Friday, 5 December 2014

The Essence of a MOOC

So here am I self-confessed 'free-thinker' and hater of daft boundaries and... well... models and then during another excellent #pkmchat last week when discussing MOOCs I get the idea that I can put the essence of a MOOC into a mathematical formula of sorts!  Now I ask you, for someone who believes we tend to over-pigeon-hole things and make them into models so that we can give them cool acronyms my theorising shouldn't have been what's the formula for a MOOC, but actually what can we boil a MOOC down to - what's the essence of a MOOC.

In my moment of madness and conformity I came up with the idea that the cMOOCs or connectivity style of MOOCs - the ones where you actually interact with others on the 'course' weren't just limited to Udemy style courses that you enter but that anything involving modern media, something like this:

Twitter + Wikipedia + Google = MOOC

Of course this is actually far from correct because it's not in any way mathematical and putting it into a mathematical formula is dumb.  Thanks also to Bruno Winck @brunowinck for his subtle increase of the formula to add in the word 'people' (I kind of implied that in my mind) and we're almost there.  Except we're not.  It's not mathematical at all, but what we're trying to achieve is work out what the essence of a MOOC is.

For me for a MOOC to be successful it's all about engagement and collaboration.  So rather than reduce that to a formula let me say that the MOOC is essentially about learning through and with others.  In that sense a MOOC is really just about self-paced and, to varying extents, self-directed learning combined with the engagement and contributions with others.

So what that really means is that for many of us, we are already participating in MOOCs of a sort even if we didn't think we are.  I'm interested in learning and I do it at my own pace and entirely self-directed by engaging with others and contributing (hopefully).  What that means is that the MOOC may not actually a thing at all?  My take is that the essence of a MOOC isn't a thing; it's a state of mind or an attitude at least.  Yes, a MOOC is an attitude to learning using the tools in my equation and interacting with people.  Maybe one day it will be represented in common lexicon the way Google now is - "I'll google it" if you will.  What will people say in place of I'm interested in that and I want to learn more about it by looking it up and talking with others and combining and sharing my opinions on it... is "I'm MOOC'ing about that".  Or maybe they'll just say I'm learning about that - and you'll have to press them to find out the way they're learning is in a less formal way using the cloud.

I guess I've just missed one ingredient out in my essence of MOOC.  All of this is fine in theory but it seems that in order for action to take place something has to kick it off - for me learning has to have some sort of driver or need; the motivator if you will.  Some learning clearly states these are the learning objectives; by the end of this course you will be able to... But if we're still stuck in the world where the only way to learn is to have formalised objectives I think we may be a bit off the mark.  For me the motivator is the driver.  MOOCs need to have something to motivate you to learn in the same way as my own learning has to have something to drive it.  Again, I think if we boil this to just objectives it implies the outcome is just the end result - I like to think of learning more about the way we do things - the journey if you will rather than just the destination (is there even a destination?).  But even a journey has a motivator - why do you want to go on this journey.  Yes, it's the 'why'.

Anyway, since this is part of my MOOC I think I'm done for now; please feel free to add to my discussion or disagree if you think I've got it wrong!