Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Greetings from the MOOCpocalypse!*

I'm ready for my MOO-c, Mr. De Mille.

I've joined a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Fundamentals of Online Learning, and the first week has been a whirlwind, starting with the technical issues:
Says our instructor:

It has been an exciting few hours. The course has just started and some of you have managed to delete entire rows and columns in Join A Group Google spreadsheet , removed people from their groups, crashed the Google server, and rebuilt the page back up.

This is exciting for me because you are figuring out how to work with each other. I am also excited to see that you are personalizing your groups.
 Ultimately the Google Spreadsheet idea had to be abandoned, and the instructor, Fatimah Wirth (of the Georgia Institute of Technology) had us form groups in forums.

Interesting to see how people worked together.  Scores of groups were started.  To attract like-minded participants, some chose informative group names ("Humanities and Social Sciences Higher Ed") while others inadvertently warned away prospective members ("How do I Join a Group?").  Or maybe not:  maybe the technically forlorn gravitated to the comforting company of other confused people, just like in September where the awkward kids find each other clumped together in the far corner of the schoolyard.

I clicked into several tempting but already-full groups (curses!).  I tried to stay away from groups where it seemed like the members were challenged by the basic forum technology "I'm so confused!" "Me too!" I don't want to sit through a lot of plaintive spam and mis-posted threads.  I also stayed away from groups where the people gave little info about themselves: I wanted people who were at least a little familiar with being part of an online community.

Choosing a group made me think through what I want out of this MOOC, and out of my group:
  • International - I want to learn from people who teach and learn in educational systems outside of the U.S., and who have different perspectives from me about technology, education, and what is the ideal dinner.
  • Serious - I want articulate group partners who care about the subject and will do the work.
  • Sense of humor - no trolls, a little fun here and there.  Witty is good.
  • Friendly:  I want a group that's not likely to start flaming each other.
  • Functional: I want an active group that has a steady volume of on-topic posts, and a core that won't drop out and leave me stranded.
  • Diverse - my interests are broad - I don't want only K-12 teachers, or only university types, or only corporate trainers. I want to learn from other pedagogical perspectives.
I chose a group that called itself "Spain, Latin America, and the Rest of the World."  The organizer seems energetic and personable and has done other MOOCs before, and has a background in both education and the corporate world.  So far there are three of us, but with 40,000 people the boards are *very* active so that's probably changed as I write this.

Interestingly, a thread has already started about privacy concerns - will we have our identities stolen? Who owns the rights to work we post?  Good questions.  Some have expressed a lack of confidence in the instructor, given the first-week glitches.  I'm not feeling that way - MOOCs are new for all of us, and I'm with her: it *is* very exciting.

MOOC on!

*Had to steal that tagline from my friend - sorry, Ian, it was just too good to resist.