Week 2 of our MOOC by Linda Hegarty, Project Manager

How can we make MOOCs more satisfying?

Looking at the profile of people who signed up for the second delivery of Making Moocs on a Budget, we could guess that the majority of participants, like us, come from traditional education backgrounds. Doing a MOOC requires a change in mind-set – and doing a few things differently so that we can create a satisfying learning experience. If not, it can easily become an arduous task of consuming content from a computer screen – on your own – and very often giving up!

More than consuming content from a screen?

The basis of the MOOC consists of the materials released each week containing the substance of what is being studied. The combination of videos, text documents and other ‘learning objects’ are the virtual equivalent of the traditional course book. But doing a MOOC is not just about consuming this content. In week 1, we looked at the levels of learning, using Blooms taxonomy   to develop meaningful learning experiences for our learners – but what about the participants in this MOOC?  How can we achieve these higher order skills?

Watching the videos and reading some of the text documents on our MOOC will help with some of the lower order skills – remembering and understanding. But to move on to the level of applying knowledge, even the simple quizzes ond other assignments will help. However, there are greater chances still of achieving the top-level learning skills from collaborating with other participants – sharing the knowledge and experiences of the whole group – learning is social!

Discussion forums allow us to reflect, collaborate and learn together.

Becoming an active member of an online community can be something we dread or don’t know how to approach – even when we understand and believe in the benefits of collaboration!

In my own case, I think I subconsciously rank activities in relation to my comfort level – e.g. reading updates, watching videos, accessing reading material online is convenient, entertaining and easy. I enjoy the variety in the format of content and value the flexibility – that I can access them whenever and wherever etc. Furthermore, I feel safe because my role in using these resources is similar to what is expected of a student in a model which I grew up with – more-or-less passive and invisible – getting on with things myself.

In relation to the discussion forums, from the moment I started being involved in online communities, I enjoyed reading what other people posted, but actually participating is something I have had to work hard at. Contributing in the traditional model is safe – because the knowledge has already been classified as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ by the expert, so anyone who studies the material can enter a Q&A session, knowing more or less how the contribution will be received. Contributing in a learning community is somewhat of a leap into the unknown, which requires much more bravery – there is no guarantee that what we write will be accepted by the group, and let’s face it, most people do not like to be challenged publicly.

“Understanding the implications of one’s online presence as part of practice, learning, and life in general, is a new skill to be acquired.” (Costa 2011, p.81).  For Moocers to establish this online presence confidently, participants need to be sure there will not be negative consequences to their contribution. There needs to be an understanding that all participants behave respectfully and that disrespectful comments will not be tolerated.  This is a delicate and difficult task, but one which we need to make sure is in place!

At this point in the Making Moocs on a budget MOOC, we are hoping that people will make this leap to establishing their online presence, to actively participate in any of the open discussions, and get on the road to achieving those higher order skills!

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Click here to do the poll

Do you consider yourself a confident digital learner (are you comfortable participating in discussion forums and finding your way round the platform)?

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About brianmmulligan

Online Learning Developer - Open Learning Coordinator, Institute of Technology Sligo, http://brian.mulligan.googlepages.com/ Checkout my blog on education, "I wouldn't start from here anyway!" at http://elearngrump.blogspot.ie/
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