how would you teach a MOOC?

'Cow' photo (c) 2008, Jelle - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the MOOC from the perspective of a student–how to be engaged with the material, how to engage in discussion with an army of peers, whether I can engage with the professor. As a student myself, first in the Blackboard CourseSites MOOC with Curtis Bonk (from which I got a nice badge!) and then in the Coursera MOOC I dropped in the first week, I can attest to being both engaged and overwhelmed.* I’ve wondered how traditional-aged undergraduates might fare in such courses as well, wondering about online students I’m all too familiar with who disappear and later resurface when it’s too late to catch up.

I’m also interested in the teaching of MOOCs. My own experience in MOOCs shows me that the ones in the news are being taught by well-known or established professors backed up by teams who conduct a lot of the dirty work of carrying on discussions, emailing notices, reading and grading work, although I must say that Bonk was surprisingly present and accessible in the CourseSites venture.

Eventually, when credentialing and fees are worked out, some form of MOOC, maybe not so massive, kind of open, and definitely online will translate down to small and mid-sized universities and even community colleges, because the idea of more students taught by fewer faculty is a formula too delicious to resist. So, what would you do if you were assigned to teach a really huge online class and you didn’t have a staff of TAs to help you out? And would you be satisfied with the learning outcomes?

Here’s a good overview of the current state of MOOCs: http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/MOOC_MOOC.html

First, any increase in your class size is going to have an effect on your ability to personalize the experience for your students. The canned part of the course content won’t change, but the part where you are accessible as a mentor might be sacrificed, and if that’s the case, why peep in at all? Would you try to organize the class into smaller groups in a discussion area, in which case aren’t you really teaching more classes for the price of one, or would you be doing that already? It’s not too late to join the MOOCMOOC over at Hybrid Pedagogy and get a head start on thinking about it, because the MOOC in some form or other is coming your way.

I think, in the end, that we will be rethinking online pedagogy thanks in part to the MOOC craze, which at this time of year is reminding me of the overabundance of zucchini and its offspring–bread, cake, muffins, pickles. Rethinking online pedagogy is not a bad idea, as long as the MOOC offspring turn out to be as varied and tasty as the zucchini kind.

*I’ve blogged about both MOOCs before: “Semester Waves of Energy” and “Surprised by Martians.”

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Categories: course design, online learning, open source, pedagogy, teaching, technology

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