MOOCs, w/the learner hat on: What am I taking and why
I have written before about MOOCs. I have participated in MOOCs as a student and facilitated one as well. I have published articles about MOOCs, along with my colleagues (also fellow MOOC participants and creators). I say all of that ahead of time as I have reservations about their current structure and the levels of hype surrounding them. I do not think they are the most revolutionary thing in the history of education as many, if not most, are pedagogically suspect. I do think they are disruptive, but I am beginning to hate that term as it applies to education as it is condescending to those working within the system to transform education.
Yet all of that paragraph I just wrote is my take on MOOCs as an education professional, as a member of higher education, as a cog in that machine. For the rest of this post, I will transition to student and gush a bit about the excitement I feel when confronted with such choice for learning. I have signed up for several MOOCs via Coursera, I would sign up for MOOCS via edX (if I understood any of them), and will more than likely engage in a few via Open University’s FutureLearn (although I briefly switched from student to marketer there when I typed that name (FutureLearn) as I don’t like how it seems to be speaking to the industry as opposed to the students). I dabble and peruse and join and engage and will most certainly learn things. As a student, I love, just love, the ability to choose. From that choice, I immediately see structure emerging from my choices. How some of the MOOCS I have registered for are just for fun, some correlate however ambiguously to some Renaissance notion of education as a rounded individual, some are clear responses to knowledge gaps, and some are strictly professional.
This choice, this almost unlimited choice, presents an opportunity for the student to cast structure on openness. How they choose these courses says as much about their learning needs and self-identities as learners as much as it speaks to a larger learning marketplace. As a student, the choice is exhilarating and the coupling of courses and brand-recognizable entities (famous universities) cements the allure of the process. Students still need to navigate this choice as time is still a limited commodity, despite the seemingly limitless nature of open learning. One still has manage their learning and perpetually reflect and assess their progress. But that is after the fact; the choice presented in open learning and MOOCs is the definition of excitement.
I thought I would be completely transparent about this process, this engagement in MOOCs as a learner (as opposed to those other roles). I wanted to put forth what I am taking and why I am taking these particular courses. I wanted to reflect a bit on my engagement in this brave new world (despite my reservations). So below are the Coursera courses I am currently registered for, along with one I highly recommend if one wants to explore the potential of online learning and digital space; this recommendation comes from past experience as I know these instructors and have taken the course in the past. Click on any of the images to go to course page.
This is the course I wanted to recommend for those new to online learning and want to experience a course that is built on sound pedagogy as opposed to merely porting a face to face course online. There is quite a bit of expertise in this course and their methods are engaging and highly reflective. So you will learn and you will enjoy this learning process. Highly recommended. Disclosure: I graduated from the MSc in Elearning programme at the University of Edinburgh, from where this course emerged.
I am participating in this course as I have a love of ambient audio, which I have written about before, and I participate in the Elernenmuzik project, a sound project dedicated to exploring the role of music in elearning. So there is a mix of pragmatism and curiosity in my participation in this course. I am always listening to music or out and about capturing ambient audio via Audioboo and so I figured there is merit in understanding digital sound design both conceptually and pragmatically. I want to broaden my understanding of audio in general as I see that as one of the directions that our engagement with technology will take; we are beginning to move away from text (even as I type this blog) to embrace less intrusive interactions with technology. We will see a lot of audio, video, image, and tactile-based technological environments in the future.
This course relates to my ongoing research interest, mobile learning. I have had this fascination with mobile learning for quite some time dating back to work I did in Africa and observing how communities were appropriating technology for direct need with little to no hesitation. The possibilites for learning seemed limitless and I still believe that to be true. I am pursuing this research in my doctoral work, specifically looking at how mobile learning can be used for Humanities practice in higher education so having some actual capacity for creating mobile content and applications, or at least to understand how they are created, seemed wise.
This one relates to the previous audio course but it has a slightly more pragmatic bent on exposing learners to different tools, evaluating those tools, and developing a toolkit for use in creating music studio environments. I will not so likely be employing these to create music, but rather ambient audio, but I wanted to know which tools were available and develop some capacity for evaluating these tools for my own ends.
I am taking this course to reinforce the other mobile development course, but focusing a bit more on Android. As a consumer, I greatly prefer the ease and clarity of iOS-styled applications, but the world, especially the developing world, uses Android. Android is open and so communities can support their own development, building for their own need. So I begrudgingly cast an eye towards Android development.
I only presented my Coursera choices above, but there are many more. When all is said and done, we need to participate and explore these spaces and see what they have to offer. We can deride, chide, criticize them all we want (and much of that criticism is valid, helpful, and appropriate), but we need to be involved in their future development. As researchers and educators, there is no real excuse not to jump in and explore what potential these formats have for own learning development and for learners we support. I am most curious to hear what others are taking and what learning needs those courses support.