MOOC stands for ‘massively open online course’ And the emphasis is on massive. One such course at Stanford University had had enrollment upwards of 200,000. On the smaller side, Jim Groom’s MOOC, DS 106-digital storytelling, had only a few hundred. But it definitely is something new under the pedagogical sun. It is all about imagination, folksonomy, and creative chaos. Reminiscent of the Occupy Movement, these courses represent a case study in leaderless, emergent organization.
The characteristics of this ‘new new thing’ include: no textbook, no lectures, and a student-driven course design where F2F attendance is optional. Students are free to design and re-design the course on the fly. Remix is encouraged and social upvoting of others’ works a la Reddit and Digg is built in. Weekly assignments are student created. F2F students are required to create assignments and tutorials for skills need to complete them. Groom points out that there are over 1300 learners online who get no course credit yet they produce the majority of the assignments.
Groom has lofty hopes for this revolutionary course model, “The goal of DS106 is to teach students how to be creative, capable Internet citizens, able to consciously shape their own identities and narratives online. Minus the modicum of structure and authority exerted by the instructors, the course operates much as the Web does.” Or as he calls them the three C’s: community, collaboration, and coordination.
Canadian MOOC pioneer George Siemens remarks that Groom’s course is different from the Stanford model. “The MOOCs at Stanford and Udacity are instructivist,” says Siemens. “Learners largely duplicate the knowledge base of the educator or designer.” In other words students are following in the instructor’s learning footsteps much like the silhouettes of shoes in old dance studios showed learners the steps. What Groom and company are doing is to create an environment for learners to construct their own steps.
Is there a place at Western for such a course? Is anyone out there willing to facilitate? Is there something in your discipline that you have been dying to collaborate on in a similar open environment? I would love to work with someone to do this. You can get in touch with me at terry dot elliott at gmail dot com.