I like to MOOC it MOOC it

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I have to confess I started this session with a vague idea of what a MOOC is and how beneficial they could be but I’ve never partaken in one. Yet.

Perry kicked us off with a bit of a panto-esque warm up, replacing 90s dance call and response hit “I like to move it” with “I like to MOOC it”. He then asked for a show of hands – who went on their phones to find out something about the conference today? Given the topic, I was a bit surprised to see it was probably slightly less than half, from where I was sitting,

Perry said his focus was going to be on “The strengthening love affair between digital and learning”

Starting work in the mid-80s, he used a huge “computer” just “to add things up”. Then boxes with a green screen appeared on desks – a terminal to access a mainframe. People in another part of the office tapped away on the keyboard and stuff happened. Then the personal computer appeared with Word Perfect. How did we find out about things? We either read a massive book or went on a course. Then Windows 3.1 brought the mouse and the rest is (relatively recent!) history!

Perry related that he was challenged by his organisation’s press officers as an early adopter of social technology. He explained “I’m using social technologies as a learning channel” – and saying it out loud was a watershed moment. 

However, Perry confessed that at this time he wasn’t at all convinced about e-learning – he felt it was just read, click, read, click, which certainly reflects some of my experiences in the area. He then was introduced to MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses to give them their full title. Suddenly you could get information directly from Stamford to learn economics get an MBA – sometimes with the actual qualification and some without. The fact the education community was pushing out its intellectual property with no charge was amazing. As Perry said, “We’ve gone a massive journey with social learning”.

Mira Vogel from UCL gave us more of a definition of MOOCs: 

– Massive – they scale up easily
– Open – there are no or low barriers to entry
– Online – they are web-based – which means easy access to rich content such as video
– Course – there is a timetable – it’s not open-ended

2012 was dubbed “the year of the MOOC” (although this was very American focused). A Stamford professor who delivered one of the first MOOCs said that by 2015 there would only be ten universities left as they’d all be replaced by MOOCs.

It hasn’t turned out like that. 

The panel acknowledged that Gartner’s hype cycle is at work here – we are (probably) in the “trough of disillusionment” that comes before “the plateau of productivity”. However, there is hope of overcoming the problems! The promise is that they can save time and money; they offer high quality (and potentially high-status,depending on the provider) and a wide range of topics. 

According to some research by Katie Jordan of the Open University, the average MOOC has 43,000 students – but only 6.5% actually follow it through to the conclusion. 

So the session was a really useful introduction to the MOOC concept and the presenters were justifiably enthusiastic about it, which I thought was interesting given their Higher Education backgrounds. They were clear on the issues, which to be fair were mostly ones I would have identified too…
– Finding the right MOOC 
– Completion rates
– Finding time to complete them
– Recognising and regarding completion
– Recognising partial completion

As a generalist I’m a bit torn. To me the issues are still very similar to old-style e-learning. I love the concept, the democratisation of learning, the go-anywhere, do-anything nature of the,  but I do worry about whether in the real world organisations can or will make the necessary time available… Having said that (and I never like to end on a downbeat note), the more people know about MOOCs (and hopefully don’t confuse them with MOOBs as someone in by organisation did), the more widely they will be recognised – and therefore be valued.

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  1. […] I didn’t really know what a MOOC (Massive open online course) was… Not in detail anyway. I know a lot more about how it all began and how it has developed in the last couple of years. I wish that the conference had shown me in practice how it all works once you have enrolled. However, it left me curious and I just can’t wait to find out more. It was evident from the session, how incredibly powerful this tool is for personal development and how potentially it is an easy sell in departments and companies. Please have a look at Tim Scott’s article on the MOOC session here to find out more. […]

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