Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Massive Open Online Courses: Taking Distance Learning To A New Level

Following in the “massive” footsteps of Schroeder, Cormier and others, online learning specialist Professor Curtis Bonk accepted an offer from Blackboard to deliver a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) of his own. With over 2,800 signed up, Bonk took a moment to discuss the MOOC’s potential for expanding access to higher education with The EvoLLLution.

What is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)?

Keep in mind that a MOOC is a relatively recent phenomena ... .We hear about open-source software, people crowdsourcing the creation of codes to create Apache servers or Linux operating systems or Moodle…so there’s a notion of openness all around us and Massive Open Online Courses is one iteration, one variation, on this theme of openness.

In this case, it’s a distributed course. [snip]. Every wave of technology has a variation on what openness is and what massive means. [snip]. But basically it’s being distributed around the world and the course materials are dispersed over the web.

It links to a theory called connectivism, which has emerged during this Web 2.0 era, where we participate in our learning and we contribute to our learning and don’t just receive it from someone else. It’s the connections or ties that we have in and among people that can enhance our learning possibilities.

In effect, a MOOC s something that totally expands who it is you might learn with, from, about. And so there’s this notion of joint participation in a large class that often meets about once a week to discuss content, …to reflect on what they’ve learned, to share what they’ve learned, to discuss what they’ve learned and to socially construct new knowledge.

I guess it’s that latter point that’s key here; instead of traditional learning management systems where everything is coming from an instructor, ... . It takes the eye off a “one-person-knows-all” kind of environment to… moving aside of traditional structures of schools and schooling so that we’re learning from the webs of knowledge that exist out there ... .

With a MOOC having thousands of people, there’s lots of resources that can be brought to bear to share and augment one’s learning. …

So more of a sage on the stage than a guide on the side?

My notion is that we’re learning concierges. No one teaches anything anymore with all the resources we have. … As instructors we’re tour guides, or expedition leaders, or concierges. [snip].

How do MOOCs improve access to higher education for adult and other non-traditional students?

I was a bored account and CPA and I got access to education through TV and correspondence, and that changed my life. I was able to leave accounting, get into educational psychology because I could take the courses that I needed ... .

TV changed my life, correspondence changed my life. Probably changed tens of thousands of people’s lives, if not millions! But now, the scale in which we’re talking about things with the web, the chance for web-based instruction to change one’s life and see new careers or find a new position. [snip].

For adults who are losing their job or who need retooling or just want to find a new hobby, or just are interested in learning…these MOOCs are one way that you don’t have to travel somewhere, you can jump in and hear from authorities on different topics. …


A MOOC can open people’s eyes up to disciplines, to people, to resources, to potential careers that they might not have been aware of, or fully aware of. …

Are MOOCs typically for-credit? If not, should they be?

There will be some MOOCs that are for-credit—there will be people  who move into the space and that’s what I was getting at before that the definition is constrained by the way MOOCs have been offered in the past. …There definitely will be people repackaging this content and offering certificates, offering badges, ... .

There will be eventually undergraduate degrees offered this way! I mean, we have undergraduate degrees offered through correspondence, undergraduate degrees offered through TV, there’s undergraduate degrees offered  through radio. … People want to connect, they want to converse, they want to discuss.

I think the MOOC offers that chance for the conversation to happen.

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  1. An impressive post, I just gave this to a colleague who is doing a little analysis on this topic. And he is very happy and thanking me for finding it. But all thanks to you for writing in such simple words. Big thumb up for this blog post!

    online courses

  2. 3 follow-ups to that one.

    Audio/The Potential for MOOCS by Amrit Ahluwalia, The Evolllution. June 13, 2012.
    Article: http://www.evolllution.com/distance_learning/audio-the-potential-for-moocs-part-2/
    Audio file: http://www.evolllution.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Curtis-Bonk-Jarl-Jonas-Sarah-Bishop-Root-MOOCs-and-credentials.mp3

    Audio/MOOCs Making Waves with Nontraditional Students by Amrit Ahluwalia, The Evolllution. Jarl Jonas and Sarah Bishop Root, June 2012.
    Article: http://www.evolllution.com/curriculum_planning/audio-moocs-making-waves-with-non-traditional-students/
    Audio file: http://www.evolllution.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Jarl-Jonas-and-Sarah-Bishop-Root-WAV.mp3

    Audio/The MOOC Halftime Report. Interview by Amrit Ahluwalia, The Evolllution, May 2012. Available: http://www.evolllution.com/distance_learning/audio-the-mooc-halftime-report/
    Audio file: http://www.evolllution.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/MP3-Interview-with-Curtis-Bonk-and-TAs-at-half-time.mp3


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