Why MOOCS Work for Me – and Hands OFF!

Nobody likes a good MOOC more than me… but I definitely don’t think they’re for everyone… and I hope that we don’t spoil them in the end (as we in education tend to do with many things that start out fine and end up a mess thanks to our meddling)

What is it about MOOCS that I like?

1) I LOVE being able to go to Coursera and just look at all the things available to learn… it’s better than a candy store (b/c they don’t add calories and b/c they are free (so far) in terms of cost and how we are allowed to maneuver within them)

2) You get to learn with the top people in a given field!

3) You have complete freedom to explore the topics most of interest to you… no wasting time on stuff you already know – on stuff you can’t use – on stuff of no interest – on busy work – on uninteresting projects – pick out the gems for YOU – do the projects you want to do – and move on

4) It’s multi-modal – what works for you – reading, watching a video, exploring outside resources, discussion, project-based – you usually choose the activities that make sense for your context and your learning style

5) It’s Maryellen Weimer’s boat-building example – why is it that when we are learning s/thing we want to learn, we’ll spend HOURS entranced… but if it is imposed…then it’s torture – MOOCS are the electronic version of boat-building – what’s your passion – what do you want to know more about… it doesn’t feel like work!

6) They make access to education a reality to millions of people – though REAL access to credentials is another topic for another day…

So what qualities (imho) make a MOOC a good choice for someone?

I know that at the tender age of.. well you didn’t really think I would say it did you… but anyway – at this age, I am still a lifelong learner – I love to learn – I’m curious – I’m self-directed – I’m extremely independent – I’m not afraid to try new things when learning – I like variety – I can sniff out quality and move on when it’s not there (life is too short to waste on bad input!) – I can let go of what I don’t need (if you are someone who just HAS to read all 37,00 postings, then MOOCs might not be for you!) – I can look for help independently outside of the course or move along when I don’t understand something – I can apply what I’m learning to other contexts without a lot of input form outside – I am flexible… and I find the sort of chaos adventuresome! I like to explore and discover – I want to see what percolates.

I think these traits make a MOOC a good fit for me – and for a certain type of learner – definitely not for everyone in every context. I can’t envision unleashing a first semester student into a MOOC with much success… Here’s an example of someone from a MOOC who isn’t having a good experience:

Could someone just post some links for the basic introductory material for this course? I cannot find any articles, videos etc to introduce me to the topic. I don’t have a project. I’d just like to learn more about learning analytics. I’d like to read some stuff (I hate video takes too long and usually isn’t clear at all…)

Thanks. I was really hoping this might be the first MOOC I could actually follow, but to be honest, at number 4 I’ve tried, I’m close to giving up on MOOCs altogether…

There should be a “lost?” link at the top of every MOOC sidebar…

Even though MOOCs aren’t for everyone, I could see asking students in a gen-ed as an assignment to explore a MOOC on a related topic and something of interest to them personally and have them report back to the class on their experience/learning.

It is a rich moment in educational history – still free – still evolving – I’d prefer to stay out of the conversations about how to monetize and capitalize on this new form of learning – that just dirties the pool – I can’t think of a better way to spoil the joy of lifelong learning than to talk about formalizing it with things like admissions – registration – credentialing – assignments – grading – argh – where did the fun go??? The trick would be to make that stuff invisible to the experience – but I don’t think anyone has been able to do that yet – gaming perhaps gets as close to making the drudge part of school invisible…but please don’t mess with my MOOCS… or I – like millions before me (in other educational contexts), will move onto other learning pastures that remain free and open in terms of cost and freedom within my own learning pursuits.

If the conversation is really about affordable access for all then I’m on board – do what you need to do so many more people can reap the benefits of an affordable education – but please please please keep the hassle free open access also for those who just want to have fun while learning.

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