Despite being orientation week in ChangeMOOC there have already been some interesting discussions. From these it is clear that MOOC is becoming a more familiar term. There are increasing numbers of MOOCs – (See Stephen Downes’ MOOC Guide) being offered. To date these ‘courses’ have mostly been about the effect of developing technologies on education and learning, but interest is beginning to grow in whether subject specific MOOCs will attract participants. Lisa Lane experimented with a History MOOC which didn’t work for her – and Stanford University – are currently offering one on Artificial Intelligence. It’ll be interesting to see whether this one is successful.
With the term MOOC becoming more familiar, more people are questioning what it means. Already in ChangeMOOC we have seen a discussion growing, both in the Research Group and in some people’s blogs (Frances Bell, Glen Cochrane) – around the questions: What is a MOOC? How do we define it? These questions were also discussed in EduMooc – I didn’t attend EduMooc, but I was made aware of the discussions thanks to Heli.
What has intrigued me is what seems to be a natural tendency for people to try and normalize/formalize or ‘pin down’ something that is innovative and was never intended to be ‘pinned down’, which if successful would make it not innovative any longer. Not very well expressed but I hope you get my gist.
As I commented on Frances’ blog – trying to pin things down with definitions, will always be problematic for the very reason that Stephen outlines in his work on Fallacies, where he writes:
The following are fallacies of definition:
- Too Broad (The definition includes items which should not be included)
- Too Narrow (The definition does not include all the items which should be included)
- Failure to Elucidate (The definition is more difficult to understand than the word or concept being defined)
- Circular Definition (The definition includes the term being defined as a part of the definition)
- Conflicting Conditions (The definition is self-contradictory)
Add to this problem, the diversity of people who are reading/using the definition and we get yet more interpretations. And we must remember that diversity is a key principle of MOOCs, so we can’t ignore it.
And then we have the principle of autonomy in MOOCs, which requires learners to find their own paths through the course, making sense for themselves of their individual journeys. There is no expectation that people will end the course having arrived at the same place or even at the same understanding. It is expected that the learning will be unpredictable and emergent. George writes about this in his Rather Random blog.
It is the messy, chaotic nature of MOOCs that people seem to have most difficulty in coming to terms with. It is also the idea that valuable and meaningful learning cannot be prescribed. If people can tolerate this unpredictability, this is exactly what makes MOOCs exciting for many learners who clearly feel empowered by the freedom to take charge of their own learning, in ways in which they may never have experienced before.
But, despite the clarity of the principles behind MOOCs, —- and I have always felt that they have been clear but not always understood (Stephen might have refined his explanations since 2008, but the principles – themselves have remained unchanged) —– there remains a big and challenging question, which was raised by a speaker in one of the EduMooc webcasts.
‘What is the responsibility of the creator?’
In other words, these MOOCs are set up by one or more individuals. They are created not collectively, as we go along, but usually by one or more (less than 5?) individuals working as a group. As creators and conveners of the MOOC, what responsibility do they have for their creation and the resultant learning that takes place in the MOOC? Where does their responsibility begin and end? Does it matter?