Moodle at kevinryan

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August 2012
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Can you MOOCify a course?

I’ve been wondering about this since the Change11 MOOC. You have your xMOOCs at places like MITx and Coursera, and Udacity, and your cMOOCc like Change11, PLENK2010, and CCK08. But adapting a course into a MOOC is, I think only possible if you can bend some of the parameters of a MOOC.

DS106 is the template for MOOCifying a course. Jim Groom (and now Alan Levin, CogDog) has opened up his university course on Digital Storytelling, and added a digital online gallery to his project based course with a doorway for outside participants to add their work to the commonweal and interact with the registered students.

There are a number of elements of a traditional university class, though, that don’t quite fit into the MOOC mold. The Massive part must be an add-on, and not central to the activity, as is the Open part. Registered students are by definition closed. When a class meets in person, it is blended with online, which stretches that part of the definition. And Course. What can we make of a course? I tend to think (as suggested by someone in Change11) that Conference would be a better C than Course. The cMOOCs do have a flavor of an academic conference, or even an unconference.

Which leaves us with MOOC MOOC, the MOOC about MOOCs that finishes today. After an intense week of online interaction with other professionals about MOOCs, I can see a pattern developing. A schism, a split. Who knows which of the two (3?) branches of MOOCs will flourish or not?

The MOOC MOOC had at its center an LMS. Purists would deride any kind of top-down centralization, preferring organic conglomerations of members on an ad-hoc basis. This MOOC was more highly structured in some ways, partly due to the fact it only lasted a week, and people needed to be able to navigate quickly. Change11 on the other hand lasted almost a year, with weekly visiting experts, each with varying control, allowed users (What do you call  MOOCer?), allowed enough time to suss out how the structures developed as they were being built by the users.

I’d have to say that it is good people are playing with the formula (kind of goes with the territory). So far, my most enjoyable MOOC has been the Change11, with just the right amount of structure vs. freedom. The weekly expert was one way to organize around a topic, with a focal point and person, without getting too involved in any one aspect for too long. It was organic, with participation varying wildly from week to week, depending on both inside and outside factors.

But hey, that is just me. I am guessing that there will develop a whole array of MOOC-type organizations (and here again, DS-106 is becoming an organization, with the start of franchising in a small way), providing just the right learning environment for a part of the learning population.

University courses are too inflexible, too tied down to allow MOOCification. But we will be able to take aspects of the MOOC into the curriculum at some points. It will be important to maintain “pure” MOOCs after the initial period of exploration and interest in the new learning culture (the “ooh-ahh period”). I would guess that eventually the “pure” MOOCs will make up less than 10% of this kind of environment, but that they will continue to foster new ideas for interaction that others can use. Pure MOOCs will always be at the frontier of exploration.

1 comment to Can you MOOCify a course?

  • I agree with you that #change11 was great, but I disagree with your comment about top-down centralization. Change11 was a great example of how a top-down centralization (http://change.mooc.ca/) really helped facilitate the formation of a community or network. Having that type of touchstone is critical I feel.__As for University courses, it is not a matter of turning them into MOOCs, but instead to adapt the concept of the MOOC. I'm in favor of dropping the name MOOC and just start discussing open learning. The MOOC and connectivist concepts actually work great in my university course (Freshman biology). Students actually came away feeling that they had learned something. I see the MOOC as a evolutionary stage in our ideas of education, not an end product.