Saturday, May 12, 2012

What Is A MOOC?



In brief summary, our traditional educational models tend to follow a pattern of centripetal movement, with everything forced toward an artificial learning center. Students go to buildings, make their way to classes, and focus their attention on teachers and books as the repositories of static knowledge they are supposed to acquire. Real learning, I argue, is and always has been a centrifugal process. We learn by reaching outward, through constant discovery and inquiry, in a world in which knowledge and information are dynamic and ever expanding.


All of which brings me to MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. This week, there has been some active discussion on MOOCs, particularly with regards to the differences between the work done by explorers such as George Siemens and Stephen Downes, and the online course offered by Coursera/Standford ... . [snip].


The difference between MOOCs and more traditional or structured models is simply one of complexity. MOOCs provide a complex and fairly pure model of learner-centric, centrifugal learning. The brick-and-mortar classroom is at the other end of the spectrum. Everything else lies somewhere in between. [snip].

For me, it's really simple. Learning as an activity is inevitably learner-centric.

While it may happen most naturally within communities, each agent (learner) is still responsible for what knowledge is actually acquired. Once we accept this -- that learning is, by definition, a learner-centric activity -- we only need choose a learning model that we think best facilitates the networking, search for, and acquisition of information and knowledge.

While MOOCs are still in the formative stages, I think the work being done there is extremely important. This is because it models newer forms of instruction and learning that seem to align closely with the natural flow of learning. These courses foster and embrace a centrifugal learning model, which in the end is where evolutonary trends are taking us anyway.

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