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Real MOOCs ?

December 17th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Hardly a day goes by without the announcement of a new MOOC or a new tie up between universities to offer MOOCs. this despite widespread scepticism amongst educationalists as to the pedagogic model being offered by the ‘commercial’ or x-MOOC providers or indeed any particularly convincing financial model.

And yet the original idea behind the MOOC as developed by Downes, Siemens and others is not dead.

Today I received an email from Yishay Mor about a new MOOC being launched in early 2013.

The OLDS MOOC “Learning Design for a 21st Century Curriculum” is a project based 9 week course. We expect 500-1000 participants, and we hope a large portion of these will be working on a group project throughout the MOOC, dedicating 3-10 hours a week to it, and producing an innovative, robust and meaningful design for a learning activity or curricular resource.

We aim to provide a semi-structured, highly interactive, constructive and collaborative learning experience. This means that we set the scene – but you determine the plot.

In order to make that work, we need to provide simple, effective, and powerful learning practices.

This looks interesting. So what distinguishes in from the so called x-MOOCS with the power of the so called world leading educational institutions behind them.

First the MOOC is based on research and development work – not just on a traditional curriculum.

Secondly and perhaps even more important the people behind the MOOC are not contracted instructional designers but researchers and teachers with an interest, stake and passion for their work and a desire o share that passion with others.

Thirdly although they are providing an infrastructure through the Open University Cloudworks environment amongst other tools, participants are free to use whatever tools they wish.

And the organisers are supporting the establishment of study groups to support and scaffold learning.

Of course all of this is a lot of work. As so it should be. Supporting 500 to 1000 students in a sic week course is not and should not be seen as trivial. But I am afraid many of the more commercial MOOC providers think a quick injection of instructional design time plus videoing some lectures is a quick fix for education.

If anything the divide between different MOOC offerings continues to widen. But at least, amongst all the hype, we still continue to see the emergence of some excellent looking open courses.


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