Two summer MOOCs

Update: see below for details of my progress on these!

Over what passes for summer I’m dipping into a number of MOOCs and summer schools. CPD for the over-educated again – it’s partly about exploring new things and partly about monitoring the evolution of MOOCery. Here’s a look at two MOOCs.

Writing MOOC

From Michigan State, Thinking like a writer (on Canvas) is using an activity based pedagogy, on the basis that no one ever learned how to write from listening to lectures. Someone asked where the videos were, so they’ve done a short podcast to explain. Update: see (or rather hear) the weekly podcasts, which give feedback on the previous week – a nice idea, but needs a slow down button…

The MOOC is not about information delivery or consumption, which is “easy to scale”, but makes use of experiential learning techniques to facilitate writing via a sequence of activities from invention/prewriting (generating ideas) through revision via language and culture activities (a community activity).

It’s all fiendishly complicated – the syllabus seems (ironically) overwritten, while up front they seem to require usage of Facebook, Twitter (see @MSUWritingMOOC and #writingmooc), Canvas forums and Eli (peer review application), all for eight hours effort per week. Too much! The peer review thing could be interesting, but it’s too formal. I’m trying to get more creative, and I can feel any juices being sucked out already.

326 people have added themselves to the Pinmap, with a handful in Europe. Maps seem to be the in thing, but I’d still like a decent directory (1915 registered, a-z only). Pretty early on people said they would rather participate on the Canvas forums than bog standard socme, which is apparently OK, but then there’s the usual n million posts issue. Interestingly, there’s a Rebelmouse page to amalgamate the lot(?).

The eight week course is structured round four episodes, with the first activity centred round stories of learning, ie how you learned something you are good at, presented as a timeline. Too tricksy. But I’ll check in on episode 2 next week.

18 July: episode 2 moves from reflective to narrative, from the individual to the community with stories of language and culture, ie  the ways you adapt your language for different communities. Bit basic.

29 July: episode 3 moves from narrative to reporting, a commonplace form of functional (!) writing made of acts such as evidence, status updates…made up of three rhetorical moves:

  • summary – capturing the substance of another’s work
  • analysis – synthesising ideas in order to clarify, expand or assess them in original ways
  • argument – proving a specific position by means of evidence found in or generated by the source text

Not easy as needs to be selective (curators take note) to reflect occasion, audience. Participants will be reporting on essays submitted in week 1 – neat! The best essays had a ‘concrete’ part followed by reflection, which is where the learning occurred. The learning process needs to be made visible to be reused. Interesting stuff.

22 August: not sure what happened to epi 4…anyway, the team are “paying attention” to the MOOC until the end of August, although it formally closes tomorrow. Completion certificates will be emailed, final survey underway.

In the final podcast the team noted that they had learned lots about teaching writing to the world – certainly from the start the whole thing seemed overwhelmingly US centric.

New Librarianship MOOC

From the School of Information Studies at Syracuse, the New Librarianship Master Class (sic; on CourseSites) is centred round the Atlas of new librarianship (and accompanying blog), offering “a new perspective on the field of librarianship”.

There’s a class roster (no map) which shows 1500+ students in. a. flat. list. This one will take 5-10 hours per week, with all comms to remain internal to the class. Gosh. On the other hand they do encourage ‘hacking the course’ and there’s ample Twitter action at #newlib. If you are doing the course for graduate credit a blog is required, but none sighted as yet. Very excited that forum posts can be sorted (chron/reverse chron), plus someone’s done a Flipboard magazine.

Each week focuses around a topic in librarianship, with materials and content  (readings from the book which you seem to have to buy, video lectures and module tests) released every MondayI’ve watched the intro vids, and it’s quite interesting if a bit American. New librarianship is “all about facilitating knowledge creation through conversations”, all very connectivist. Is social (and) learning really the only world view available?

Turns out that new librarianship has been expertly critiqued by @librarianwilk, who also posts some open questions for the MOOC – deep waters and definitely a deep time sink, but it will be interesting to follow up on the DIKW side, which hasn’t been explicitly mentioned as yet is swatted neatly away.

Week 1 is about librarians and eek! their world view, with modules on the mission of a librarian and how this influences their world view, how librarians approach knowledge and how it is acquired, and the functions librarians serve within communities.

I trained as a librarian, and feel this has affected me both personally and professionally – stifling my youthful creativity and giving me an over-service oriented approach to work (on the other hand, unlike “guess what I’m thinking” teachers, librarians let people work things out for themselves). In short. I don’t identify as a librarian, if I ever did, but I can imagine getting more involved in this MOOC. Stand by…

Update (later): scampered through a couple more lectures, all very sage on the stagey…my first reaction is that information/knowledge management theory (IKM) has much to offer here without the same level of over-thinking. The focus on libship inevitably means it’s a short hop to libraries and a focus on bricks and mortar and other ‘artefacts’, while IKM has moved beyond that and  is perhaps more at home exploring broader issues.

IKM theory has come up on the boards, plus criticism of new libship’s reliance on conversation theory. Love the bit about libraries needing to be quiet to allow users (bet we shouldn’t call them that) to have internal conversations with themselves. Anyway, I’m trying not to spend too much time over-theorising and will see what we can take from the conversation – love this tweet…

18 July:  the amount of material on this one is daunting – lengthy videos, a chapter of the book plus a long list of supplementary pages to read – don’t think so. Very librariany approach : P Still thinking about doing some analysis of the hashtag (see David Lankes’ Storify) though.

15 August: OK so #newlib wasn’t for me. Today received a wrap-up mail from David Lankes: “The course had 2,196 students that spent 9,015 hours in the course (averaging about 4 1/2 hours per student).  The course also spawned numerous blog posts and a lively Twitter stream”. Participants have until 4 September to finish the course for Continuing Education Units and a Certificate of Completion, and the course content and discussions will remain available indefinitely.


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