MOOCs change the world of digital learning
What’s a MOOC? MOOC is the acronym for Massive Open Online Course. Basically, it’s distance digital learning for free.
Pre-internet study was achieved in a few different ways. If you wanted to learn about a topic you could:
- Find someone with the knowledge and ask them for the information you were looking for
- Study books on the subject
- Conduct in-depth research to find the answers
- Enrol in a course at school and learn from teachers
These methods of learning would definitely give you access to the information about your topic of interest, but that process developed during a time when information was much harder to come by.
Today, we have information overload. It is everywhere, and is literally at our fingertips 24/7.
In our digital world, we have access to a universe of information and we have devices that can tap into that motherlode whenever we want.
The MOOC is one method of learning for the digital age and this is how it works.
Basically, a MOOC is:
- An online course
- It’s completely open
- It’s participatory
- It’s distributed
- It supports life-long, network learning
So at its core, a MOOC is indeed a course. But it is not is just a ‘school’ or simply a ‘course’. It is in fact a way to connect and collaborate while learning additional skills. It’s also a way of engaging in the learning process much more than being a passive student.
The biggest difference is that a MOOC is more like an event where fellow students can get together, work and discuss the topic in a structured way.
The course is open and totally accessible. You even take the course without paying for it. You might pay for getting an accreditation through an institution but you do not pay for participating in the course.
It’s also open in that any work done in the course is shared with all other participants. Everything is available and in the open.
You get to keep your work and everyone else gets to learn from it.
The process is participatory, which means you become part of the course by engaging with other people’s work. Students are not required to complete specific assignments but rather to collaborate with fellow students, sharing findings and other material you may each discover on the web.
The idea is to create connections between yourself and other people. This in itself generates new ideas and useful networks that build up naturally through the process of engaging with each other.
The course is distributed. This means that every blog post, discussion post, video response, tweet and tag, knit together, creating a fully networked course. With pockets of linked information all over the internet.
This creates a distributed online knowledge base that learners can tap into wherever they are.
MOOCs promote the concept of life-long learning. They promote independent learning and encourage students to work in their own space and develop networks they can maintain, even when the course finishes. A MOOC can create the kind of network that life-long learning is all about.
How do you find a MOOC? People who enjoy a reputation for certain skills and knowledge in certain topics will collaborate with someone else and maybe announce online that they are starting a MOOC. People who want to join in can easily participate in any way they desire. In a MOOC, you can choose what you do! I’ve included a couple of links below that will take you too MOOCs that are available today.
Check out this TED Talk by the head of edX, Anant Agarwal, who makes the case that MOOCs matter.
And this panel at The Aspen Institute, who discuss how MOOCs will transform the way we learn.