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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Comparing MOOCs

~ no two alike, about how they evolved and extending the comparison / discussion to large open courses such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare and Stanford’s Massive AI Course, by Michael Atkisson at Ways of Knowing, briefly excerpted with exhortations to click through and read the entire piece + bibliography. Size matters but is not everything, nor, according to some, is it even the most important element, which might (my best guess) be interactive, distributed networks operating according to connectivist principles. I've been told before by mooc-urus that I was wrong so could be again.

What is a MOOC?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are large-scale online courses (in the thousands of participants) where an expert or group of experts from a particular field both 1. create the large draw to the course, and 2. facilitate a multi-week series of interactive lectures and discussion forms on critical issues from that field. Participants are expected to self-organize, to share and discuss the course material, and to create and publish new artifacts that represent their learning. Additionally, MOOC participation is recorded and published openly so that those who come upon it later may follow peripherally.

Where did MOOCs Come From?

This is best answered in the words of David Cormier and George Siemens,
“The term was coined in response to Siemens and Downes’s 2008 “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” course. An initial group of twenty-five participants registered and paid to take the course for credit. The course was then opened up for other learners to participate: course lectures, discussion forums, and weekly online sessions were made available to nonregistered learners. This second group of learners–those in The Open Course who wanted to participate but weren’t interested in course credit–numbered over 2,300. The addition of these learners significantly enhanced the course experience, since additional conversations and readings extended the contributions of the instructors.” (2010, p. 32).
Since 2008, several other MOOCs have developed....

What is a MOOC Experience?

The scale of interaction among MOOC participants is like that of massively multiplayer online games, such as World of Warcraft, but where as in the gaming environment large numbers of people come together online to play, self-organize, develop skill, strategize as a group, and execute strategies, MOOCs, on the other hand, facilitate learning about or the development of a particular knowledge domain at a participation scale ripe for diversity....Other ways to experience a MOOC are to lurk or to follow the course after-the-fact.... there were lots of ways to participate... I thought it was remarkable how much I felt that I was there in the class....felt immersed through my after-the-fact peripheral participation.

Is MIT’s OpenCourseWare a MOOC?

The short answer is no. I again point to Cormier and Siemens:
“In an open course, participants engage at different levels of the educator’s practice, whether that be helping to develop a course or participating in the live action of the course itself. This is distinctly different from the idea of open in the open content movement, where open is used in the sense of being free from the intellectual property stipulations that restrict the use and reuse of content” (2010, p. 32).
Though MIT’s OpenCourseWare is revolutionary, making content publicly available is not enough because it only focuses on the content.... MOOCs seem to differ from Stanford’s classes in these principle ways 


(now read the entire piece online, bookmark it, save the bibliography)

#POTCert11: Introduction


Here's my introduction. Now that I am not teaching classes and sending out or posting obligatory welcome notes, I no longer had an appropriate bio on file. Writing a fresh one took a bit longer than expected, evoking the inevitable bout of self-reflection about identities. The result may be both too long and not long enough. My 67th birthday was just a week ago: a lot happens in that many years, some lived in interesting times and places, some of it even pedagogically relevant. 


I moved to Mountainair NM from Davis CA at the beginning of 2000. Mountainair is a small, rural community in central NM. Although remote in being relatively isolated and not suburb distance from a significantly larger town, it is not a long a drive from much larger and better known Albuquerque or even Santa Fe. There are historic buildings, notable examples of wild folk art, pre-Columbian and Spanish Mission ruins, a small arts community, a bank, a gas station, a grocery store, a volunteer run community library, a blinker light, ranchers, developers selling the Old West mystique, even a gated (mostly) SoCal exurb and all too soon, our very own Dollar Store. I live alone, have cats, two very large hairy dogs and, until a few years back, took in two retired Welsh mares I bred in another life time, yard ornaments.

After living in the Lafayette LA area for 25 years straight after returning from eight years residence overseas, I headed westward ho to study Comparative Literature at UC Davis. Since then I've taught composition, English literature, World literature and Classics in translation, Spanish, ESL, developmental writing and study skills as well as directing a local family literacy program and teaching in after school programs. I've taught hybrid and online since the mid 90s ~ public, for-profit and as a volunteer. 

Retired now, I occupy myself online and with words, blogging, keeping up with far flung friends and family, following wide spread interests, community networking, curating social media content for fun and other projects that occasionally intersect ~ and still volunteer teach ESL online. This past year I added open online courses to the list. None have been for credit, nor all completed, but I still get a lot out of them ~ and keep coming back for more. Each time I get a better sense of the format and feel for the potential of distributed networks. 

It's a whole new learning culture, very likely a game changer, but one I feel like I've been waiting for all along.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Diigo: done did it

 or Adventures in Diigo-Land: not that much of adventure since I already had a Diigo account that I use some but less than Delicious, which is faster, especially with marklet plug-in. The speed bump was lost note with login information (geriatric hard drive melt down) and forgetting which email account I signed in from. I'd say try not to have systems problems right when starting a course or project, but that's not something we have control over. Too bad.

I should use Diigo more and have been inching up on it, a bit more each online workshop, class or MOOC that calls for it. Inching is my approach of choice for assimilating apps ~ minimizes frustration and keeps long term memory from going out on strike for unfair working condition. Turbo-techno-teachers might bear that in mind dealing with students new to the tech they themselves take for granted.

Diigo won't supplant or completely replace Delicious but don't doubt it will find its place in the Repertoire of Useful Performing Apps. This round I'll use the sharing tools more and maybe just maybe explore it for quick & easy blog content posting. With the gang of blogs I have, I'm always on the lookout for that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Into the #MOOC again

... but you never enter the same MOOC twice.

Adding the blog right off as part of the enrollment process put the feed right out there. Will that encourage regular blogging or blogger's block?

My own MOOC-blogging reticence puzzles me. I run a gang of blogs and generally post to about three a day. That's not counting affiliated twitter accounts and Facebook page. In other words, I've danced at this party plenty of time before, in front of both friends and strangers, so why be shy now? Maybe regular assignments are what I need ~ just like setting realistic blogging goals as New Year's resolutions.

Pedagogy First!

Here I am, working my way through the POT list:

  • already in the FB group
  •  just filled out form
  • waiting for password to add feed
  • already in Diigo but need to join mccpot group
  • finish reading syllabus (e.g. practice what we preach)
  • writing that 1st blog post right now
  • and then the Howdy Y'all blog post 
  • on FB too

I am particularly pleased to have learned how to create a feed just for a single tag or label. Good news for a schizo multiple strand blog like this one. Although I've used this blog for a number of online workshops or courses with blog requirements, that is not it's primary purpose, especially between times. It started out being about the intersection of computers and the internet with teaching language/s and writing. Multiliteracies didn't take it OT, but MOOCs about teaching online have been a stretch. Both functions have suffered as a result. From the sidebar:

ABOUT ~ Writing includes email, blogs, wikis, genres less bound to but still involving computers. Web 2.0 collaboration, interaction, feedback, tech tools and apps that enhance the writing process. The blog started as part of an online workshop about teaching writing, with ESL instructors the intended audience, but has now gone beyond that and other boundaries. What happens to language when writing and computers collide? Or writing when language and computers meet up?
 Maybe I should write separate learning objective (per previous post) for each MOOC, including past ones with self-evaluation (eek). Learning objective should keep writing component in mind. I still intend to get to the Digital Divide too.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Writing Learning Objectives

This handout from the Penn State Learning Design Hub looks useful if  occasionally wordy and too obvious in places: it could do with streamlining lest it turn into another way to generate interminable reports. It smacks of one of those QM things too. As a recovering writing teacher, I'd start with a very short statement of purpose (aka thesis statement) and then one sentence each for each of the basic questions. A short paragraph and a mission statement. The biz folk have it right about keeping those short. 

Rationale: Writing clear course objectives is important because:

  • Objectives define what you will have the students do.
  • Objectives provide a link between expectations, teaching and grading.
Basic Information

Questions you need to think about
Who are your students? Freshman? Senior? A mix of different prior knowledge and experience?
Is this course a general education course or a course required for the major?

The A.B.C.D. method
The ABCD method of writing objectives is an excellent starting point for writing objectives (Heinich, et al., 1996). In this system, "A" is for audience, "B" is for behavior, "C" for conditions and "D" for degree of mastery needed.
  • Audience – Who? Who are your learners?
  • Behavior – What? What do you expect them to be able to do? This should be an overt, observable behavior, even if the actual behavior is covert or mental in nature. If you can't see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or smell it, you can't be sure your audience really learned it.
  • Condition – How? Under what circumstances or context will the learning occur? What will the student be given or already be expected to know to accomplish the learning?
  • Degree – How much? How much will be accomplished, how well will the behavior need to be performed, and to what level? Do you want total mastery (100%), do you want them to respond correctly 80% of the time, etc. A common (and totally non-scientific) setting is 80% of the time.
follow the link below for Examples of Well-Written Objectives (or at least one the authors of this handout consider well-written ~ badly written objectives can be as informative, how not to guides)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Changing HigherEd one MOOC at a time


The links + excerpts below, although not about MOOCs relate to them and especially #EduMOOC Week 8. They are reactions to higher education disruptions and changes from various (and conflicting) perspectives on the future topography of higher ed. I recall, perhaps imperfectly, a comment by Stephen Downes on disaggregating courses and credits as the only way to keep learning open and certification available. That made sense to me, even though I immediately recognized the authority (and thus power) to bestow credits as a line in the sand issue not easily resolved. 

I was not wrong. Judging by the academic blogosphere's reaction to Stanford's open course experiment, WGU encroachments, charter universities and other tech transgressions, I may even have underestimated the reaction.  



Resistance to technological change does not fuel the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education and supporting blog Restructuring Public Hi Ed directly. However, it plays a major role as threat to the campaign's preservationist stance and stated purpose of educators having a voice in higher education changes. My own experience tells me they could have a voice in MOOCs and learn more about the unknown by listening to others with an open mind and the free exchange of ideas across the full spectrum of higher ed stakeholders. Nothing runs counter to the Campaign's basic principles.  

In the following collection of reactions and opinions, Stanford's "is it a MOOC or isn't it," moderately massive but not open online courses (i.e. IT courses at SFSU) already being taught online, and Western Governors University are neither MOOCs nor representative of their connectivist foundations. MOOCs (and distributed networks) could be the solution to problems (e.g. authentic interaction) the others still present. 

How then would a judicious application of MOOC and connectivism affect each of the following cases? How would it address concerns for the profession voiced by educators? 

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