MOOCs: A new media outlet (prompted by Steve Kolowich’s “The Professors Who Make the MOOCs”

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Steve Kolowich’s “The Professors Who Make the MOOCs” highlighted an emerging category of celebrities (in a good way): academic community.

For a long time now the visual arts performers were able to advance their recognition and reach their audience globally: youtube is one of the outlets in today’s toolkit disposal.

MOOCs are the youtube for academics: they allow the audience to access the source and to gain the knowledge. Naturally, a teaching team becomes recognizable in the circle of the MOOC-takers.

While MOOCs remain costly and time consuming in preparation, technically, a good professor from a little-known college can become well known and recognized/recognizable for his/her work. His/her contribution to the scholarly world can become more visible and maybe more impactful, because of the scale.

Recruitment/professional gain aside, MOOCs are a fresh way to showcase the intellectual treasure (otherwise locked on a local level) and to be known for the expertise and contribution.

It will probably not take long before we start seeing MOOCs ratings and competition in the cyberspace.

 

Ode to my peers

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Most of my posts are devoted to my discoveries, my thinking, my analysis and perceptions. They are based on what I read and observe. It did not take long to realize that a good portion of these readings and observations are based on yours, my t509 Massive peers, contributions!

In this post I want to reflect the impact you are making on my learning, knowingly or not. Just a few examples here, all with appreciation.

I have always been uneasy/skeptical about multitasking: basically, I don’t believe it’s a good practice (I won’t even name it a skill here), just intuitively. Interestingly, just a few days ago, a tweet on a Forbes article caught my attention, confirming just this(by @RobertsRachelL).

Then there is a MOOC platform comparison tweet (by @CarliSpina), which I thought was interesting and I glanced at that. Then I thought about how overly connected we are and kept browsing through some blogs, and here it is: Life Pre-Internet post (by Allison Goldsberry), where I couldn’t resist leaving a comment and also wondered of the blog’s clean features, some of which I wouldn’t mind learning and implementing into the space of my own. I keep an eye on My life at Harvard (by Merisenda Bills), a beautifully crafted space with a unique view. Being a somewhat follower of Getting Things Done I found out that I am not alone (see Karen Massey‘s blog), but what’s more, there was a useful reference to my earlier painful question of how to organize the sources, and here is Diigo to explore.

We are in a very interesting class: there are readings, videos and activities assigned. Yet, I suspect that no readings are identical for each of us: as we grasp various information, generously shared by our peers, prompting our thinking towards unpredictable directions and, subsequently our reactions in blogs or tweets (circulating back into more resource sharing and thinking further).

It is a live and a sustainable organism. I think I am starting to understand what it means to be connectivistic in a class and how to craft the these connections and this space.

I am deeply thankful to my peers for this perpetuum mobile of enrichment.

Work in progress: updating rubric participation

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In one of my prior posts I mentioned that I am starting to understand the concept of “participation rubric” v. individualistic content flooding. Basically, we need to connect with our peers with our views, expertise, newly acquired or existing skills in order to create this content.

Now, from understanding this concept to actually structuring certain commitments, is quite a challenge, which I am attempting to overcome right here and now.

Criteria Exceeds Expectation Meets Expectation Underperforms Expectation
Post reactions to readings (assigned and discovered on own) via social media (twitter/blog) Blog once a week, as a reaction to the reading(s), as a matter of highlighting of my ongoing project within the course; share other sources, relevant to our online and in-class conversations (aiming to provoke a conversation). Read and comment on others’ blog posts / tweets. Blogging once a week on readings, engaging (occasionally) with peers via comments. Blogging less than weekly, not engaging with peers via comments.
Working on a project within the course Synthesize the issue(s), summarize existing practices, propose trajectory for solutions, keep the progress report via social media, summarize the project’s part with the partner on this project Synthesize the issue(s), summarize existing practices. Synthesize the issues.

 

My personal compus for the T-509 course (belated blogging of prior notes)

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Well, better later than never: while my personal compass for the course has been originated some time ago and it is now time to refine it, I think it’s good to insert the original thinking here, so we see where the (refined) thoughts are coming from.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you in advance for being kind to a budding blogger.

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So, the original compass for the course (September 19, 2014).

When I read the description for the Massive in the online catalogue, I was very intrigued. I researched the teaching instructor’s (Justin Reich’s) work and became very energized about the course.

So, here I am. With my perceptions and believes, totally ready to learn and transform my own thinking.

Being relatively new to many of the Course’s components (the social media part, the dispersed course materials) my expectations of myself are multi-dimensional.

Firstly, I have little trust in social media with a hint of fear of its trajectory of collecting and storing data (ironically, I am blogging about it via social media – well, it’s part of the course requirement). Participating in the social media is indeed tempting, while there is quid pro quo. Se la vie. On the other hand, being part of the social network is less and less avoidable. In this regard, my compass would be crafting a constructive digital presence with potential of contributing to our shared learning, navigating effectively the features available today.

Secondly, I realized how much I love structure and order, while being part of this course. As I am learning, the content for a MOOC and a course about MOOCs is much dispersed. And my compass here is to reach a comfortable level of order and chaos. While “chaos is a new reality” (G. Siemens, 2004 “Connectivism: A learning Theory for the Digital Age”), this reality is struggling to find a proper place in my striving-to-be-orderly-world. I am truly hoping to have this challenging part sorted out by the end of the course.

Most importantly, despite mentioning it last, my contribution to the real-life project or, as our instructor puts it (citing loosely) “making things around us a little bit better” is the key compass point I will be striving to reach. While some of my peers came to this class with very specific project, already knowing how they are going to make the world a little bit better, I came with a desire to learn and to be exposed to what is out there. I am intrigued with my own outcome, which is yet to be seen. I guess, I am intrigued to learn about myself as much as I am intrigued about the work I will be doing.

 

Research: a new dimention (connectivist, of course).

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Interesting twist in the research activity. Certainly not novel to many. Novel to me.

I am working on researching one newly emerged subject related to MOOCs (intrigued? More to follow as I progress). My logical first step, the Google search, of course, shows some lack of the subject being exhausted. Well, I am now turning to Twitter for further investigation and help. We shall see how this journey will unfold. Exciting indeed!

From individualism to collectivism through connectivism? Learning for oneself and others.

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To me learning has long been associated in acquiring knowledge, expanding my horizons, gaining new expertise, learning from others and so on. And all for myself. Self-centered process. A concept of individualized success, concentration on one-self has been engraved and solidified in our society. We understand it well, we know the rules of the game  (what ever they are) and we learned how to extract for our own gain.

It is hard, almost counter-intuitive to contribute while learning. To move from self to others. This is what I am striving to understand, to feel and to do.

And, this is not to be confused with teaching. Surely, we learn from teaching too. But in this concept of everybody’s contribution through learning is different. It is new to me and it is not what I have been taught all my learner’s life.

When I think of what my contribution to the course would be, my first thinking is “I will blog on resources I read, so I express myself” or “I will try various outlets, like twitter and other social media, so I get a better grip on the tools and become better skilled“. But this is all self-centered, I now see.  How can I create the content, an ardent advocate of which I am, the content which others might enjoy or find informative?

It is a new and a challenging task indeed. I much enjoy the blogging of many of my classmates: thought-provoking and coming from the bottom of their hearts. I feel the urge to let them know about it, but haven’t quite figured out the best way for it. Well, maybe I will dedicate a post on my blog just for that. And then there is twitter: brisk, quick and to the point. And, again, I am extremely thankful to our #t509massive community for all the useful links, quick updates and resource sharing. Each of these contributions make our community warmer, more welcome and a greater source of knowledge.

And now, here I am. What is my contribution to this wonderful community? With little spare time we all have and lots of thoughts, what would be the most valuable input I can dedicate to my class?

While it is definitely work in progress, I wonder whether continuing reading my peers’ blogs and commenting on them, occasionally sharing interesting links via twitter and reading others’ twitter references as well as sharing my work on a project, linked to this course, would be something of that value? The time will show, but for now I am hoping this would be a good step forward.

Some thoughs on effectiveness of peer grading/reviews in general. Prompted by Rees, J. (2013). “Peer grading can’t work.” (Inside Higher Ed.)

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Just some thoughts on Peer Grading/evaluation, prompted by Rees (2013). Often times we are deadline oriented, and somewhat forced to put our best raw material out there. This means that maybe the materials is not exactly ready to be graded/evaluated in the first place. And, in terms of peer grading/evaluation: maybe the material is simply not ready for a review, it’s just too raw? In other words, a student didn’t put the polished enough product out there and all the peer suggestions would not be a real contribution, but rather a highlight of what the student knows already: it’s just too early in the process to be assessed.

On the other hand, if a student did produced the “intermediate final” work or just got stuck and truly needs an input from the outside – this is where the peer review can come handy. With a “but”, however.

And this “but” refers to who are the peer-graders? What sort of an expertise or an adequate input do they have and whether this input/expertise matches the need of an evaluation (e.g. sometimes a view of a layperson is most valuable, should the product be geared towards the general public).

So, the “verdict” here is: the peer grading/review is not useless, nor is it invaluable. It is a tool, which can work under the two conditions:

1)      the work is at a stage ready for grading/evaluation

  1. because a student believes he/she reached an appropriate milestone (and not because he/she was forced to deliver something just to fit into a deadline);
  2. because a student is stuck and needs an input from the outside.

2)      Peers possess the quality needed for the specific evaluation

  1. Certain expertise (to provide the valuable feedback on technicalities)
  2. Matching properties (e.g. a layperson if the work is meant to reach laypeople).

We shall see how the peer review/grading will unfold in MOOCs in real time.

 

Are we over-analyzing MOOCs?

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All these readings on pros and cons of MOOCs make me wonder whether we are over-analyzing the MOOCs… Are we? If we are not talking about profits being the motivation behind the scene, since they are free, then maybe let’s just let them be and see how they evolve on their own. Why not? We’re not analyzing youtube too much: it’s just there for us. I might be totally wrong with this statement and will disagree with myself next time I blog, but for now, reading Case 1 on p. 63 of Hollands, F. (2014) MOOCs: Expectations and Reality, where a virology professor (Vincent Racaniello) was motivated to share his expertise with general public, I cannot help but think, that sometimes over-analyzing things would not afford us progress, while just letting things go their course might lead to serendipity.

I am embarking on a very interesting, one of a kind course GSE1.1x Unlocking the Immunity to Change: A New Approach to Personal Improvement. Thoughtfully excited about it. First, the course itself is intriguing: it is about personal development and improvement, rather than an academic discipline. Second, it is a MOOC and third, I will be working on it on the other side of the fence, with the facilitators.

I have never done anything like this before, so it is an unfamiliar territory and I am yet to narrow down my project proposal. However, being out of my comfort zone seems to be new normal in my universe.

On Illych’s “New Formal Educational Institutions” paragraph

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The post is prompted by this reading: Illych, I. (1971) Deschooling society. (New York: Harper & Row). Chapter 6: Learning Webs.

The paragraph in discussion:

“A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known. Such a system would require the application of constitutional guarantees to education. Learners should not be forced to submit to an obligatory curriculum, or to discrimination based on whether they possess a certificate or a diploma. Nor should the public be forced to support, through a regressive taxation, a huge professional apparatus of educators and buildings which in fact restricts the public’s chances for learning to the services the profession is willing to put on the market. It should use modern technology to make free speech, free assembly, and a free press truly universal and, therefore, fully educational.”

While I sense where the author is coming from, there is a different angle to looking at this statement. In other words, all is true, while its interpretation would depend on the context.

First, the statement is indeed beautiful and somewhat utopian. And it would be wonderful if this is how educational system worked. However, for whom? “For all who want to learn”.  Well, doesn’t it (the statement) imply then that we’re talking about sophisticated educated public in the first place? How about those who don’t want to learn or don’t know that they want to learn? One might say “let that category of people choose their own paths”. Would this free flow of available information just bee ignored by a large mass of population, leading them into a worse off stage, triggering ever larger social disparity? As George Siemens rightfully states: “When knowledge is abundant, the rapid evaluation of knowledge is important”. And “The ability to synthesize and recognize connections and patterns is a valuable skill” (Siemens, G. (2004) Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.)

As interesting as learning is, it is often hard and requires not just curiosity, but also work (more of the latter). Being optimistic that anybody just grabs the resources and applies them where they need to be is a bit utopian. Facilitators of knowledge transfer are needed (the crafting of the facilitators is a whole different conversation). It is a two way process. Facilitators may create curiosity, triggering learner to go on with his/her desire to continue this journey.

Another point caught my attention is the statement that “learners should not be forced to submit to an obligatory curriculum”. Learners as a wider applied definition (anybody curious), perhaps. However, if we’re talking about basics of education, a minimum (or average?) knowledge that we think anybody (on average) should poses, there must be a curriculum. A solid curriculum. A unified curriculum. To the extent that there is a strong association of acquiring certain knowledge by certain time frame (age, grade, developmental stage, etc.). This does not apply to learners with special needs, of course. It would be a different conversation. But an average curriculum should be well defined and well understood (and, therefore, expected to be delivered and obtained). To this, basic, solid and well understood curriculum the learners (pupils) should submit in my opinion. This way we avoid deviations and speculations. Let’s just establish the solid average and expect it. How to deliver this knowledge and whether to add the premium to this average – is in hands of the facilitators of knowledge transfer. Such application has been in existence in various parts of the world and proves viable.

In other words, learners first have to be given the tools, with which some will go further, enjoying the three principles of education, Illych spelled out.

 

Content matters

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Context matters, says Audrey Watters, in a recent conversation with T-509 class.

It made me thinking, that content matters as much. While technology is our everything it is not panacea. The core is the content. Brick and mortar. The solid content paired with appropriate technology will likely bring desirable outcome.

What about technology replacing us, reducing the quality of a true scholarship, fears David F. Nobel in Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education? I guess, this article moved my emotions the most.

Well, this slicing, dicing and mass production is possible in many fields and maybe true in the short run.  I strongly believe, however, that the true scholarship and the solid content are at the heart of a valuable educational “package”, accompanied by technology. Technology alone won’t be able to carry out the intellectual value of scholarship. Similarly, scholarship without technology would be available to a much more limited number of learners. It is a healthy symbiosis of content and technology (with the content at its core) that keeps the impactful moving forward.

I also strongly believe in academics’ signature authorities in their fields. This cannot be taken away from them by the “machines”. If anything, with the help of technology, this scholarship will flourish, affording greater communities of learners benefit from the scholarship.

 

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