Why the C MOOC is the way forward

I have  been on my latest MOOC, “Learning Creative Learning) (MIT Media Lab)  for the past 5 weeks. So far I can honestly say that I have found this course to be by far the best of the 3 MOOCs I have enrolled at.

The first 2 MOOCs were Coursera courses. They had a defined syllabus and you were expected to do tests and a final project in order to gain a statement of course completion. I found that I was reverting very quickly to the old fashioned model of lecture, note-taking and regurgitation for a test, accompanied by a project that would be written with the aim of gaining a grade.

The MIT Course has, from the beginning been very different. We were allocated to small groups according to where we were in the world and encouraged to sign up for Google Plus Communities. There was a wider, whole course Google Plus Community that I joined. The idea was to encourage participation, exchange of ideas and support from fellow students.

What I have found is that the smaller group , after an initial burst of activity, has ossified. The larger, whole course group though has blossomed. Every  day there are new videos posted, references to readings, examples of work with the “Scratch” program. It has become an exciting place to visit and be a part of. I am learning so much.

If I were asked how closely I have stayed to the course “syllabus” I would say that I have tried to do the assigned tasks but have found that the freedom to explore and interact with others has led me to sometimes wander away from the focus for the week. I am not alone in this, there have been many comments in our community that have extolled its virtues. We have discussed how we can prolong the life of the community beyond the length of the course and the MIT people are looking into this.

Mitch Resnick, the course director, said in a weekly discussion that our course is experimental. The first few weekly discussions were aired through Google Hangouts in real time, they had technical difficulties but a number of outstanding speakers such as Alan Kay, Joi Ito,  Resnick himself and yesterday Gerhard Fischer. They changed the format from essentially “talking heads” to some excellent slides that really contributed to the discussion.There has been a back-channel available for these weekly discussions and yesterday, for the first time, in response to student requests, the speakers were available to take questions and join in the online discussion after the main Hangout had ended.

I have the ability to watch the hangouts at another time on YouTube. There is the chance to contribute to the YouTube discussion as well as reflect or react to the discussion in our course G+ Community.

Despite the technical hitches that are so refreshing to come across from one of the world’s leading technological institutions, the course has been exciting, ever-changing and experimental. As Resnick stated, the intention is to make the course a C MOOC and not an X MOOC. The difference between these two sets of initials is that the X MOOC is very much like the Coursera courses that I first attempted and are about me being taught in some way what the course designers feel they want me to know and showing that I have “learnt” what they want me to know bu passing a number of multiple-choice tests and completing a peer-marked Project. The MIT C MOOC is about connectivity and collaboration. It is about the passing of information in a network that comes from the designers, the speakers and the students. It is well explained in the following video by one of my fellow course participants, Fred Bartels.

I have been looking into the many blog posts written recently on MOOCs and feel that I can state from my own experience that the future should be C and not X. This is surely the way forward for MOOCs. It takes advantage of the power of the net to facilitate communication and brings the idea of study into the 21st century. There is a huge amount of learning going on. How this can be effectively assessed or whether it should be or not, is part of the ongoing experiment that many of us are happily engaged in at present.

Thank you Media Lab for having the vision to start a course such as “Learning Creative Learning”. I hope it acts as a model for many other Higher Education  Institutions when they consider the how of doing a MOOC in the future.

 

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