MOOCs and participant pedagogy

I’m taking part in MoocMooc, a mooc about moocs. Each day we’re given some articles and questions as a starting point and today the theme is participant pedagogy and the questions are:

  1. How does the rise of hybrid pedagogy, open education, and massive open online courses change the relationships between teachers, students and the technologies they share?
  2. What would happen if we extracted the teacher entirely from the classroom? Should we?
  3. What is the role of collaboration among peers and between teachers and students? What forms might that collaboration take? What role do institutions play?

I’m going to look at the first two.

For question one, it depends on what flavour of MOOCs we are talking about. xMOOCs (such as Udacity and Coursera) change the relationship between student and teacher by making it more remote, both in a physical sense and also in the sense of teaching presence because it presents even less opportunity for students to interact directly with the tutor, although this is compensated to some extent by increasing the opportunities for students to interact with each other through the use of forums. Paradoxically, from the student’s point of view it can appear to increase the teaching presence because the video and presentation are informal, and made to feel more personal, more like the interaction of face-to-face tutorial.

cMOOCs (such as ds106) fundamentally change the relationship between teachers and learners because the emergent skills and knowledge are constructed by active participation in a network where the participants are both learners and teachers.

For question two, I think teacher-less environments would not work because it would put too much responsibility on the learner to be an effective independent learner from the start, neglecting the idea that these skills are learned behaviours and not innate. However, teacher-less does not necessarily indicate a directionless environment. Direction could be given using technology to guide students and offer them appropriate opportunities to navigate adaptively through materials. For example, answer X wrong and the platform might suggest you revise A before you look at Z. I have two issues with this: firstly, it takes away the development of independent learning skills since the software has a strong influence of what is learned when. Secondly, it presumes that there is a body of knowledge to be learned, i.e. the focus returns to the mastery of content, not the development of skills and abilities. It becomes training rather than education. In essence, it makes all the demands of a student that a cMOOC does but without any of the benefits.

Participant pedagogy highlights the fundamental tension between xMOOCs and cMOOCs. In the former, the hierarchy is narrow and tall with the teacher at the top. In the latter, the hierarchy is wider and flatter with the ‘pinnacle’ occupied by different people at different times.

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