No, not my first MOOC, Sarah Siegel’s. Sarah is my guest blogger. I appreciate Sarah’s enthusiasm for learning, experience, community and technology. That’s why I invited her to tell us what happened when she signed up for a MOOC on the subject of E-learning and Digital Culture. This is what she had to say:
My first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) experience – from late-January to early-March, 2013 – was both positive and negative. First, the positives:
- I took a course from the world-class University of Edinburgh—and I took it for free.
- Participating in my first MOOC was akin to my early experiences exploring Second Life and other virtual worlds – something new and compelling under the online-learning sun.
- I joined peers from around the world, including 1:1 exchanges with MOOCmates from Australia, Finland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland and the USA.
- I relished a range of incidental learning opportunities, such as discovering the Marco Polo Project and a Pinterest board on Edinburgh art – both MOOCmate creations.
- I thought long and hard about what it means to be “human” and in a very large group and an online course and how to express my individuality within the larger group.
- I discovered a gorgeous quote from Oliver Sacks while watching an assigned video of Gardner Campbell, which reminded me that full learning is reciprocal, and achieved through feeling at home with experimentation.
- I engaged in a stimulating live chat one Saturday evening on Twitter, which was conducted by peers.
- I had fun experimenting with the creation of my “digital artefact”, our final assignment, which was to be no longer than five minutes in duration – it afforded at least four experiences in five minutes!
- And I conceived a Micro-MOOC™ concept, with implications for employee selection and onboarding.
While much about my first MOOC was promising, there were many negatives:
- I experienced no student-teacher bonding, none at all. I missed it and was a little bit surprised by that feeling of loss. Can any teacher care individually about thousands of students at once? Is it even possible? What would that caring look like? Is caring too high a bar and should the bar instead be set at personalization?
- The content did not stretch me. It wasn’t challenging. Where this takes me is that instructors and administrators are responsible for helping me decide if this is the right course for me. Why not a decision tool that helps me figure out if the content will suit?
- I did not feel as close to my peers as I have felt in other classes. And while I have no quibbles with peer feedback, their feedback on my final assignment wasn’t substantive. While the instructors provided feedback criteria, they did no monitoring at all. The feedback disappointed.
- I admit that I had difficulty feeling motivated to produce my best work, since the assignments along the way were not rigorous and because I was continually aware that I would receive no credit for the course.
- The futuristic videos within the MOOC included only white and heterosexual couples, leading me and others in the online community to wonder what other messages were being advanced or avoided in this class.
Despite the disappointing aspects of the experience, I remain a MOOC fan. In part, it’s my job. At IBM I am asked to think about and experiment with learning experiences that extend the physical classroom and push beyond it.
Even before my own experience as a MOOC participant, I was persuaded by:
- Writing an unpublished letter to the editor on the trouble with “The Trouble with Online Education” where I reminded myself that being face to face with my teacher and peers is not necessarily a superior educational experience.
- The intriguing blog entry of fellow Teachers College alumna Regina Saphier; based on her suggestion to use MOOCs as proving grounds for prospective university students, I conceived of the Micro-MOOC™ concept, where companies could tap their superstars to deliver short (from 60 minutes to half-day) MOOC-type learning experiences, as a way to audition prospective employees – those whose contributions were of highest quality would be offered interviews.
- Thomas Friedman’s most recent op-ed piece on MOOCs – Clearly, MOOCs have captured his imagination, and whatever he writes about tends to be taken seriously by business leaders. He concluded, “It will change teaching, learning and the pathway to employment.”
Walking my talk, I’ve enrolled in a second MOOC, which kicks off in July, A Brief History of Humankind, taught by a Hebrew University professor. In this second MOOC experience I intend to be more proactive in pursuing a teacher-student bond. I will send e-mail directly to the instructor when I’m moved by what I’m learning. It did not occur to me to do this during my first MOOC…. As with any experiment in learning, I and we must learn from the first experience and become more adept/rhythmic with subsequent ones.
It was my hope that the MOOC would take me in a direction I hadn’t yet gone with educational technology courses, and it did. It made me consider human nature and the nature of humans. Why was I lonely in the course, lacking contact with others, needing more ties, more individualization, and more feedback, more of a sense of the instructor and students as people, more connection with their emotions, not just content generation?
Maybe the Hebrew University professor and the course on the history of humankind will help me answer these questions during my next MOOC. What do you think?
Sarah Siegel is a social learning developer with the IBM Center for Advanced Learning. She helps IBMers learn to lead and collaborate, using social technologies. Sarah earned her Master’s in Organization & Leadership with a specialization in Adult Learning and Leadership from Columbia University’s Teachers College. See more at www.linkedin.com/in/sarahsiegel/. The posting on this blog are her opinions and do not necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.