For the past 5 weeks my evenings have been taken up with the Elearning and Digital Cultures Mooc (Massive Online Open Course) and it has – for me – been a great learning experience.
It was a chance to reflect on the day job but at one step removed rather than “How can I use technology to improve the learning experience at Bristol” it was more “What is technology doing to learning (and to humans), and is it a good thing”. Also as a Sci-fi fan it was enjoyable to engage with my interests in an academic setting
It was a “cMooc” with the c standing for connectivism as opposed to an xMooc, which is about providing information in a structured form to the students (the “best” definition of x I can find is x = instructivist – never let spelling get in the way of a good acronym). The connections were – for me – what made the course so engaging, the reflections of others on the course materials were incredibly rich and interesting (the course materials were also good).
At the end of the course I had submitted my digital artefact, obtained a “Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction” and (one of my personal goals) extended my personal learning network by over 50 useful people.
So are Moocs the end of University as we know it? I would have to say no, and there are a lot of reasons why not which I dont have space to go into here, so instead I will close with a brief example of what can be so special about studying at University.
I was working with Dr Tamar Hodos in their office when a student came in to pick up their essay and feedback – having checked with the student that it was ok if I was in the room, the academic went over the paper with the student discussing what was good, where improvements could be made etc, the conversation moved to the teaching and time spent in the lab (student suggested longer lab sessions, and they discussed the potential benefits of this). This was a really detailed learning experience that (provided the student does take the steps suggested) will make a real difference to the students study.
Now I do realise you cant scale that 1 to 1 detailed contact with an academic up to a 40,000 user mooc, and I think that is why sometimes traditional is best (and yes I did tell Dr Hodos how impressed I was).