Over 10 years ago (2003), I finally completed my thesis project entitled “In Your Face in Cyberspace, A new Paradigm for Online Learning.” This project also included the development of a website entitled, “Introduction to Distance Education,” an online course designed to present my research. Even back then, there were many terms for online education including:
- Distance/Online Learning
- Online Education/Learning
- Distance Learning
- Open Education/Learning
I wrote that “the terms “Distance Education” and “Distance Learning” are slowing being abandoned because they no longer adequately describe the range of educational options and delivery methods offered today. For example, is a course delivered primarily on the Web but having three on-campus sessions during the semester a distance education course? Does it make a difference if the students live a long distance from campus or are on-campus students? Distributed, hybrid, and blended education are terms often used to describe courses that meet both face-to-face and at a distance.”
However, in 2014, we are still struggling to find the “perfect term” to categorize online/distance courses. One term that does not accurately represent “traditional” distance or online courses is MOOC. Unfortunately many people who are not familiar with the long history of distance and online education use these terms interchangeably. At the University of Denver, we recently updated our official definition of an online/distance course to:
A course in which all or nearly all of the organized instruction is conducted online or by distance learning methodologies.
I’ve organized some of the differences between a traditional online/distance course in higher education and a MOOC in the table below. I’m sure there may be other differences I’ve missed, but these are a few of the differences that I often think about when contrasting MOOCs with traditional online courses.
According to the Teaching, Learning and Technology Group (TLT), a schMOOC is a:
somewhat connectivist, hypothetically Massive Open Online Course. This learning experience is “somewhat” connectivist because it combines structured and non-structured, along with social and individualized, learning options (choose to connect with others — or not), and it’s hypothetically massive because it could attract large numbers of participants in theory (but in practice it won’t).
What I love about about MOOCs and schMOOCs is that they provide a wonderful opportunity to learn, grow and connect with “like-minded” colleagues. I’m currently participating in a schMOOC sponsored by TLT called the “Seven Futures of American Education 2.0 schMOOC: Perspectives, Strategies, Plans.” This FREE course is based on John Sener’s “The Seven Futures of American Education: Improving Learning & Teaching in a Screen-Captured World.” I met John and purchased his book at a Quality Matters conference in October of 2013 and I am very excited to have the opportunity to explore this topic with the author and other learners in this schMOOC.
This course is delivered outside of a traditional LMS environment which takes a little getting used to but it is also a bit refreshing. The course content is primarily “housed” on a google site and we use Adobe Connect for our synchronous sessions and a Google+ community for asynchronous interactions. The course has provided some good examples of effective ways to leverage online tools like Animoto and PowToon (thanks Beth!) and have inspired me to take some time to explore them further. Today we had a twitter chat which was new to me and several of my fellow schMOOCers. I hope to fully engage in this course but even if I don’t, I feel like I have already benefited from the experience.
So far I’m really enjoying all of the wonderful lifelong learning opportunities offered by MOOCs and schMOOCs and I’ll continue to take advantage of this professional development while these courses are still Free & Open.
Tom Friedman wrote a very well-balanced opinion piece in the NY Times titled, The Professors’ Big Stage. He highlights his key takeaways from a conference he just attended convened by M.I.T. and Harvard on “Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education” — a k a “How can colleges charge $50,000 a year if my kid can learn it all free from massive open online courses?” I agree with most of his key points and I’ve summarized a few of of my favorites below:
- We’re moving to a more competency-based world where there will be less interest in how you acquired the competency — in an online course, at a four-year-college or in a company-administered class — and more demand to prove that you mastered the competency.
- Strong consensus that this “blended model” combining online lectures with a teacher-led classroom experience was the ideal.
- We demand that plumbers and kindergarten teachers be certified to do what they do, but there is no requirement that college professors know how to teach. No more. The world of MOOCs is creating a competition that will force every professor to improve his or her pedagogy or face an online competitor.
- There is still huge value in the residential college experience and the teacher-student and student-student interactions it facilitates. But to thrive, universities will have to nurture even more of those unique experiences while blending in technology to improve education outcomes in measurable ways at lower costs.
- We still need more research on what works, but standing still is not an option.
As always, MOOCs dominated the higher ed publications this week. Below are a few that I found interesting and as usual, the comments are as interesting as the articles.
– Online Education May Make Top Colleges More Elite (Chronicle – 3/4/13)
Another report from the MIT/Harvard Conference
– Measuring the MOOC Dropout Rate (Inside Higher Ed – 3/8/13)
Phil Hill, an education technology consultant, has come up with four categories of MOOC users: lurkers, drop-ins, passive participants and active participants.
The third iteration of the Games MOOC begins on March 18 and runs until April 22, 2013.
The theme is “Build the Game“ using Apps, AR and ARGs. The focus will be creating a game or gaming project for your course. Please join us and invite your colleagues! The Games MOOC Spring 2013 signup is now open!
The weekly topics will look something like this. (Adjustments are possible)
Week 1 Intro to the Course and Topics
Week 2 Apps and Mobile Possibilities
Week 3 Augmented Reality and Interactive Fiction
Week 4 Mysteries, Puzzles and Scavenger Hunts
Week 5 Narrative and Storyboarding
Week 6 Creating the Clues & Playing the Game
If you want any additional information or have any questions, please contact Kae Novak at 303-404-5470 or email email@example.com. As always – Lurkers Welcome!
Stop Polarizing the MOOCs debate is an excellent article from University World News. The article provided a wonderful and balanced summary about both sides of this debate. BTW – I found a link to this article in one of the final project’s of one of my peer’s in the eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC I just completed.
Below are a few excerpts from article:
- Has anyone else noticed that the tone of the conversation has now shifted from “is college worth it?” to “how can we make necessary, important, invaluable learning available to the widest number of people for the lowest cost?” I certainly have.
- If anything, MOOCs illuminate the terrible economic disparities of higher education (worldwide) by offering a cheap, massive alternative – not to those sitting in the classrooms of tenured professors, but for those who have no opportunity to be in those classes.
Personally, I think MOOCs are here to stay but I don’t think they are a threat to traditional higher education and I love the notion that they offer more people access to education.
Other MOOC News this Week:
Carnegie Mellon MOOC Averse?
29 New Coursera Courses…
There are a couple of different types of MOOCs – Broadcast, aka xMOOCs which are getting most of media buzz and Connectivist MOOCs or cMOOCs which are the “original” MOOCs. A cMOOC is based on the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) model and is the type of MOOC described in the YouTube Video below. Some have said that the xMOOCs are just an extension of the LMS. You can locate xMOOCs at Class Central and find and learn more about connectivist MOOCs here:
This is an interesting Chronicle Wired article about a professor who leaves a Coursera MOOC over disagreements about how to best conduct the course.
Professor Leaves a MOOC in Mid-Course in Dispute Over Teaching
I’m not sure if this professor has experience teaching online, but based on my limited MOOC experience as a participant, I think it is important that instructors teaching MOOCs have experience teaching in the online environment. I think that one of the reasons the E-Learning and Digital Cultures (#EDC) MOOC has been such a positive experience is that all of the instructors have extensive experience teaching online. These University of Edinburgh instructors teach in an online degree program and the MOOC they are teaching is a longer version of the EDC course within that program. They also invited their MA students to participate in the MOOC which I think is brilliant.
MOOC instructors should clearly understand how MOOCs are different than traditional online courses. I think this example as well as the recent cancellation of the Fundamentals of Online Education course also makes the case that MOOCs should be not be taught by an individual instructor.
One of the participants in the EDC MOOC shared a link to the upcoming “Learning Analytics and Knowledge” MOOC and after checking it out, I noticed all the open courses coming up on the Canvas Network. I know a lot of universities are moving to the Canvas LMS so I may register for a CN course and see it for myself. A couple of conflicting Coursera articles in the news this week:
American Council on Education Recommends 5 MOOCs for Credit (all Coursera)
MOOC Mess (MOOC suspended due to Tech Issues – Ironically the course is called “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application.”
One of the EDC MOOC participants (@livvyfox) shared this excellent resource called “25 Tips to Make the Most of a MOOC.” Here are some of the tips I’m already using:
- 6) Don’t Get Overwhelmed – I’ve decided not to get too involved in all of the pre-course social media sites which are already very active and the class hasn’t even started yet!
- 7) Don’t Be Overwhelming – Excellent tip, I will try to remember this one.
- 12) Set Up Your OWN Blog – This is it!
- 18) Get Oriented Early On – I’m trying…