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Building Democratic Learning

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The Limits of xMOOCs & the Emergence of Learning

There has been a lot of interest in MOOCs, actually xMOOCs, with the launch in the UK of Futurelearn and the support of Secretary of State David Willetts (who closed world-leading elearning NDPB Becta) on Newsnight July 1 2013. This is a blog post critiquing xMOOCs that I wrote in October 2012 and have been updating.
I’ve been following a discussion thread about MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) on the ALT list and wrote this about the Limits of MOOCs, something that I think we are trying to address here on the WikiQuals project.
I’ve been participating in MOOCs and working on various #open #learning strategies and projects, for some time; I actually don’t think MOOCs are now much about learning at all; they have become content-driven #edspam and work in similar ways to spam, with a very limited ‘completion’ rate. Admittedly the original MOOC vision of Stephen Downes, George Siemens & Dave Cormier was focussed on developing a model of learning that reflects their interest in distributed knowledge.  Hence the ‘self-referential’ quality that some people comment on about their CCK MOOCs on Connectivism. MOOCs were about Connectivism, and explored the use of new digital tools, as their excellent What is a MOOC? makes clear, which is fair enough – they are articulating and developing their vision. They also write on the value of open courses being in Research, Learning & Engagement, which ties in with that original vision, and Cormier argues that you wouldn’t want to Assess within a MOOC either. However newer MOOCs have different agendas.
The key part of a MOOC however is the “Massive Course” dimension and this year, 2012, has seen the big American Universities take the globalisation of education, and their traditional content-push model of learning, into the MOOC arena and have focussed on growing the MC business; Udacity, Coursera, MITx etc. Gavin, for example, on the ALT list commented that his experience is that Coursera is content-centric and that you must navigate as they command; of course! Downes et al should have called their work DOOK – Distributed Open Online Knowledge, if they didn’t want the big boys to steal the baby when they made their bigger splash. MOOC growth now is about US Universities winning the race in the globalised education market, meanwhile in the UK we are raising fees, and failing to improve the learning experience on offer, even at our widening participation Universities.
That isn’t to say that MOOC courses, Read the rest of this entry
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Designing for Discontinuities

The Strength of Weak Ties

Learning Conversations; A key factor in the practical emergence of the current community of WikiSqolars has been the Everything Unplugged group who meetup every Wednesday for learning conversations. This exhibits the key quality of sociality, from which I see self-organised learning emerging, and have recently been having discussions about social learning, which Tony Hall is passionate about. The recent conversations have covered a range of topics which have, implicitly, helped me with my thinking about the post-institutional principles that inform the WikiQuals project. It has made me realise that what the current WikiQuals group needs to engage with, over our next cycle of activities, are the discontinuities of learning.

We are Rhizomatic; I recently took part in the excellent #fslt MOOC (first steps in learning and teaching) run by Oxford Brookes University, partly organised by Jenny Mackness who has been involved in organising and thinking about MOOCs for sometime. As I made clear in early discussions, I get the OO (Open Online) aspect but I don’t see the point of the MC (Massive Courses). I don’t think that learning scales like a product sells because learning is about engaging in social processes. I’m beyond being interested in the pedagogy of subject based-courses; subject-based study is not about learning it is all about *delivery*. However reflecting within the group on various MOOCs that we have been involved in recently has helped us at Everything Unplugged think about what appears to be the rhizomatic quality of (our) learning. Over the last few weeks I think we’ve come to an understanding that, as a group, we are rhizomatic in terms of our learning behaviours. The current global rush to MOOC everything is much more about extending the grip of institutionalised education.

Discontinuous Connections;  Read the rest of this entry

Affinity Partner

Learning Support in WikiQuals

Background; in an earlier post Show & Tell I discussed the concept of journeymen, people who would help triangulate, authenticate, and validate the learning process identified by a WikiSqolar as part of the WikiQuals project. The term, and the concept, were derived from the process by which the learning of apprentices in medieval guilds was validated; however the term is clearly sexist. A number of female academics, such as Catherine Cronin, who expressed interest in being a journeyman/person, because they were happy with the concept, forcefully expressed clear reservations about the terminology.

Thankfully for the project another female academic, Dr Ilene Dawn Alexander of the University of Minnesota, came up with a different term, which also entails slightly differing concepts and roles as we evolve the WikiQuals project. Ilene suggested that Sqolars need Affinity Partners as part of the WikiQuals process and this discussion will examine in a little more detail what we are trying to achieve with the introduction of Affinity Partners.

Wikiquals; to recap what we are examining in the WikiQuals project is how we might implement the idea of post-hoc accreditation in extra-institutional contexts (which is derived from the “formal” phase of the Emergent Learning Model). As suggested by the University Project a University is a ‘Community of Scholars’

Read the rest of this entry

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