Friday, January 24, 2014

MOOCs - An Obsession for this Lifelong Learner!

If you are reading this post, it is likely that you are like me.  You are looking to improve your education because you are a lifelong learner.  You search the Internet for the next best thing to educate yourself on a certain topic.  I could almost bet that you stumbled upon a MOOC or two in your time.  You might have even asked yourself what a MOOC is and what it could do for you.  Let me start by saying MOOCs are my new obsession as a lifelong learner!

As I continue on with my progress through the IT&DML course, I have been asked to take a closer look at massive open online courses or MOOCs as they are better known as in the online education world.  An article authored by Richard Ferdig titled, What Massive Open Online Courses Have to Offer K-12 Teachers and Students, provides an overview of MOOCs and their potential role in K-12 education.  Before reading the article, I thought that there was only one type of MOOC and one definition that could be used to describe the system.  After reading the article, I have a better understanding of the complexity of MOOCs and the possibilities that exist with MOOCs and their future in K-12 education.

I would like to highlight the key points in Ferdig's article about what a MOOC is and how it relates to the process I have been taking part in through the IT&DML course that I am completing through the University of New Haven.

It is important to understand what each letter in MOOC stands for and what it represents in the learning environment.  Ferdig used the following picture created by Mathieu Plourde, which provides multiple meanings for each letter in MOOC:  
By Mathieu Plourde {(Mathplourde on Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Mathieu Plourde's representation helped me understand and consider what a MOOC really is and how it relates to K-12 education.  When defining a MOOC, you must first determine what type of MOOC it is.  According to Ferdig, there is not only one type of MOOC, instead there are two.  There is the xMOOC and the cMOOC.  The small letter in front the MOOCs defines the type of course that is being offered.  The xMOOC is used to describe the MOOC that is designed around traditional learning theories and course materials.  There are usually one or two experts providing the instruction and the outcome of the course is more academic than anything else.  The second type, the cMOOC, is based more a community approach where the participants are both the learners and the experts.  Information is disseminated and shared among participants in an open forum where everyone can contribute and learn from each other.  Some MOOCs can be a combination of both cMOOC and xMOOC.  The important point is that no two MOOCs are the same.

When understanding the meaning of the four letters in MOOC, one needs to look at each specific course that is offered to determine what is meant by each letter.  Again I will refer to Plourde's representation and the simple questions that he asks with each letter.  For example, the M for massive could represent anywhere from 100 to 100,000 participants.  This number can vary depending on the MOOC.  Currently, I am taking part in a deeper learning MOOC titiled DLMOOC.  This MOOC has over 1,400 participants.  When I first saw this number I was astonished that there were this many people in the world who also wanted to become more educated about deeper learning in education.  The best part though was that these 1,400 individuals were there because they wanted to continue their education, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.   I cannot even begin to explain what it feels like to be part of something with 1,400 other participants who want to be there.  It is exhilarating, informative, and truthfully overwhelming at times because of the amount of information that is being discussed.

The first O in MOOC stands for open.  Open can be used to describe the availability of the course whether from a financial standpoint or a resource standpoint.  You can see in Plourde's diagram that he asks the questions about what open stands for and this again is where each MOOC is different.  As someone who has limited funds available to spend on furthering my education, the financial component is an area that I usually focus on when determining which MOOC is best for me.

The second O in MOOC is for online.  MOOCs can be used as an interactive platform where participants communicate in real-time with one another whether through Hangouts, chat rooms, or other forms of social media instant communication.  Then there are those MOOCs that consists of  groups of individuals who have a common interest in a topic.  These groups communicate through posts, blog entries and other areas where people can view entries when they have the time available to reflect and respond.

The C in MOOC is for course.  This is where each specific MOOC will determine the end goal for the course.  Some MOOCs have extrinsic values, such as class credits, certificates, or online badges.  Other MOOCs are designed for an individual's intrinsic value, where they know that they are better informed and educated on a topic.

When Ferdig wrote his article, MOOCs were still primarily being used for continuing education for adults.  There has been interest and focus put on the possibilities that MOOCs could have in K-12 education.  In my opinion, if this is a trend that will continue, I firmly believe that K-12 education should invest in the process and find ways to introduce the youths of today to these educational opportunities.

Through the IT&DML courses, I have had the ability to study and investigate a variety of online and hybrid learning environments.  Using a Google Chromebook, our class has been able to become members of multiple Google+ Communities.  These communities have provided a platforms similar to a cMOOC, where we as students have used the forums to learn about topics, but also become experts in the field.  In addition, we took part in an Online Research and Media Skills (ORMS) MOOC.  Although we had the ability to post reflections and discuss the topics with our fellow classmates through this MOOC, we also received instruction and guidance from experts in the field.  This MOOC in my opinion was similar to the xMOOCs Ferdig discussed, except there was a little cMOOC style involved.

I will always be a lifelong learner.  Now that I have been introduced to MOOCs, I feel that thousands of opportunities have been presented to me and I just hope I have enough time to explore them all.  Look out MOOCs, here I come!

cc image by: Mathieu Plourde

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