Uncomfortable With MOOC

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?

Posted in Teach Online MOOC
33 comments on “Uncomfortable With MOOC
  1. From my gut, I agree with most of what you say, as a noob to online teaching and learning. Though I have supported brick and mortar teaching for 14 years. However, I am going to give it a chance. I feel a bit like Columbus looking for India, maybe I’ll find America instead! Or maybe I’ll just get lost!

    • Online Teacher says:

      Frank, I agree. I “want” to give it a chance. But it’s not like MOOCs are new. They’ve been around for 4 or 5 years. But since this is our first time participating, I’m hoping to see something different from the inside. Because my opinion from the outside has not been positive.

      • Thanks for your response. Busy day, just getting started on this! And the main web site seems to be down right now. I have a double-whammy. Have to learn how to teach something longer than a 6 hour workshop, and have to learn how to teach on line. But maybe there is an advantage to never having taught “long” courses face-to-face, I don’t have to “unlearn”, only learn. The webinar yesterday clarified some issues for me. Instead of being told what the outcomes will be, I have to develop my own. I have to decide on my own what to learn. Almost like the traditional “independent study” in that respect. Regarding prerequisites, glad it was brought up. I’m a bit awed by the superior experience and knowledge of most of the “non-lurkers”. I wish I had more to contribute, just tagging along for now and learning.

        • Ok, website up now :-) Panic attack subsiding

        • Online Teacher says:

          Remember, we all started as novices. It’s only through many long years of learning and getting bruises that we are where we are.

          If you need help in learning to teach online longer than six hours, let us know. I’ll be there are several people in the course who could address that challenge.

  2. Sara Dreisbach says:

    I am glad to hear you expressing frustration with not being able to figure out what to do. I’m going the through the exact same thing. While I don’t have business background, I do have a military background where goals were expressed and expected to be met. The laissez-faire learning of the MOOC doesn’t meet with my learning style. I agree that the “learn what you want model” leaves a lot to be desired.

    I’m going to try to stick it out because I’d like to have the “badge” to show my employer, but it’s going to be difficult. I can say this, unless my experience improves greatly, this will be my last MOOC.

    • Online Teacher says:

      I hear you, Sara! LOL
      It could be a difference in learning styles. Sounds like you and I prefer certainty and structure. But I agree that from the military and business perspectives, MOOCs would not fly.

  3. Greg says:

    I disagree. Outcomes are very important. It doesn’t matter if you are washing the laundry or taking a class. The courses you describe are fine if everyone is mandated to meet the same outcomes and learn specific skills. In these of types of courses learners should be able practice and repeat the desired skill if they did not meet the outcomes. However, I think it would be very difficult to motivate everyone when they have different needs. Also most employers value soft skills. They want employees who can think critically and or solve problems.

    As a former business owner I didn’t like spending on training when employee’s emotionally just went goes through the motions. It’s a huge waste of time and money. They did what was asked of them during the training. When they went back to work they were excited to put into practice what they learned, for about a day. Then it was back to the same old habits. The generic design of the training had outcomes that were unsustainable.

    In your post you make the statement that “time IS money and there is no time to explore”. If Google, Facebook or countless other companies had this outlook they would not be where they are at today. When we put money over people we lose. The best companies value their employees. They are not just a commodity we pour information into.

    I think your statement that can’t we afford to have a nation of people spending their time taking MOOCs a sweeping generalization based on a stereotype of businesses and employees. What we really need is a nation of people who can think critically, follow their passion, and be compassionate to others.These types of employees are valuable to any business. Your point of view appears to promote the opposite.

    I appreciate that you shared your opinion.

    Thank you,
    Greg

    • Online Teacher says:

      Greg, I’m so glad you disagree with me. That’s exactly how we engender discussion and expanding our minds.
      I agree that employers want employees who think – but rarely do they want to pay for them to acquire that skill. Instead, they want employees who arrive with thinking skills.
      As for training being a one-time, apply it one day event… I would suggest that the course designer did not account for actual implementation.
      We do not learn when taking a course. We learn when we apply the knowledge and skills from the course. A one-time course without followup, reinforcement, and remediation is an event, not new acquisition of skills.
      Too often we see organizations holding a “training” event for that purpose alone – to say that they did it, to give the employees the impression that they care, and to give everyone a break from their everyday activities.
      As an instructional designer and course developer, my job is to ensure that everyone learns and applies that skill. I can do that in a variety of ways. But providing alternative paths to learning, multiple modes of instruction, and consistent long-term followup, mentoring, and coaching all need to be part of the equation.

  4. I’m as confused, and I’m glad that I’m not alone. I too have participated in webinars, blackboard, etc. but never have initiated any of these tools for my own business. I did start an online creative writing class, but it was all via emails–webinars and blackboard didn’t exist then.
    So–as confused as I am, I am continuing to blog in my own blog site and on the How To Teach Online Wall.
    Going through the steps and becoming comfortable with this initiates an action. Blogging is an action. Maybe next week I’ll instigate a webinar or a video…maybe.

    • Online Teacher says:

      Jacqueline – if you’ve taught before, via email or in person, you’ll be amazed at how easily you’ll adapt to webinars and video-based instruction. And I agree – I think this course is the perfect venue for that exploration!
      Enjoy the process -

  5. Heather Allen says:

    I, too, feel like this is not in my wheelhouse. I have worked in both the corporate and non-profit worlds and, like you said, time is money and everyone wants to see that immediate ROI. While I find the idea interesting that people learn by collaboration and making their mistakes and celebrating triumphs in a public way, I am not yet sure it’s for me. However, with everything I have been reading about millenials and their expectations of learning their way, it might be something I have to embrace or be left behind with floppy disks, the Walkman, and my beloved PowerPoint slides.

    • Online Teacher says:

      I do think it may be generational. I’m right there with you with the floppy disks and Walkman. I was doing teaching via email in 1983! So I’ve seen a lot of elearning in various formats.
      I also think it takes a while to feel “safe” in learning in public. I know I wasn’t comfortable with it initially. But it IS an acquired skill. So if you stick with it, you’ll be able to reveal a little of yourself as you go.
      See? We’re already revealing a little more…

  6. mam says:

    The website is one of the blogs I created for this course. At least I sort of learned how to create a blog on Blogger and on Edublogs.And I was thankful to find PowToon. I’m SO glad to read your article. I actually DO have an online BUSINESS, but was looking to create a online course around my business model. I thought I could learn something from this MOOC. I guess I misunderstood that it was only for those who “teach online” in a university or college setting. This is not fitting me AT ALL. (And I used to teach university level French!) The articles I’ve read so far are by pontificating “educators,” which is why I’m glad I received my Master’s degree MANY moons ago. I don’t understand the jargon, which to me just makes it difficult for students to learn. No wonder they can’t find jobs. I was looking forward to interacting with the other students, but found that extremely difficult, as you pointed out. And while I’m raving – I totally agree with your comments about only academics having the luxury of no requirements. Has anyone thought that might be part of the problem of the decay in our country—no morals, no reqponsibilities (the government will take care of youI), no work ethics, etc. think I’m bailing, and will likely repurpose my blogs for my OWN business. THANK YOU, online teacher.

    • Online Teacher says:

      You are so welcome, mam. It was not my intent to scare anyone out of the course, but I totally agree that we each need to recognize what’s in our best interest. So good for you for seeing it and making the best choice for you now.
      Glad you had a chance to create a blog that you can now repurpose. If I can be of service to you, please let me know
      Jeanette
      (who has just realized it would probably be a good idea to add my NAME to this blog :-) )

  7. Jenn says:

    I agree! There is a lot of information, a lot of people, and a lot of blogs to read. I read a few very valuable articles on online learning this morning, and I feel more engaged with the online course I am teaching. That said, I wish there was a little more of a filter, esp. for blogs. Maybe there is a central location with a full list?
    Jenn
    http://jennbernstein.edublogs.org/

    • debbie yoshino says:

      Hi Jenn! I agree on the filter. I think one thing all of us can do to help is get better with our blog post titles. More and more I am finding myself scanning the titles in the summaries and reading only those that appear to align with my goals/interests.

      • Online Teacher says:

        Debbie – I think that’s a perfect example of adapting to our own needs. It falls right in with what I understand the outcomes of the MOOC to be. Good for you!

  8. debbie yoshino says:

    I, too, was uncomfortable at first with the buffet style of learning. However, this forced me to create my own structure and define my own learning goals. That’s when I had an aha. That is exactly what I want my students to do…define their own learning goals and then find and extract relevant information from the VAST sea of resources available.

    Personally, this way of learning is challenging because it is not how I was trained to learn. But then again, the world is not how it was when I was trained to learn…hence, I am retraining.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking post!

    • Online Teacher says:

      I’m curious, Debbie, what age are your students? What topic(s) do you teach? How do you ensure they still meet the requirements for graduation, for example, if they can set their own outcomes.

      I think it’s setting the parameters that I struggle with. In a non-credit adult learning environment it’s one thing. We are adults. We are used to making our own choices. And frankly, no one can “make” us take a course.

      But in a credit-granting institution where course 2 depends on what they learned in course 1, I am concerned with curriculum alignment. Any ideas on how to handle that?

      • debbie yoshino says:

        Hi Jeannette! I am currently in transition so not teaching this year but have taught elementary and middle school entrepreneurship and financial literacy…electives. I recognize that gives me more leeway. In my classes, the content outcomes were defined by me/school. The CONTEXT in which the content was applied was defined by the students. Thus, there were learning outcomes related to the CONTEXT that I wanted them to define.

        To ensure curriculum alignment there would need to be minimum outcomes. However, outcomes beyond that could be less defined by the teacher/institution and more defined by the student. Somewhat like the levels of participation for this MOOC. And as with video games, badges determine continuation to the next level. Rather than pass/fail we have continue/keep working.

        Could we have courses that issue several different badges and provide a jumping point to a number of different paths depending on the badges one chooses to pursue? Perhaps MOOC-like courses can open up a more non-linear path to graduation. Just thinking out loud.

  9. Online Teacher says:

    If I understand it correctly, Jenn, all of the blogs from participants in the course are “supposed” to connect to and update the main discussion group on the main site.
    The drawback to that, as I see it though, is that we don’t see responses to the blog posts. We have to go visit each of the individual blog sites.
    For me, starting with yours since it’s the first I’ve seen, I’ll create a set of bookmarks to visit every few days with hopes of keeping up with some of the discussion.
    Personally I think a single location where all interaction could be seen would be preferable. Kind of like a Facebook group, for example! (an existing technology that has proven simple enough and very popular for millions of people to use – without having to set up blogs themselves). Ooops there goes that black hat again!

    • Jenn says:

      Thanks for the reply. Yes, I do see the main page feed, which is great! But there are certain folks that I want to keep track of once we start engaging- I guess bookmarks are a simple way to do that.

    • If you create a link to the blog in G+ and post all the comments in G+, you would see them all at once. But not the post itself, you still have to click to that. However, I dislike the G+layout, there is a lot of wasted space. Have not yet figured out if it can be “collapsed”

  10. Jennifer says:

    I appreciate your dissenting/objective opinion and really love that you said you didn’t necessary like MOOCs but took time to explain why. I also love structured learning and struggle to understand how MOOCs could be applied in a commercial setting. On a personal level, MOOCs have been a tool in a personal learning network/development tool box. However, I often wonder who is watching me other than me. I do appreciate the interaction with other participants, though this seems to be hit or miss. I am willing to open my mind to new things and see what I can learn. It is after all only five weeks and the potential is there. I approach MOOCs with an open mind, but constantly balancing and evaluating the time spent versus ROI I think I am getting.

    • Online Teacher says:

      Jennifer – agreed. If we are looking at this as a self-learning experience, then we can choose to take what we want.
      One of my big concerns is that recently the media has been touting MOOCs as the answer to the cost of higher education. They are so wrong! Regardless of which institute of higher learning is sponsoring the course, it won’t do a student any good to participate if they need college credit. It’s fine for those of us who are taking it for personal fulfillment. But it’s certainly no substitute for a “real” course.

  11. Justine says:

    Thank you Jeanette for this thought provoking post which has generating such useful discussion. It also complements some of the issues raised by Tony Bates in today’s webinar. Particularly the challenges he gave re designing MOOCs. Just because it is open and learner directed doesn’t mean you cant give learning outcomes which set some kind of standard/guide especially re participation. I loved his example of “identify at least half a dozen people from the participants that you will be happy to continue to share ideas and network with after the course”.

    As others have discussed, I have spent a lot of time in the last week reflecting on what is causing my discomfort (this is my first MOOC) and trying to define some meaningful learning goals of my own (and what outcomes I can realistically achieve though my participation). I dont doubt I will learn something significant, even if it is being put in the uncomfortable non-driving seat of the learner (that’s got to be meaningful). I am focused this week on looking for what tools and opportunities are available through this MOOC to help me achieve this, how I can create my own structure and finding strategies that work for me. This discussion thread has helped a lot and provided some good practical suggestions (eg. just scanning titles in the feed and following up what looks like it fits with, or challenges, my goals, interest and/or thoughts; bookmarking blogs of interest for each check-in).

    Thanks again for sharing your reflections and responses. Now to make the time to reflect on some of these issues on my own blog.

    Justine
    http://onlinemooc.blogspot.com.au

    • Online Teacher says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Justine. An idea that it triggered for me was being put back into the role of “learner.” Do you think OUR students have this feeling of being off balance, unsure of themselves when they start our classes? How can we change that for them?

      Jim provided an interesting way to contribute to this discussion and to his blog at the same time by posting his response on his blog. I then followed his link to respond to him.

      But as I pointed out to him – by having dispersed discussions, it’s time-consuming for participants to follow the train of thought – from one place to another. But it does provide another approach.

  12. Sue Waters says:

    To some extent this really is LMS, and learning objects, vs MOOCs like TOMOOC. Business, and educational organisations, like LMS because they allow us to manage students, course material and manage qualifications. Whereas MOOCs like TOMOOC change the way you learn and help participants develop important skills. It is an uncomfortable process, if you aren’t used to being a connected learner, but if you follow the process you will discover that you are learning differently and gain skills that help you.

    How you apply to what you gain to what you teach online is entirely up to you. Educational organisations aren’t getting rid of their LMS, and replacing with MOOCs. They are recognising the values of both while appreciating there are differences between types of MOOcs and why they use them.

    • Online Teacher says:

      You said “MOOCs like TOMOOC change the way you learn and help participants develop important skills.” I think they may for some students. But I believe those students need to be self-motivated enough to overcome the sense of flailing about.

      If you take a student who isn’t doing well academically and throw them into a MOOC with its loose organization, no specified goals, I believe they will sink – fast. MOOCs are great for gifted and talented students who are motivated to learn on their own. They don’t need the structure of an LMS.

      But the average student needs the confines of stated goals – how else do they know whether or not they have achieved something? I don’t think we want to base our education system on people feeling good about what they learned – but not having a clue whether it’s the right thing or enough of anything.

  13. mam says:

    I don’t think my original remarks made it into the comment thread. Too harsh, I presume. I plan to go into “lurker” mode, so I can keep up with what is going on and learn something new. I, my whole life, have been a motivated and high-achieving learner, and frequently surf for particular information in order to learn more about a subject. But, when I, not a “noob” to the Internet, cannot figure out how to post on a thread for the MOOC or get my blog included in the course and can find no help anywhere in the MOOC, total frustration hit me. I have a business that I must continue to run, but I hope that I will glean a few new ways to approach learning (and teaching) on the Web, albeit while in “lurking” mode.

    • Online Teacher says:

      Actually, MAM, your original comment did make it into the blog. Generally I only block comments with offensive or hate language. After all, the purpose of this blog is to facilitate a discussion.

      Like you, I am not an online newbie. And like you, I had some difficulties finding things initially. And I, too, run a business, albeit one that does a LOT of online teaching. So I totally understand your frustration.

      I hope you’ll continue to comment here occasionally – you bring a unique perspective that IS valued.

      • mam says:

        Thanks for validating my feelings and concerns. I’m off to write a couple of articles for my local online news source, which is my love and my passion. I’ll keep lurking to see what I can glean from this new type of learning and teaching.

3 Pings/Trackbacks for "Uncomfortable With MOOC"
  1. […] Teacher, in her 9/9/13 post, “Uncomfortable With MOOC” (HowTOL MOOC), […]

  2. […] a TOMOOC participant, you published ”Uncomfortable With MOOC” in your Teach Online Course […]

  3. […] recent comment from Debbie mentioned badges. So it seems a good time to initiate a discussion of Badges in online learning, […]

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  • Sue Waters I'm like the developers' muse. My coding skills are virtually non-existent but I've spent years working closely with them daily troubleshooting issues that they'll brainstorm... – Bates Lecture
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