Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Participant Pedagogy - A Week of MOOCMOOC

A First Real Swim in the MOOC Pool

These days I'm back in graduate school in a doctoral program in higher education at Penn. I'm fascinated with new thinking and models for higher education, both in terms of how we learn best and also in terms of the role that institutions of higher education could play to help enable more education getting to more people. As a technologist and social network enthusiast, I'm drawn to MOOCs. So much so that I'm hoping MOOCs will be a key element of my research and thesis.

[Note: This short blog post is probably not the place to introduce the casual reader to MOOCs. If that's of interest, please leave a comment. Maybe I can take that on in a future blog post.]

My exposure to MOOCs so far had been reading about them and looking at tools that help faculty to create and organize content. I hadn't actually been an active participant in a MOOC yet, so I signed up for two MOOCs this month and dove in head first. This week, I'm participating in a MOOC on MOOCs. It's called moocmooc. Seriously.

Active participants in moocmooc are reading and collaboratively writing articles, watching and creating youtube videos on learning approaches, and engaging with hundreds of others via twitter on what and how we learn. It's participant pedagogy because we as participants are driving the direction and providing the content, and input on each others work, with the course facilitators gently guiding with daily videos to watch, articles to read, and suggestions of what to create and how to share among participants.

This blog post is an "artifact" of my moocmooc participation – it's something I created in order to engage with other participants, as they create artifacts to help me to engage with them. A great outcome would be lots of comments below helping me to see where my thinking does or doesn't align with others.

The questions I'd like to consider are:  
What is the role of collaboration among peers and between teachers and students? What forms might that collaboration take? What role do institutions play?

These questions can be considered on a continuum, with a giant lecture class on one end (A) and a hyper-collaborative online-only "class" like moocmooc on the other end (B). On the (A) end, there is very little student collaboration and a one-way flow of information, instructor to student. Institutions provide registration and student services and a big classroom to be used on a regular schedule. On the (B) end of the continuum, there is (or can be) constant and free-flowing interaction among peers with collaborative artifact development. Teachers/facilitators provide guidance and coalescing of products, and observations through announcements. Institutions can provide resources (such as servers and online tools to facilitate) or not.

Of course, there is a lot of space between (A) and (B) and all of us involved in higher education have had class experiences that are much more interactive than the large lecture, but less collaborative than a connectivist MOOC (cMOOC).

Is it valuable to have learning experiences at many points along the continuum? I think it is. In no way am I saying that the learning that happens in (A) is not valid or useful. It's just different. The cMOOC experience is invigorating but (and this is well known) it does seem to leave lots of people behind. Many MOOC participants drop out or merely lurk. Perhaps some of them would have been happier with something closer to an (A) experience rather than a (B) experience.

What do you think? Have you participated in a MOOC? If so, did it work out well for you?

Do you learn more easily through interaction with peers? Or does a lecture work better for you? Does it depend on the content?

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on these questions, or on my comments above.


  1. Before i entered college in 2008, i considered myself an autodidact. i spent ridiculous amounts of time reading The Story Of Civilization by Will Durant. A lecture works best for me, but only when i do all the required reading first. It is when i am on my own that it all actually sinks in.
    For my particular situation, a community college filled with students who have set the bar very low, i don't learn a thing from my peers. I believe that only a highly motivated student could succeed in a MOOC.I think the content is important as well..I for one often need a one on one live tutor in math courses,sometimes 3 tines a week- but i would imagine some classes like the humanities would be much easier in the MOOC setting. As long as i had the textbook, i would be good- no Professor required..

    1. Great point about positive audience for MOOCs!