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One of the reasons we don't see more attention to access and experimentation is that higher education lacks a framework to value both. We value -- and want to widen -- access, but we don't think of this in terms of access to experimentation. Typically we think of students who benefit from widening access as needing less experimental learning experiences: more structure, more mainstream content, better access to credentialling. I think we could change this a bit, and think about the wide range of learners for whom access to experimentation could be critical and a way of flourishing. I've just completed a MOOC, after many unsuccessful attempts, and Lindsay's comment really helped me to see that this was to do with the human scale of the small groups that the platform has been designed to support. The content and the celebrity expert involved were really not the valuable part for me; and the creative exercises were puzzlingly unsatisfying. But I was really surprised to find how quickly I formed a sense of loyalty and commitment to the team I'd been assigned to, and I've heard this from other people who've tried VentureLab. In other words, I think we learn socially, and often in smaller groups. This platform also asks for an upfront commitment of time that will be put into the course. This isn't used to match people, but is available as part of a fairly rich profile. So all this has a certain amount in common with online dating, in ways that I find interesting. (I'm so sorry if this post pops up twice. Much human error involved.)
I think the vision of the infinitely extendable lecture hall is exactly the one that presents the MOOC as a risk, in a way that wasn't intended in the first uses of the term, I don't think. When media coverage started to talk about celebrity MOOCs with 190,000 enrolled, there were two obvious stakeholders who would take an interest, because 190,000 is the sign that a new kind of educational market might be emerging, that isn't tethered to enrolment or location. So institutions started to say "Should we get into this?" and LMS vendors started to think: "This is better than having to go through an RFP." And I'm guessing that for obvious reasons celebrity college professors thought "I have so got this covered." If this represents some kind of shift back to the lecturer as a slightly free agent, it also suggests a need for both HE institutions and LMS vendors to try to create some organisation in the self-learner market—to manage the risk of contract churn.
Toggle Commented May 29, 2012 on Give me an M! at The Ed Techie is now following The Typepad Team
May 29, 2012