the videos #edcmooc

Here are some first thoughts on the videos:

Bendito machine

First thought… Moses coming down the mountain with the commandments while people perform rituals. Then people worshiping the next big thing in technology and replacing it with the old one.

I also felt that the characters/people in the video just worshiped it blindly without quite understanding it? Going with the masses kind of thing.

The best part was people casting aside the person who got them the technology only later to worship it. Is it a parallel to showing disdain with any new invention and then being a slave to it?

Definitely dystopian.

Inbox

I loved this short movie. I think it was a utopian outlook. The protagonists are shy and lonely. Then they discover the magic bag. In the offline/normal world they would not venture out or be as free and open. The magic bag (the metaphor for technology) enables them to be themselves and connect (pun unintended) with each other. However, this technology has just connected them with each other. The need for human contact is still as alive as ever and hence they decide to meet.

The boy’s bag get torn while he is swooning and he is not able to contact the girl anymore. I believe this represents the drawbacks of technology it made me think of disconnected internet. That’s all.

The anonymity of it all makes them bold and be their own self which they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to be. This video I believe represents technology as the enabling force or medium through which individuals connect with each other.

Thursday

Dystopian view. However nature still has some kind of intrinsic or inherent power to affect us – the rut in which humans are stuck and the bird that cuts off the wire to build its nest. The nest is interesting. It’s built in a satellite dish as there’s no more natural habitat for the bird. It’s destroyed because of our technological advancement. The nest is made up from such ‘wires’. Shows the two drastic ends of the spectrum. The humans have created a world within and of technology and this has become their new world (the man glares as the sun comes up and finds it irritating) whereas the bird is using these wires to build its nest its natural surrounding.

During the power cut, people unplug, connect with each other. However a man there just keeps hitting his keyboard even though that is not going to make it work again. Shows our frustration at being disconnected with technology?

Another woman messages the protagonist and they get together. They get into the lift and go to see the ‘Amazing views’ where they get to see the overview of their mundane lives – a digital matrix of sorts. They have their back to the twinkling stars and are instead looking engrossed at the matrix. At the same time it’s interesting to see the bird soaring to such great heights to test and reach its physical capacity. Again, two extreme ends.

Humans stuck in their digital world however nature still holds the intrinsic or inherent power to affect/disrupt us.

New Media

Too grim a representation of our society crumbling under the weight of technology. First thought: digital brain drain, rewiring or restructuring of the brain. An extremist version of human race crumbling under the weight of technology. It reminded me of the movie Eagle Eye in which destroying the technology is essential for human survival.

What do you all think of these?


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On making connections #edcmooc #etmooc

Angela has come up with a very interesting post. She talks about biological elements oxytocin and adrenaline, that shape our social behaviour and how we can very well be on the verge of becoming addicted through our online activities to these two chemicals.

So here are some thoughts: If it is oxytocin, the love hormone, then would it fizzle out after the initial euphoria? After the initial obsession and then the following burnout, would we all just settle into a routine and not be that excited as we are now? Just wondering..

As for connecting with each other within this group, I agree when Ary says that the connections that we have formed within #edcmooc are more authentic. These connections were not forced upon us and are not based on what we know, how academic we are, whether we work in the same field and whether we live near each other. We did not form these connections with a certain goal in mind, only that we all wanted to learn and help each other out. Some things just clicked. Through our random chats, shared resources, we slowly built trust and then friendships. It didn’t just happen within the first few days. Ary has a very nice presentation on how it all started.

The connections I believe also formed, with our ability to share our thoughts out there and take any kind of responses and reactions from people. It is the vulnerability in these acts that I think affect how we connect with each other.

Angela wrote about Digital identity and connection where she discusses about the separation, if any, between real persona and digital persona and how we assume our digital identity. I think it is somehow easier for us to project our professional self comfortably within social networks, however we fear putting forth our personal thoughts even though they might be worth sharing.

Let’s pause and think about how we connect with people in real life. We don’t just like certain people or love them for a few of their qualities, we like them overall, all their faults and flaws included. I believe it’s the same with forming connections in the digital world. It would be impossible to follow someone’s blog, tweets, podcasts just for their sheer academic knowledge. There has to be something that you identify with. There has to be that something special, queer or even weird that you find matches you own thoughts, ideas, voice, interests etc. Until that happens you cannot form real connections that can last for a long time.

Another major component that forms the basis of our #edcmooc is that we are more collaborative than competitive. We have a very fine balance between collaboration and cooperation for example through group work (google docs, map, classroom, fb group, organising twitter chat). This seems to be the inherent design within our group as of now.

Of course this might all change once the course actually starts and we may have a more of an instructive approach where the course operators might ask us to adapt to some kind of a strategy to develop and enhance our learning.

With all this precourse activity, I wonder whether the facilitators would modify their approach towards this course. Would they take up a facilitative approach or would they be more instructivist exercising certain controls? I also wonder how we as a group would then adapt ourselves within this highly focussed collaboration.

Another twelve hours to go and then we shall know.


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All in a day's work: Activities around #edcmooc

Everyone participating in e-learning and digital cultures mooc has been discussing how very excited they are and how interesting they are finding this mooc experience. As I said in my last post, am spending loads of time throughout the day experiencing what edcmooc is all about.

Ary has put up some interesting questions on our discussion at wikispaces. The very first one being how do we make our learning visible in digital spaces. Then I thought, here is a creative way to come up with a digital representation of all the activities that I end up doing in a single day, well most of them.

Thanks to Angela and Willa for introducing me to Videoscribe and also for inspiring me with your videos. Now here’s my video. It’s not very aesthetic with respect to graphics and pictures, but just an organised  mind map of all the activities that am sure we all are doing every day! I have also somehow managed to make it long enough so that the audio runs out! 😦 Hang on, it goes on a loop soon! 🙂


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Signs you are addicted to your mooc #edcmooc

That too before the official start of the course! Being a part of this mooc has opened up a whole new world of networking and socializing. Perspectives – connections – experience is so exciting.

Just yesterday another email went out to the participants and since then all the groups, feeds and communities have exploded. Am sure the Facebook and Google servers must have noticed a hike in activity in our groups 🙂

As for me am addicted. Almost all the free time is spent in checking updates on FB, google, twitter, diigo, pinterest. Books are kept aside, lunch and dinner times pushed back, other activities = null!

Know the feeling? So my fellow participants, if you are experiencing any of the following, consider yourself hooked to mooc!

#You forget to eat: Ultimate tell-tale. It means you are not only distracted but that you want more updates than you want food!

#You can’t concentrate on work: Even as you read this post, you have checked out the google group for any new posts from fellow participants. You even refreshed twitter search for #edcmooc before coming back to this. 🙂

#You wake up in the middle of the night to check out latest discussions taking place in another timezone: Need I explain?

#You are obsessed with edcmooc: Any new post, discussion, video, article ou have to read it, comment and share.

#You feel you’re a wreck: A mooc of this size may very well lead to emotional upheaval. You find yourself bouncing between exhilaration, increased energy, sleeplessness, euphoria, as well as anxiety, panic and feelings of despair.

 


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Connectivist Instructional design

I came across an interesting resource while browsing about MOOCs. Connectivism as a learning theory and the design of MOOCs.

Based on the principles of connectivism, learning should:

  • Provide for a diversity of opinions
  • Allow students to create connections between specialized nodes and learning sources
  • Foster their capacity to learn (teach metacognitive learning skills)
  • Increase their ability see connections between fields, concepts, and ideas
  • Teach students to build networks that will allow students to keep current in their field
  • Allow students to choose what to learn and how.

In the last few days, our FB group has just exploded with interactivity, information, resource links, tools and general distribution of knowledge. Here is how I am trying to make sense of it all. Although it is easy to get overwhelmed with the responses in the group, I notice smaller groups of people connecting with each other for their problems and solutions. This network offers distribution of knowledge and solutions and it all lies within our brains the problems as well as the solutions. So if I have a problem – it’s in my brain – there is another brain out there who has the solution. This connecting of brains, ideas, solutions leads to continuously improved learning, innovative ideas for me and the entire network. The collective knowledge is staggering.

Forming connections and sharing and distributing knowledge is what I think connectivism is and that is one of the designs of MOOCs I believe. There is always a choice for the learner – whom to connect with, how to expand his/her network. And it all depends on his or her learning needs.

And here is the most interesting part – it is completely learner centred. Connectivism is all about the learner – the tutors and facilitators act as a support and the technology is the enabler. Connectivism perhaps is the best way for self paced learning based on learning styles, intelligences, choice of networks, connections and technology. And all this is happening in our MOOC group.

Any thoughts?