Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MOOCs and the potential for co-learning

In his essay "Toward Peeragogy," Howard Rheingold writes that he began using the term "co-learners" as he shifted from in-person to online courses.  This was part of an evolution that began with Rheingold's earliest, in-person classes, as he sought to improve the collaboration between groups of students working on projects.  I read this as a technology-based breakthrough and since I work in technology/code and don't teach, I draw some encouragement from this.  I might be overwhelmed by a 9:15 PM #moocmooc twitter discussion on pedagogy, but technology is foundational to MOOCs.

Technology enables MOOCs, but based upon my limited experience, MOOC development should continue so that the more aspirational collaborative learning features (as described by Rheingold and by Dave Cormier) are more visible to learners.  For example, I'm participating in a fine Udacity physics course.  Based upon the user interface that I see in this course, I think it would be possible for me to get locked into a Lecture-Test model of participation.  A discussion board is available and I can communicate with other learners in the course, but the integration of these collaborative features with the classroom "module" is limited.  Instead, the learner is guided by default through lectures and multiple choice tests, a pedagogy that is, as Audrey Watters noted, "retreading old practices rather than really rethinking how technology can transform how we teach/learn."  As a Udacity learner, I feel that the current service (that I've experience in one intro course) doesn't encourage co-learning.  

As I said in my video yesterday, it's great to be in this course and I'm learning a lot.

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