I gave a presentation for George Siemens last night as part of CCK11 on, you've guessed it, digital scholarship. It was a bit rambling, but generally well received. I noticed a couple of comments on Twitter along the lines of 'how does this relate to the course content?'
Having done a few such sessions this isn't the first time I've seen such queries. I don't mean to dismiss these, I think they raise an interesting issue for open education.
Firstly, if a student is getting a course for free do they demand the same type of QA as one they've paid for? I really mean this, if MOOCs are serious then maybe they need to be offering the same quality levels of traditional courses. On the other hand, I haven't been following CCK, I'm willing to do a free presentation, but if I have to link it to course objectives, then I'm less likely to do so.
Secondly, in an open, connected world of abundant content, perhaps the key skill is to learn how to make the connections between a wide range of free content and core principles. This is also a reflection on the changing nature of the educator – the role of the 'lecturer' is not to deliver the content but to find it, structure it and help interpret it.
Lastly, I wonder if, even in this more advanced set of learners, it demonstrates that old learning habits die hard. We are accustomed to signing up for a course, and whether it's free or not, being directed through it very explicitly. If so, then the applicability of the MOOC to all subject areas and levels may be rather limited. Which brings me onto my bigger point – if you are signing up to a MOOC as a learner is there some implicit contract you are agreeing to?
Out of the total numbers of educators there are very few who have run an open course, (I can think of 10 maybe), and there is a slightly larger number of people who have presented on them, but still not many – in my university there are probably only a handful of us. So it's worth sharing our experiences of them as we go, as I expect it will become more common. Generally I like doing them. I think the open aspect means I can explore ideas, and use these sessions as a bit of a test-bed. After all, I'm doing it for free, so I may as well get something from it. I've developed ideas from these sessions and particularly the feedback you get into published work. They also help connect you with good people, and expand your network. The sessions are usually more interactive and encouraging than face to face ones I find. And, perhaps most importantly, I can do them from my home, while having a glass of beer (shhh, don't tell anyone).
So I'd encourage people to have a go at them, but participants should also be aware that these sessions aren't devised specifically for the course in question.