Tuesday, April 20, 2010

#edfuture: MOOCs in the Future

After sitting through the first live session of OCEF, I began reflecting on not so much what was said, but the manner in which it was said.  Like other MOOCs I've attended (i.e., CCK08, CCK09), the tendency is to have live sessions center around the facilitators.  Facilitators typically try to include certain weekly comments made in forums, blogs, etc. into their weekly commentary, but there tends to be limited live discussion that involves the attendees.  Since this course relates to defining the future of education, I'm compelled to ask the following:

How will MOOCs be conducted in the future in a way that fosters greater interaction between the facilitator(s) and the attendees? 

This course for me is simply looking at what we do today and thinking about what it might look like in the future (not about listening to the facilitators discuss the definition of the word trend, for example).  Taking this as a premise, I think future MOOCs might look something like the following:

  • The entire course outline will be made available the first day in terms of understandings and essential questions.  
  • Each unit will express an understanding or understandings that are generative in nature and are expressed as a noun clause.  For example, participants will understand that creativity and innovation are a result of stakeholders working together while at the same time giving educators the freedom to pursue individual goals
  • Each unit will express essential questions around understandings. 1) How does the process of being creative or innovative vary between different parts of the world?  2) How can teachers retain their individual identity within an institution that claims a mission and vision statement, goals, and specific values? 3) How do artifacts and objects influence creativity and innovation? 4) How do stakeholders close the gap between an educator's espoused theory of action and the educator's theory in use? 5) What role does culture play with regard to creativity and innovation?
  • Readings, blog and forum discussions, and live sessions will be based on understandings and essential questions presented for each unit.  Again, good understandings and essential questions are generative enough to allow for a variety of perspective, empathy, application, among others.  There are a number of performance verbs (think Bloom's taxonomy) that could be applied based on the meaning being transmitted by the speaker.
  • Prior to each weekly live session, a certain number of participants would be chosen to offer an opinion or answer to any of the understandings or essential questions.  This would be done in a way that gives each participant time to prepare an answer as well as prepare for any technological requirements needed in order to speak during the live session.
  • During each live session, the dialog would begin by having each participant share an opinion or answer followed by the rest of the participants responding, giving their own point of view.  The facilitators would also be part of this interaction.  This process would repeat for about half the session, then facilitators would conclude offering more insight into the issues that were discussed by the participants, linking their arguments to current literature as needed (e.g., assigned readings, additional readings, etc.).
MOOCs will work because there are facilitators that are well-respected in the field and have the power (in the positive sense) to bring people together (clearly as George and Dave are able to do).  But the value of such a course comes from hearing what the facilitators as well as others think about what individual participants have to say and less about hearing only what facilitators think about the readings for that particular week.

The future MOOC involves a change in the manner in which individuals move through a systemic and interactive framework and will not materialize solely by encouraging attendees to participate during weekly live sessions. And yes, this may mean that we have to wait a few more seconds while attendees say, "Can you hear me?" five times, and that the flow of conversation might slow up a bit.  But I believe that human beings are adaptive and will learn how to use the technology available to conduct a conversation that meets and more than likely exceeds the expectations of the facilitators.