MOOCs, Constructivism Unleashed #edcmooc

Maddie in My Mooc Adventure describes the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC experience well in her reflection. She does an excellent job describing the design of the course and how it was intended to operate. One point that resonated with me was how she discussed the fact that each participant could achieve their own learning objectives and engage in the content to different degrees.

This strikes me as exactly the point of having free, open source education platforms.

Let interested, engaged people work with some new content and learn from other people.

In short, rather than relying on a behaviorist model of “watch video lecture, take a quiz/test”, the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC adopted a more social constructivist or situated cognition approach to designing the learning experience. They gathered videos and readings from existing sources within a set of topics related to technology and our interaction with it – past, present, future. Notably, they used open source materials that were freely available on the web. From these sources, they presented discussion questions. The final assignment was the creation of a synthesis piece in which the participants were asked to create a digital artifact using two different media (e.g., text, images, video… whatever you like) on a platform of your choosing (as long as someone else could click it and see it, fair game).

The course was also interesting because of the emergent social interactions that happened across multiple platforms. These were strictly voluntary. Love Google Plus? Great. Love Facebook? Great. Want to twitter chat? Sure. Or don’t. Up to you grown-up taking this class for free.

Personally, I loved it.

Others, did not. They were expecting the instructors to “tell us what to do”. There was confusion about the digital artifact (what are we supposed to do? what is the ‘right answer’?). Some people ran with it and created beautiful videos and Prezis and Storyboards.

This says more to me about the participants and their expectations than the course design.

However, this is a common phenomenon when students are accustomed to “here’s a procedure, now practice” encounter a class which requires them to engage with content, synthesize, and problem solve. I appreciated the course designers creating an open environment and launching interesting conversations about complex topics that are not reducible to quizzes.

The other advantage in a MOOC is that if you don’t like it… .stop taking it. It’s free. That’s the best thing about it.