Activity 12: MOOCs and faculty development

Background to MOOCs

Adapted from colourbox.com

Adapted from colourbox.com

In activity 12, we are asked to briefly consider if the MOOC approach could be adopted in our own area of education or training. My area of education/training is faculty development within the field of e-learning. I do courses and also provide help and guidance to teachers in relation to the design and delivery of blended learning and distance learning. How does each of the elements in the MOOC acronym relate to my context?

The COURSE element

Today, I deliver courses face-2-face. It’s a great way to inspire faculty and give them insight into e-learning. But it’s not quite enough. Teachers need to experiment with e-learning themselves, so right now the most important part of my job is to support teachers in the design and delivery of e-learning activities. The course element is necessary, though, to showcase different approaches to e-learning.

The ONLINE element

I don’t do any online courses yet. But it’s certainly an area that I would like to explore. It would make a lot of sense to start offering online courses since the activities at my university are distributed on 6 campus cities across the southern part of Denmark. I know that teachers struggle to get the time to attend courses. With online courses, they wouldn’t have to worry about time spent on travelling. And if a major part of activities are asynchronous, participation would be as flexible as possible. Being an online student themselves would give a lot of added value to the learning experience of teachers. They would get practical knowledge of both online learning processes and tools to support these.

The OPEN and MASSIVE elements

I think the open element would appeal to the teachers at my university and to university teachers in general. They would benefit from networking with teachers from other parts of the world and may find connections with similar interests. I find that the most rewarding learning comes from the exchange of ideas and experiences between teachers. Specific examples help illustrate important points.

Also the innovative pedagogical approaches associated with the “original” type of MOOCs would, I hope, inspire teachers to rethink their own teaching. I have been especially intrigued and drawn to the creative activities of MOOCs in which one has to visualise thoughts and ideas. Quite a challenging but also very rewarding type of learning activity that I would like to promote.

Finally, there’s the open as in use and reuse of OER. Introducing MOOCs in the context of faculty development would also mean exposing teachers to OER which again might inspire teachers to explore the use of OER themselves.

I’m a bit worried about the massive element. Teachers often tell me that any course or training that they engage in must be very specific and on target with respects to their particular context, otherwise they will not spend the time needed. However, in a MOOC, it’s very much up to the learner to set personal learning goals and pursue these by engaging in the proposed learning activities and by cultivating a personal learning network. So I think, there would have to be a lot of initial scaffolding and support of teachers, so that they can participate comfortably and meaningfully.

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8 thoughts on “Activity 12: MOOCs and faculty development

  1. I do think that a benefit of the massive is that it nudges the learner to take more responsibility for organizing and setting up a personal learning environment. College age and even younger students need to realize that continuous learning is essential to any career path they choose and it is never too early for them to start even in small ways.

    • Yes, you’re quite right. There’s definitely a point in encouraging people to form personal learning networks. I find that it’s a great way to learn myself. And the “massive” in MOOC is what provides the many opportunities for connecting with interesting people and gain peer support.

  2. I agree, the networking for teachers would be invaluable. It’s one of the things that seems to create the most excitement and desire to learn with teachers in our school.

  3. Nice reflections here! I agree that the “open” element can be very important for the purposes you note here, especially for talking with people you would never otherwise talk to and share ideas/discussions/questions, etc. I have, in the past, only ever done professional development courses on my campus (I’m a prof in higher ed), and so I only ever talked to other people on my campus. That’s fine in some sense–they are people I can connect with in person later, and we do share some context, of course–but it’s really limiting when you recognize the degree of different perspectives and ideas you could get when talking to people from all over the world (well, at least those who can converse in a language you can converse in too). I found, through participating in a MOOC called ETMOOC (Educational Technology and Media MOOC, http://etmooc.org) that it was rather like a professional development course for educators but it just took place online over a number of weeks. And I met SO MANY great people through that, with whom I am still conversing and collaborating on a number of projects. Talking to people who are in different countries, in different educational settings, really opens my eyes to things that I would never have thought of by just focusing on my own situation. It has been invaluable. And, though I’m not able to participate as much in it, this OU course on Open Ed does similar things.

    And I completely agree with the other benefits you suggest for the “open” and “massive” elements. The innovative pedagogy of the “connectivist MOOC” that ETMOOC was has changed my everyday life in a major way–I now connect much more often with people on Twitter, G+, and through commenting on blogs than I ever did before. I am also thinking of expanding that kind of activity to my classes, though I’m not sure exactly how yet (and it’s complicated). So being exposed to the MOOC format has really changed my ways of learning, and possibly my teaching in the future.

    Finally, you’re completely right about some formats of MOOCs requiring self-directed learning, and effort to develop a PLN. It’s very hard to balance providing structure for those who need it, and freedom for people to do what they feel is most valuable and what they have the time for. I have found this course on Open Ed a little too structured for me–I feel guilty when I don’t do everything, because there are set activities with a kind of underlying prod to do them all, even when the emails say we don’t have to. When there are set activities for each week, there’s a sort of encouragement to do them all. Whereas if there are a list of suggestions, but also clear direction that you can blog about whatever seems most important, the pressure is less. But then some people feel a bit at sea without more specific direction. So it’s a really hard balance, I think!

    • Hi Christina
      Thanks for taking the time to comment so detailed on my blog post. It was great to read about your own experiences with the EdMOOC. It’s very true that people outside of your own organisation can trigger your learning in a way that colleagues can’t. Sometimes, you grow to see things from the same perspective and so lack the curious and investigating questions and the totally new angles that other people can provide. MOOCs are a great way to achieve that and to escape your own comfort zone and circle.

      I see what you mean about the guilty feeling when not quite being able to be on time with acitivites. And the Open Education course has quite a rigid framework where each week has its own topics and acitivites. I am, myself, almost always on time with tasks, so this idea of shopping around, picking what seems most relevant and interesting, is something I really have to work with. However, I think it is important to give things more than just a quick glance before you decide whether to do an activity or to skip it. I enrolled in the Open Education course to learn about MOOCs and so was not too thrilled when I saw that OER was the first topic. But now I’m extremely happy about having done all the OER activities. My first dislike was simply based on ignorance. Now that I have gained insight in the field of OER, I can see how OER plays an important role in e-learning and open education and how OER is an important piece in my toolbox.

      You can, perhaps strike a better balance by doing as you suggested and provide a list of relevant activities for participants to choose from. Much like DS106, but broken down into weeks perhaps to provide an overview.

      • You’re definitely right about not just skipping things that don’t seem interesting on first glance! I found this in ETMOOC too, when I was kind of skipping “digital storytelling,” and then decided to try some stuff just because I thought I didn’t like it…and learned a lot and got a lot out of it. I was thinking what you suggested–chunking possible activities according to topics, and letting people choose what they want to do for that topic. That way, their blog posts might be even more interesting b/c they are more likely to be very engaged with the issues. Still, I do see the value in having more structured activities–that way, people are all on the same page and can comment on each others’ work easily, and you know they are all getting a certain amount of information and are doing something with it. Otherwise, people are doing very different things and it’s hard to say they are getting similar information out of the course!

        Thanks for the opportunity to think all these things through and discuss them!

  4. You’re welcome, Christina. Enjoy those discussion where we can explore a topic more in-depth. I find that it makes me pause and stop to think what I’ve learnt myself, what my approach was, how it changed or how my attitude changed. And that’s a great learning process in itself.

  5. Pingback: MOOC engagement and disengagement | You're the Teacher

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