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

Since taking this month’s MOOCMOOC, I’ve been trying to plan my next online course; but all the learning that has emerged from the network I created during that week has changed my focus.

The MOOCMOOC was my first taste of online connective learning. It took a while to begin to understand how to engage, but soon I learned to stop worrying and love the MOOC. Since graduating with my history BA in 2010 I’ve sorely missed social-exploratory learning experiences. I’ve wanted to learn and discover new ideas and engage with new people. But until the MOOCMOOC I wasn’t clear on how to make this happen, and have felt comparatively disconnected, lonely, limited and dull.

This cMOOC was just the ticket. (For the differences between this type of course and those offered on udacity and coursera, see my attempt at a summary of the main differences between the so-called cMOOCs and the larger xMOOCs; see also this excellent nuancing of attempts to delimit the features of the MOOC landscape). It felt like active exploration with a group of peers. The group moved forward through blog posts, videos, and discussion. Each person contributed from their own perspective, and engaged with what interested them most, in the way that they felt most suitable.

This course wasn’t just about absorbing content, it was about knowledge creation. Each day’s suggested readings and questions for reflection were a springboard for the group’s engagement. From this frame the ecosystem grew, with ideas and comments spreading like vines. New clusters of thought emerged in blog posts, back-and-forth in comments on blog posts, and through discussion on twitter. This meant that each individual’s contribution was informed by – and part of – an emerging and lively networked discourse. This made learning, discovery, reflection, discussion and creation part of the same process. This was thrilling, scary, unpredictable, and fun. So I emerged from the MOOCMOOC a fan of connectivism.

How has this MOOC changed my learning priorities? Before taking this one-week course, I had envisioned metaphorically packing my bags at the end of the week and returning to my solitary work on my xMOOCs. But this course sent me in a different direction:

1) I want to carry on with this more chaotic, emergent, connected learning. It felt ‘right’, and I think it’s the learning I’ve been yearning for.

I was touched by Rosemary’s reflections on the MOOCMOOC experience:
“What MOOCMOOC gave me, and what I think I was missing, was the excitement of spontaneously forging new friendships. It was the ‘Joy of Learning’. It’s those moments chatting to complete strangers, giggling, feeling like you’ve known them for years. It was the interaction with people that made all the difference, coupled with the excitement that comes from learning/conquering new things that were too scary before.”

The network encouraged me over the course of the week, spurring me on to contribute as best I could. I was surprised to find myself articulating thoughts on institutional and connectivist pedagogies and sharing them via video for anyone to see on the Tuesday. I was really excited to participate in the collaborative creation of a course outline for a MOOC on digital history – Discovering, Exploring and Preserving our Digital Data. This wasn’t the kind of learning I’d have done on my own.

2) I still want to use xMOOCs to obtain specific learning outcomes. Working in digital communications, I have many specific competencies that I would like to acquire. I want to learn programming, and would like to have a decent working knowledge of Python, Javascript and PHP in the next year or so. For my professional development it’ll be useful to walk out of that process with some certification behind me.

As I’m in full time work, I have to think carefully about how I spend my other waking hours. So I’ve been weighing up how to spend my online learning time, and deciding on my priorities. My plans are now as follows:

1) I want to continue to grow connections and participate actively in the network I started to build during MOOCMOOC. This will require me to engage with the discourse and actively participate in the creation of knowledge. I’m slightly scared about this responsibility – to myself and to the others – but hope I can make a good go of it. They’ve already encouraged me to raise my game through participation.

I hope to continue learning and participating connectively, and to engage with whatever my network is grappling with.

2) I’ve limited myself to one xMOOC at a time. It’s hard to walk away from so much free learning, but I have to be realistic.

Whilst attempting to step back and formulate my plans, I’ve found that connective learning doesn’t stop at the end of the course. This has disrupted any attempts for me to package the learning or impact of the course, or even to say when it is going to finish. Since the MOOCMOOC formally concluded, the network has carried on:

New participants have come along, and I’ve further expanded my blog subscriptions and the size of my online learning twitter list.

There’s been some discussion on the spaces in which activity took place during the course, and on how well the course worked. Martin Hawksey has contributed some great visualisations of activity on the #moocmooc #tag, and we’ve discussed what might be done with the initial results.

I’ve been introduced to yahoo pipes, and have started to think about the various uses I could make of it. (For starters I’m thinking of using it to aggregate my online publishings on twitter and wordpress into one record. I do worry about being able to trace back all the things I’ve said to draw together thoughts in future.).

There’s been discussion on the sustainability/economics of cMOOCs. It was quiet for a few days, but has sprung back in to life earlier today.

Whilst I’ve been reflecting on what course(s) to take next, the discourse has continued, and I’ve stayed engaged. So learning has disrupted my MOOC plans – what a great outcome!

What am I going to do now?

My learning plan is to:

1) Continue engaging with the #moocmooc network, whatever ‘engaging’ turns out to mean. (Whilst recognising that I cannot engage with everything.)

2) Take the HarvardX CS50X Computer Science course, starting 15 October.

3) And to keep thinking and writing and talking about it as I go.

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8 Responses to 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

  1. Andrea S. Michaels says:

    It’s such a good summary of what’s happened during that chaotic week, I’m still trying to get my head round it :)

    • Thanks for reading! It’s been a very disruptive and emergent experience, rather than a more predictable transaction. Hopefully my post shows that the online learning landscape can cater for a range of different needs and objectives, from the more formal and credentialed to the more freeform and creative.

  2. I think I’ve said this before, but I wish I could write like you! This is exactly how I feel, except you have put it down into words about a million times more brilliantly than I could have. I love that you’ve put a learning plan down into words. I think that will really help you stick with it. You’ll have to let me know how your course goes! Intro to Mathematical Thinking starts 17 September for me. :)

    • Thanks Rosemary! I’m a fan of your posts as well, and your whole engagement with the course really encouraged me to participate.

      I think that the process of evaluating and reflecting, followed by trying to write down something concrete, worked well for me. It was tough to say “I only have time to do this much”, when there’s so much learning out there. Even more so when that learning is in such an accessible form. So I found it helpful to start with a blank sheet of paper and then go from there, rather than attempting to whittle down a huge list.

      Introduction to Mathematical thinking sounds like a great course. I had a quick scan of a couple of the posts written by the professor leading it – http://mooctalk.org/2012/07/17/mooc-planning-part-1/ – and liked what I saw.

      One thing I didn’t mention in my post was that I’m going to try and finish off Udacity’s CS101 before 15 October. I’d been working on it pre-MOOCMOOC, but have had it on hold recently. I’m keeping note of my experiences and hope to do a little writeup when I’m done. And I’ll make sure to do the same for CS50X.

      Have you got any plans for sharing how you get on with your course? I’d love to hear about it!

      • I don’t know! I might blog. I only just have a Tumblr for now, but I’m considering just starting a new thing. My Tumblr has too many dorky photos to be taken seriously by anyone reading my blog :D

        I think I will do just that, reflect and then write down something concrete. That seems like a good way to do it. Do you prefer to do it at the end, or throughout the experience?

        Anyway, keep in touch on Twitter, etc. :)

      • I find that a bit of both helps.

        Keeping notes as you go can help you remember little things that otherwise might be forgotten. Reviewing things at the end can allow you to get a bit more of an overview, and to see which things you noted down are most important and interesting.

        Keeping notes as you go also allows you to develop ideas and thoughts, and build up a record of then, without having the stress of necessarily publishing anything about them. I’ve been keeping notes as I go, and gathering them in more coherent form over time. Sometimes posts happen as a result, sometimes they don’t :)

  3. Pingback: My MOOCMOOC reflections. « Filosofía de Bolsillo

  4. atscatsc says:

    Great stuff. Thank you. It helps me reflect and plan for action myself. I missed “knowldge creation” from my own blog post here on MOOCMOOC: http://elearningthoughts.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/mooc-the-challenge-to-our-university/

    Sadly not as eloquent as your story and of course I am on the flip side and involved in planning for MOOC development (should it occur) at our university…

    As Arthur C. Clarke once said “All these worlds are yours.”

    Enjoy…

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