Review of the University of Edinburgh E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC
This course explored how digital cultures and learning cultures connect, and what this means for the ways in which we conduct education online. The course is not about how to ‘do’ e-learning; rather, it is an invitation to view online educational practices through a particular lens – that of popular and digital culture
During my undergraduate degree activities, was my first experience in using a computer and electronic communication (e-mail). I now use the computer and many forms of electronic communication everyday for work, school and personal life. I could of never imagined eventually being able to take courses online. After experiencing my first online course last year I am now in the middle of taking four. Online courses were at first intimidating because of what I thought was a lack of structure. I realize now it is the structure of freedom. Freedom for students to explore, take more responsibility and be more. Some courses have been very open with unclear assessment and some have been very ridged in precise deliverables and assessments. This (deliverables and assessments) are a main curiosity of mine, how can educators effectively monitor progress and conduct assessment while opening up students’ exploratory learning, allow creative freedom, and development of activities aligned with real world application. The general online courses for the most part seem to do this somewhat effectively but what about the new format of online learning, the MOOCs? MOOCs as defined in an Educasue article are massive open online courses (MOOCs) to deliver learning content online to virtually any person (Thompson, 2011).
I found an answer to my question while observing E-learning and Digital Cultures (EDC) from the University of Edinburgh for five weeks. It allowed me to peek into how the future of learning can be conducted. It is no longer about the educators’ control over learning, the shift and answer to my question is it is now truly the learners’ responsibility to explore, be creative, participate and conduct assessments. Though I have researched and discussed this concept the EDC MOOC was a live example.
The educators’ role was to format the course in such a way that it was a clear guide and offered activities for different styles of learning, which they did. The syllabus was transparent and outlined the whole course with materials, activities and resources via links. As a course platform their website presented through Coursera was similar to many of my Education Technology classes, with left-sided vertical menus and main content on the right. The course was also divided into two digestible blocks of two weeks each, using a key theme emerging from popular and digital culture (atutopias and dystopias and a focus on being human in a digital age), with the fifth week dedicated to the final product/artifact and assessment.
Weeks were then further broken down with a repetitive outline, 1) Popular Cultures, 2) Ideas and Interpretations and 3) Perspectives on Education. Popular Cultures was defined as a weekly ‘film festival’ which video clips relevant to the weeks topic, were presented and discussed using Synctube, twitter and the class forum. Ideas and interpretations followed with assigned ‘core’ and ‘advanced’ readings. Perspectives on Education then followed with topic discussions presented by the educators the class forum. The three weekly sections and further breakdowns of each week on separate pages provided a simple yet detailed navigation for even me, who was not actively participating. The five teachers also used Google Hangouts, EDC News (a class blog) and Twitter to exchange information with students.
Students also had clear expectations of their what they should do every week to effectively participate thus be benefited by learning. Some of the examples were contribute to discussion forums, blog with edcmooc tag, participate in Synctube, create and post visual representations of discussion responses, and share thoughts on Twitter. It was refreshing to see that students had both visual and text options to use in posting their reviews and thoughts. As a ‘the’ and final assessment students were asked to post a digital artifact on Padlet to be peer reviewed (See Class board http://padlet.com/wall/edcmooc_artefact).
Though I could not find the demographics and number students the max number of forum posts for one week was 637 and in the forums under ‘study groups’, student created groups ranged from Age 60+, study groups in different languages (e.g. Spanish, Russian, Hungarian and Dutch), profession labels (Corporate Instructional Designers), to individuals posting from Singapore, Ohio, Canada, to the Sillicon Valley.
Compared to regular in-person and online courses I have experienced it was the foresight, detail and simple but well developed logistics that allowed for the massive online learning to take place. Therefore I would say an effective delivery takes what I would call ‘creative educators’. Creative educators would be those that are creative and are able to relate it to students, and also have effective educational, logistic and management skills.
In conclusion observing a live MOOC was an eye-opening and inspiring experience. Connected with the discussion of the paradigm shift in education, more collaborative real-world education for students MOOCs clearly represent a shift towards the future of education.