I’ve given this a lot of thought, particularly in light of recent comments in the discussion area. Here’s a quick run-down:
I said: “I’m an experienced online learner and teacher, but seem to be having difficulty understanding WHAT to do in this course so far. Anyone feeling a little lost? Are we supposed to post here? On our individual blogs? Where does the interaction take place? When we find out how to comment on others’ blogs? Do we need a gmail address (someone mentioned Google+)? It looked like things were organized until I started trying to DO them.”
Turns out I was not alone! In fact a couple of other participants chimed in, saying they felt the same way. Then Greg Walker responded with: “What you do in this course is up to YOU. This is not a step-by-step course where everyone is learning the same content and doing the same activities. If you have never experienced this way of learning it will seem daunting at first. All new meaningful challenges are.”
Ah-ha! That’s when it hit me! That’s the very reason I am NOT comfortable with this style of “learning.”
I come from a business background. Outcomes are important. When someone hires me to teach a topic, they want to be sure they get a return on their investment. A measurable return. More than enough that it pays for my services.
Likewise as a person who teaches entrepreneurs, I have the same perspective. People pay to take my courses. Why? Because they have a reasonable expectation that they will earn more money as a result of my course. Even before they sign up, they want to know WIIFM – what’s in it for me. They won’t spend their cash on a course that lets them get whatever they choose to from it. They want specific results. In fact, by law we are required to provide a 60-day guarantee on any course we sell. You can imagine what happens if students DON’T acquire the skills I promised!
In the business environment, time IS money. There is no time to “explore.” There is no tolerance for people taking time out of their work schedule to participate in a course who they may or may not learn something. Where there are no stated outcomes or guarantee of skills. In business this is called “your own time.”
Even when I designed early learning systems, such as those for Classroom Connect and the THE Institute, there were specific outcomes that we identified, then developed instruction to achieve. Like people in business, teachers don’t have time to spend on a course that may or may not be helpful; that has no standardization of results.
Given my perspective, I’m not sure how long I will last in this MOOC. But it certainly has opened my eyes to the nature of this movement. MOOCs are comfortable – that’s why a lot of people want to take them. After all, whether you learn something or not – it doesn’t matter. Plus you can say you took a course at whatever institution is offering this week’s MOOC. Sounds good over Friday night happy hour.
As for the chance that MOOCs will catch on as a “learning” tool – not if businesses catch on. We can’t afford to have a nation of people spending their time taking MOOCs. Can you imagine running a business this way? Everyone doing what they want, when they want, creating their own meaning for the job, no requirements? It seems that only academe has that luxury.
I can’t wait to hear your reactions! Do you agree or disagree with me?