Friday, 25 November 2011

Introspective look at MOOCs - too soft a technology?

Today's #change11 MOOC live session allowed us to hear from Jon Dron and his area of expertise - technologies. After a discussion on constraints, the conversation focused on the pedagogy of MOOCs.
Activity in this MOOC has cooled, even though the topic under discussion generates interest and is a meta-concept that allows us to consider assemblies of technology, so it is of interest to educators (pedagogy is a technology), or should be.
It seems that the drop-off is par for the course. I do not have the figures but I suppose one could question what is massive about this MOOC (now an OOC?).
Dron spoke about about the evolution of a community about a MOOC, and how we could look to evolutionary concepts to consider its likely development. Would the MOOC community parcel up into separate groups like the Galapagos finches? Would there be some partial parcelisation but maintaining loose boundaries that would enable filtration of ideas (genes)?
This perhaps is the only natural outcome that we could hope for. The massive part of the MOOC is not sustainable as it is - there are limits on time and attention that a MOOCer can give and with time this will erode.
There seems to be a philosophical reluctance on the part of the MOOC designers to provide any further structure (if I read Stephen Downes' chat posts correctly) and so it will be inevitable that we have many that will fall by the wayside in our journey. Providing structure will harden the technology/pedagogy but could a better sweet spot be found?
We did touch on having a beginner strand and I suggested intelligent tags (something that allowed a hierarchy like an account structure: #change11 for just change for truly open learners, #change11-core for those who wanted their path charted somewhat, perhaps even #change11-tech for those who wanted to follow the week's technology strand only and perhaps #change11-  for those who wanted to receive all the sub divisions of the tags).
 Despite my comments I am still on this learning journey - MOOC or OOC.


Jon said...

I like that idea! Sub-tags are a nice soft approach to parcellation and, if a few start doing it and it makes sense to others, the natural network effects will probably allow it to spread through the community (though, in Twitter, it won't leave much space for an actual message as you will still probably want to use the original #change11 tag too, so it's not cost-free). I have written about a system to automate that kind of thing, using taggable tags, but the soft approach you suggest here is a neat way to avoid the coding complexities and try out the idea.

I think that Stephen, George and Dave would be very open to anything that works. It is unlikely though that a too rigorous top-down structure would suit more than a very few of the people who engage in this, and might stifle some of the creativity and openness that makes it interesting. In the process, chances are that the great value added by the participants (arguably 99% of the value here) would be reduced. Personally, I think they should be aiming for something near the edge of chaos so it remains dynamic, that is different for everyone, that gives structure to those that need it and less structure to those who would hate that. A little social adaptivity would go a long way here, and your sub-tagging idea is one way that might start to happen with little or no techno-wizardry.

Apostolos K. ("AK") said...

Nice post!

I think if things are too soft, you lose a lot of people. Look at eduMOOC. It had no structure (that I could see), and as a consequence it really suffered. I think Change is sort of like eduMOOC 2.0 ;-)

That said, I think a bit more structure is good (than what we have now) would be good. I don't think we'd be loosing people. I think I see the same 10-15 people in this "massive" course in the daily emails.