August 13, 2012

MOOC Midnight Madness Sale

So this week, I’m doing a MOOC.

Yeah, I know how that sounds. So here’s the explanation for my parents and anyone else who doesn’t spend time online talking to education geeks: MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. These courses are the hot new thing everyone on the internet is talking about. Imagine a course taught over the internet, offered for free by college professors, with hundreds or thousands of students signed up, with varying levels of participation from that massive number of students. That’s what the MOOC looks like right now.

So I decided to take a MOOC to learn about MOOCs. That makes it a MOOC MOOC, which is coincidentally the same sound a monster makes when it’s eating everything in sight. Every time I sign into the course, I am greeted with a picture of some weird monster which, I am told, I would recognize if I watched more geeky movies.

From what I can see, the few hundred people who have signed up to take this particular course are college professors, educators, and librarians. For the most part, we’re the type folks who might design or facilitate a MOOC. I’m guessing that makes it a fairly atypical MOOC. Right now, it feels more like an academic conference than a course.

But it’s a MOOC, none-the-less. And so far, it’s been a fun experience. The course started at midnight, which was quite exciting. It was like staying up late to buy tickets to a concert! Right away, folks started chiming in to say who they were and where they’re from.

A MOOC, it turns out, is addictive for someone who is an obsessive reader. How could I go to sleep when people kept chiming in with interesting details about themselves and making smart observations? Then there was a virtual social hour on twitter. Instead of free booze and food, they offered only a space to exchange ideas. That sounds like a risky way to have a party, but it worked. People came. I had intended to lurk, since everything I know about MOOCs came from the course readings that we all had access to, but even online, I’m too much of an extrovert. About five minutes into the social hour, I’d jumped into several conversations, which were all happening at once, just like any fun cocktail party.

The participatory nature of this MOOC is what’s making it a great experience. Although I’m dimly aware that there are four people who did the hard work of putting the MOOC together, they are most certainly not giving lectures or setting themselves up as experts. I’ve seen them trouble-shooting when folks have issues with figuring out the technology and I’ve seen them modeling behavior, like introducing themselves on a discussion thread so that we’d all follow suit, but otherwise, they are encouraging participants to take the lead.

Last night, some time after midnight, I found myself videochatting with three other participants in two other countries, all of us trying to figure out why we couldn’t hear a fourth person, whose microphone was on the fritz. Today, we’re working in groups to write collaborative documents about MOOCs. If you’ve never worked with a Google Doc before, imagine typing into a document that other people also have access to, so that you can all be typing, deleting, and editing at the same time. It’s crazy fun.

Less than 48 hours into this MOOC, it’s already become my newest form of procrastination. Thank goodness it’s only a one week course. I like that MOOCs have a beginning and an end. Otherwise, I’d never get any sleep.

14 comments:

Cindy said...

I've never heard of such a thing. Off to check it out ....

jo(e) said...

If you click on the link at the words MOOC MOOC in the at the beginning of the second paragraph, it will take you to the MOOC I'm participating in.

jo(e) said...

Or click on the link here.

Bibliomama said...

I've spent much of the last twelve hours asking myself "wtf is a MOOC?", so thanks for the edification. It does sound crazy fun.

Magpie said...

It sounds kind of like Twitter meets Facebook, for education instead of fun. Or are there bits with more structure?

jo(e) said...

I'd say it's more like twitter meets facebook meets youtube meets google documents meets linked articles meets email meets chatroom meets videochat .....

It's carefully structured, with readings and tasks and a set twitter social hour each day, but the participants are taking off in all directions anyhow. Much like an academic conference. That's really the thing it feels the most like.

readersguide said...

It sounds like so much fun! Off to investigate --

BrightenedBoy said...

I'm a big fan of doing things face-to-face as much as possible, though as a supplemental element to education this sounds like something with tons of potential.

jo(e) said...

Yeah, I don't see MOOCs as ever replacing face-to-face learning, but I'm thinking about ways they can help supplement traditional kinds of learning. I'm also interested in the ways they might challenge and change some of the ways we do things in higher education. The MOOCMOOC has stimulated all kinds of interesting discussions about learning.

Lomagirl said...

Sounds like a nice fit to your "Summers are for Playing" post below- I like the segue you've made where work is fun.

Contingent Cassandra said...

I'll look forward to your updates. I was intrigued, but just couldn't afford the sucked-in/procrastination factor. From your description, it sounds like MOOCs might work better as substitutes for/supplements to academic conferences than as substitutes for standard undergraduate classes.

jo(e) said...

Yeah, it's been very time-consuming. Luckily, I've got another week before our classes start.

I don't see MOOCs as substitutes for standard undergraduate classes, but I think that looking critically at both MOOCs and traditional ways of teaching can transform how standard undergraduate classes are taught.

I think teenagers who take a bunch of MOOCs, browsing through them the way I used to browse through books in the public library, would be more likely to go to college and know what it was they wanted to study. I see MOOCs as a supplement to undergraduate classes, not a replacement.

Erin S. said...

Glad I came over here for more info... I've been mulling over the idea of taking a MOOC starting next month. For me it would be a chance to take a class in a subject that interests me, one that I never got to explore as an undergrad or grad student. So this would essentially be for FUN. (However, I'm not really an extrovert, so I expect it would be a quieter kind of fun.)

YourFireAnt said...

Oh, cripes, Jo(e). This sounds right up your alley. I look forward to hearing more on Sunday.

;-)