Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My Take on the Term MOOC

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

Massive The popular press would have us believe that massive refers to the enormous numbers of registrants that have been associated with well-publicized MOOCs, such as Sebastian Thrun’s, 2011 course on Artificial Intelligence with 160,000 registrants. However, the original intent behind the use of the word massive focused on the massive potential or capacity to “enable and engage conversations and activities across multiple platforms” – Stephen Downes, What Makes a MOOC Massive? 
This delights me and I think it suits open and connected learning to a T – but then I am not surprised because Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, George Siemens and Alex Couros (the originators of the term and first practitioners of MOOCs) are all proponents of open and connected learning. 

Open refers to access, i.e. free and available to anyone. "The word open is in constant negotiation." (Cormeir & Siemens, July/August, 2010 Educause Review). I think the quintessential element of “open” is about opening oneself to be free and available to explore new ideas, concepts, patterns, connections, and self-reflections. Opening involves mindfulness, calm, patience and practice. The critical element of practice is that it happens over the course of time, there is no point in, practicing fast.  My ideal is that the connections made in the OPEN ‘gathering’ and my own opening will function like a coach and work with me in a formative manner to draw out my best thinking and knowing. Experience tells me that this type of opening to Self comes through “listening hard”. 
In keeping with the importance of connecting and crediting I have to mention that the initial shift to looking at the possibility of the first O in MOOC standing for opening rather than open came from Gardner Campbell. I was having a tough time finding Gardner’s post to link with, so I used Twitter to direct message @bali_maha, who is part of my PLN and she responded, within the hour, with the requested link – which illustrates a PLN at work! Listening to Hybrid Pod's, Listening to Students, also served as an inspiration for this post. 

Online should not signify the same old thing just in a different form (wolf in sheep's clothing seems like an apt analogy here!). It needs to be a whole new form of communication. The Internet has enabled us to think in a new “meta language”. Online should not simply be a way of taking text books or lectures and broadcasting them online! I have posted on the new "meta language" of the Internet several times. In, Networks are Expanding Our Ignorance, I summarize Robert K. Logan's basic thesis regarding human meta languages developing as a result of information overload. In, Has the Internet Changed how We Think? Yet?, I refer to how the "ability to connect on a large scale and to genuinely collaborate and create rather than simply co-ordinate is what distinguishes Internet communication from previous communication forms." 

Course  The trouble with using the term course is that most people who have gone to school associate course with a teacher/student dichotomy that views the teacher as the sage on the stage or the person with information that needs to be poured into students. Students are taught to be passive and wait for, rather than seek, information. 
" . . . the concept of a “course” has been significantly challenged. In particular, questions have arisen as to the key value of the course in the educational system. Is the value the content— the academic journal articles, lectures, textbooks, and libraries that compose much of the teaching and learning process? Or is it the engagement and interaction that occurs through discussions? Or is it the self-organized activities of learners in the social spaces of a college or university? " (Cormier & Siemens, 2009)
Suffice it to say this is not the approach taken in an open and connected cMOOC, although it does tend to accurately characterize many xMOOCs. For me the C in MOOC is all about agency - about taking responsibility for charting my own learning course, tailoring it to my needs and sharing my riches with other navigators. 

So for me:
signifies the prism of possibilities and the Massive potential for divergent thinking. 
the 1st O refers to Opening to myself, to learning,to sharing, and to receiving.
the 2nd O is about dealing successfully with Overload. It is about connecting and new forms of communication and learning.
C is about navigating wisely and charting my own Course.

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