In which I make explicit tacit understandings on my part…
Our household recently received a box of old (ah-hem, 1970s) comic books from an uncle who was cleaning out his storage room. We found the advertisements even better than the comics themselves. Who wouldn’t, when the inside front covers feature a full-page ad urging kids (well, boys) to convince their parents they are responsible enough to own a Daisy B-B gun… by cleaning their rooms? Or how about a Deluxe Super Power Model Secret Spy Scope to “pull in distant people, houses, wild animals and natural wonders”? Or you could learn “the secret of teaching yourself music” by sending a no-obligation coupon to the esteemed U.S. School of Music.
A comment from a worldly browser: “Huh. Something for everyone, I guess.”
When I decided to follow the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge Massive Open Online Course (CCK08 MOOC), I focused on the word “open.” In reading through blogs, I have come to suspect others focused on different advertisements. So what did I think I was really “buying,” and how does this differ from others who were paging through the same comic book?
Unless I missed something, the only “registration” for this endeavor was to put in a name as someone who had an interest in the course, without any specific commitment. I’m not sure about what other bookkeeping may have occurred, but I do wonder if the concept of “massive” came from a conflation of interest and intent.
I would agree with the suggestion from last week’s Ustream session that to investigate the changes in participation as a (not untypical) social phenomenon might result in some interesting data. But clearly, “massive” was a descriptive element added in response to a storm of initial interest, rather than prescriptive requirement or promise. I am disinclined to say that a less-than-massive (however one defines this number) level of “active” (however one defines this term) participants is a referendum on the “success” (ditto) of the course.
Additionally, in the dance of more formalized education that implies the presence of instructional design, the materials and processes and discussions are often adjusted along the way to accommodate learning needs (happening here, I believe). Later versions of similarly planned learning trajectories grow and evolve. So massive or not, CCK, minus the “08,” is not a finite event in which there are winners and losers based on a head count or the number of explicit social/verbal connections.
“Open” educational resources, “open” universities and “open’’ courses all seem to embody different shades of meaning. But for CCK08, I went with the idea that open is open is open. To moodle or not to moodle, or to moodle intermittently? All valid options. Blogging/not blogging, etc.? Valid options. Lurking? Valid. Selective pursuit of the materials? Valid. Future use of the materials? Valid. Rabid discussion or pedagogical pranks? Valid. (My eye-rolling? Valid. :-))
Demanding a measurable (assessable) return on investment seems within the rights and obligations of those operating within the current, traditional scope of the tuition-paying landscape. I am not in that group. So instead, I felt that the word “open” required me to suspend most assumptions about expectations for facilitators and participants. Among assumptions that remain(ed): Sincerity of intent and transparency of process for facilitators and participants. As far as I’m concerned, these requirements have been met. To be clear, this is not damning with faint praise. I think this is pretty big educational accomplishment in what is, in spite of best intentions, often a creepy treehouse forest.
Well, yeah. But until we’re steeped in the putative Singularity, I still have both continuous flow and abrupt transitions between online and offline learning and life. So, name or not, CCK08 has an “other than online” dimension for me. And, to expand on the “open” concept: the other-than-online learning, effort, and socio-cultural and affective results are not obvious, measurable, or immediately reciprocal within this particular temporal expression of the online CCK08 community. (And if this seems somehow insufficient, I’d suggest avoiding parenthood.)
Is it possible that this word is the most heavily laden in terms of expectations and assumptive mental models? This links directly into the recent questions about instructional design and authority. Anyone who’s been kicking around various academic landscapes has visions and versions of what this term means. I suspect that folks who teach in formal environments might have a stronger inclination to keep or assume a primary focus on this concept.
If nothing else, uncovering and articulating assumed understandings about what a “course” looks like, whether in agreement or in contrast, seems to be very important for understanding the challenges and possibilities of connective knowing, especially for those working within rapidly changing academic environments… or with rapidly changing learners.
Now, if only those x-ray glasses really worked…