My assessment of my experience of the MOOCMOOC so far. Or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the MOOC”

As a voluntary, non-certified, individual (yet massively networked!) learning experience, I feel that I’m probably the only person in a position to assess how I’m getting on in the MOOCMOOC so far. In this post I reflect on how I’ve spent my time, and also explain a big emotional/conceptual shift that has taken place in how I relate to this course.

 

How have I spent my time so far?

Sunday: I thought about my aims in taking this meta-MOOC, and read as much as I could on the underlying pedagogy. I followed the suggested readings and followed up links within those articles, and to a few related youtube videos.

Monday: I was hosting guests, so just kept up with the reading. I attempted to draft a response on the train home from work, but it really just turned into me playing around with basic connectivist vs institutitional/broadcast MOOC ideas. I was a little disappointed at not being able to contribute to the group activity – by the time my guests left, there were only ten minutes left of the collaboration exercise – but my thinking and writing and attempts to respond certainly got me thinking.

Tuesday: I produced a video in which I tried to see how the institutional and connectivist models could flow into each other. I spent several hours working on the ideas for this, and was quite pleased with what I came up with. I’m not sure how novel or useful my thoughts were, but I enjoyed jumping into a little conversation on youtube with a great video on context and learning.

Wednesday: A combination of a tiring day at work and the previous evening’s efforts meant that I didn’t have much energy. So I followed the core reading, but spent the evening hanging out with my brother. Part way through I felt inspired to respond to the ‘where learning happens’ question from Tuesday. I created a video on communal eating and learning and why MOOCs might struggle with this. I posted it on twitter but it didn’t really get many views – maybe because it was a day late and had a slightly odd title?

Thursday: I participated in the google doc on online tools as best I could during the working day. I asked peers for Personal Learning Environment and aggregation tools advice. Having read the notification about Friday’s task, I jumped in with a couple of ideas on the clean slate google doc. After a while someone else jumped in and I helped out with their suggestion, adding a few questions to think about. So far the broad headings are: “A MOOC survival skills MOOC – a MOOC that teaches people to mooc, or, if we’re going to think of this like responsible connectivists, gets them to start MOOCing like MOOCers.”; “A perpetual MOOC – a MOOC that keeps moving forward on the wave of knowledge it creates – and comes into contact with as it goes.” and the other person’s suggestion “MOOC’hing — the art of teaching MOOCs”. I’m looking forward to seeing where people go with this. Will any of this be recognisable tomorrow?

 

How have I felt taking this MOOC? What have I learned about MOOCs?

I’ve been trying hard to keep up with the #tag #MOOCMOOC over breakfast, during the working day, and into the evening. A combination of being in full time work and living in the UK makes things a bit trickier, and I can feel overwhelmed with the amount of content; but I feel that learning to engage with this is exactly what I’m here to do. I’m going to start using favourite posts in twitter, and will look into storify to help this process. I’ll also think about how I manage blog content, and my ‘to read’ list. (Maybe a Personal Learning Environment is the answer. I must find out what these are! Or perhaps a custom dashboard of some sort.) But I think I face a bigger challenge than just a technical or design one – it’s an emotional and conceptual one.

I got a bit stressed out at first. I’ve been out of higher education for a while, and whilst I kept up a high pace when studying as a Cambridge undergrad, this experience has felt like going from 0 to 60 very quickly. Actually it’s been much faster paced than my history degree, with an incredible rate of thinking, commentary and criticism. The sedate pace of the expansion of knowledge in medieval history has been thrown into very stark relief. I never had to deal with hundreds of tweets whilst reading dusty tomes in a Cambridge University Library. So I’ve needed to learn as a learner:

I think that chilling out and engaging with what’s most exciting to me at any given moment is the biggest big lesson I’ve learnt so far.

I begin to see what Stephen Downes was saying about the huge torrents of information and how it’s not possible to read everything. Whilst I hope to improve my ability to manage this flow of information, and to engage with more of it, I begin to understand that my own perspective is important, that I’m subject to my own learning desires, and that this is a positive thing. So it’s okay for me to blog on the topic that is most interesting me. Today’s ‘assignment’ talks about using storify, but I’m not going to stress about using that medium because I’ve felt that I’d gain most from writing this blog post.

This all feels like good learning to me. Loving the MOOC so far!

 

How am I doing so far in terms of achieving my aims with this MOOC?

1) Gain a deeper appreciation of the pedagogy at play in MOOCs.

I’ve gained lots of raw conceptual material, largely on Sunday, and started thinking about it. The following days have allowed me to start actively reflecting on this in the community.
As I’m a humanities graduate with no formal teaching background – just a love of learning and teaching – I think there’s much more work for me to do in terms of understanding pedagogy as a craft/discipline/art. But I do feel that I’m starting to understand connectivism by becoming a connective learner.

2) Think about the design and platform creation issues involved in MOOCs.
I’m actually less focused on this than I’d expected to be.
As a connectivist MOOC, so much happens out in the wild, with a #tag or helpful aggregation dashboard to mark out the terrain. I’m not yet sure that I’m good at navigating through quite so much information. This presents me with a quite different design question to the one I thought I’d be thinking about, which was ‘how do we design a good platform’. I’d really been focused on the design of a single place to hold and delimit a learning experience.

My learning objective has now changed: Whilst I’d like to know more about the tools that can be used to improve this aggregation – particularly malleable ones that each user can customise and own – my priority now is a personal question of engaging with a large flow of information. I’m thinking about this both from a technical/tools perspective and as a connected learner who must learn to pick out the most exciting morsels from the stream and not feel guilty for choosing what I want in my learning.

3) Forge a network that will allow me to properly engage with the medium as it develops into the future.

I’ve loved watching the exchanges on #moocmooc and in comments on blogs and videos, and have tried to add people who have interested me to my twitter list of online learning. I now feel that I’ve found a good group of people and blogs to follow – I think the next step for me as a learner is to more confidently engage with them.

 

How have the rest of you found the MOOCMOOC so far? Have you been satisfied with your learning? (How) have you been assessing your experience?

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3 Responses to My assessment of my experience of the MOOCMOOC so far. Or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the MOOC”

  1. One of the prominent topics in the #moocmooc chat for me today has been the question of student motivation. How do we keep students motivated with or without grades? Why complete something if you don’t get credit for it? As a teacher, I’ve struggled with students who just don’t respond no matter what strategies I use to engage them. As a student, I’ve also struggled with classes that seemed pointless or that seemed important but that frustrated me at every turn. Dominik Lukes (@techczech) has suggested in his blog post and in a couple of tweets that, if we are going to respect students’ agency, then we should respect their decision to drop out.

    Reading through your post, I was struck by how, even though circumstances seemed to be conspiring against your ongoing participation, you nevertheless managed to make the time for it. Even though, as you note, this “course” isn’t for a grade, no one is going to give you “credit” in the traditional academic sense. For me, your assessment demonstrates pretty clearly how, even in the absence of such things (grades, credit hours), we might nevertheless feel accountable to ourselves, and to our peers to follow through on what we started. It also provides a good model for how well learner self-assessment can work in practice. Finally, your narrative also highlights how the discussion of what we can do to keep learners engaged needs to acknowledge the student’s agency–to drop out, or as you have done here, to make the time and keep going–as the case may be.

    Great post!

    • Thanks for the comment, Robin!

      For me, a big part of this course has been about growing in confidence in making my own decisions about the direction my learning takes. Whilst at university I did choose papers and topics that interested me, the overall arc of learning was always legitimised by virtue of being an official course.

      I think a big part of my motivation as a learner has been to please my teachers and to show them that I’ve worked hard to engage with their work. So when I failed to follow everything in the daily MOOCMOOC task outlines I felt ungrateful, and it unsettled my conception of myself as a conscientious learner who does everything that’s expected of him. I’m beginning now to understand that I shouldn’t worry about this.

      (To trace this back a little further: I guess I like to think of myself as dedicated and in love with learning, even if I’m not super-intelligent. Maybe there’s a confidence issue here, as the above anxiety probably arose out of a feeling that I’m breaking my special contract with learning. Probably one way I navigated through my time at Cambridge was by thinking of myself as someone who wasn’t necessarily as ‘worthy’ of the opportunity as others in a purely intellectual sense, but who made the most of the abilities at my disposal by working and thinking as hard as I could, and by loving what I studied.)

  2. Pingback: I’m trying to plan my next MOOC but all this learning gets in the way. Reflections on the MOOCMOOC and where I go next | Reflections

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