#change11,  open courses

What are the values in a MOOC?

Racing the waves 2

[MOOCs should be this kind of fun]

So this week I am coordinating the topic over at George, Dave and Stephen's Change MOOC (you can see my activities here). The topic is, inevitably, digital scholarship. Preparing for it has set me thinking about what the educator and the learners get from MOOCs and how they differ from formal courses. 

At this point, ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to take out your violins – I have a very full workload. I know, you feel my pain. The trouble with this is that it means any of this MOOC stuff is really done at the fringes of my time. There's that bid to put together before the deadline, the meetings to attend, the report to complete, the thesis to read, the chapter to write. So when I said 'yeah, I'll do the MOOC' six months ago, I didn't actually block out any space for it. And this is one of the inevitable problems about doing stuff for free – the paying job takes priority.

Alan calls me out for a boring video, but this is only part of it. I wanted to be more radical in terms of pedagogy and technology use than I ended up being in my week. The problem is this: Innovation takes time. So when you don't have any time you tend to fall back on what you know. (BTW – I think Alan's wrong about that particular video – a friendly, low production talking head works quite well as a 'hello and welcome' framing and helps connect the learner with the educator, but he is right in general, I want to create a nice video that accompanies my book and explores the issues).

Now, maybe this is ok. For a start, with a different person running every week learners in the MOOC might soon get innovation and technology fatigue. But more significantly I view MOOCs in a different way to conventional courses. I see them more as a focal point for bringing people together to discuss the topics. They are not there to teach. It is a shame though because the point of doing a MOOC for me as an educator is that they provide a space to experiment in a way that may not be acceptable with paying students, so I don't feel as though I used this opportunity to its full potential.

In terms of preparing for this MOOC, I probably spent about a day writing my material. Now, I could argue that I could get away with this because I'd spent months previously writing the book, which forms the basis of the course. And I'll come in for the live session on Wednesday and respond to any queries on Twitter. Is that enough? If I were writing an OU course I'd put more effort into the production. So am I short-changing the MOOC learners? 

So here's my question to myself, and maybe to you:

Should I participate in running MOOCs/open sessions if I can't give them the same time I would my day job, or is it an acceptable pay-off for them being free and open that I give less? 

And also:

What are the learner's expectations and what is their experience like?


  • Tony Searl

    My expectation is to be awake, at 2am Sydney time to make the live session 🙂 Having enjoyed the book and recommended it to THOUSANDS, I’d like to tease out Greenfield’s Network Weather further. Will digital views like his result in stronger buy in? I can stand around and get wet and not know why or bottle the snake oil stuff and make zillions. Or is it just people getting cheap drinks because they are on 4square and the know nothings can miss out? Is open, digital and networked convergence and abundance, exemplified by MOOCs, resulting in beige? Choice, Change and Goal Setting101 (imperitive) may become the new sociology101?
    So much earnest reform drum banging gets tirng as change is slowed to systemic LCD. And that may well suit majority human nature if not heritage power unwilling to cede control. Could analogue learning have a switch off date? Not practical even if mandated or possible with vision?
    How are value points discovered in MOOCs and as you ask is monetary free open actually valued? Could a Print Your Own DSC Graduate MOOC Certificate ever mean anything other than a badge signifying feel good warm fuzzies?
    I guess from that ramble I see problems with investments of time when results are vague. Or is it enough that learning has personal value, not value to others?

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