#ocTEL week 0: volume anxiety

Filled with new enthusiasm after the Learning Through Technology conference (#LTT2013), I signed up for the Association for Learning Technology’s open course in technology-enhanced learning (#ocTEL), which began last week.

I’m taking this course to try and engage with a community of practice, to see what’s happening in the world of digital education and hopefully to get a few new ideas. I’m also testing myself to see what it’s like to be a student again, and if I can cope with this new type of learning. I have to admit that it’s been a tough week.

This being my first experience of a massive open online course (or MOOC), I was initially overwhelmed. So many participants posting so many comments; so many instructions in so many emails; so many options in terms of collaboration and course content. David Jennings of the ALT makes interesting observations about this, and asks if the introductory part of any MOOC can ever be non-chaotic. Dave Cormier adds, “if participants get accustomed to messy and uncertain learning experiences they seem more likely to take on projects on their own initiative and more likely to push ideas further”.

While swimming (or drowning) in textual information – emails, forum postings, web pages – I found myself longing for a webinar, a video or a screencast; a real person to help meĀ  navigate through the volume. (I missed the first live webinar but will catch up on the recording here.) Given that the bulk of my time at work is spent developing textual materials, this was quite an unsettling experience.

Things started to make a bit more sense when I joined a small group focusing on distance learning, although as usual I observed from the sidelines for several days before joining in. Time will tell, but at the minute I think the webinars and peer-to-peer learning in small groups are the things I’ll take most value from.

I have lots of questions but very few answers at the moment. Are MOOCs a viable or useful way to learn? Am I going to be able to make sense of all this content? With people working harder than ever to stay in a job, keep on top of emails, keep up with social networking and occasionally do their jobs and interact with their families and friends, is information overload the most effective way to learn? And do we still need an educator to curate relevant information for us, or can we all find our own pathway through the content jungle?

I’ll probably have even more questions over the next few weeks, and you’ll see me flailing around trying to make sense of them here. Lucky you, eh?


2 Responses to #ocTEL week 0: volume anxiety

  1. David Jennings says:

    It sounds like you’re developing a clear idea of which of the elements of ocTEL are going to be most useful for you, and, hopefully, you’re getting orientated in terms of how to find and focus on these. At this stage, that’s the major part of the battle, so well done.

    In terms of your question about whether MOOCs are a viable way to learn, I think there may be a another orientation and mindset issue. Would you ask if life, or the Internet, were a viable way to learn? Probably not. They’re not designed for learning, but you probably take it for granted that you can learn from them. A MOOC is half way between a traditional course and the messiness of life and the Internet. That is, it is designed with learning in mind, but it doesn’t keep you on a narrow path like a traditional course, and it does let some of the messiness in.

    At least, that’s how I see it. I hope that makes sense.

    Best, David

  2. Stuart says:

    Thanks David. Orientation is definitely the word, and I’m feeling a lot more positive now that I have an idea of what might work for me.

    I suppose that my experiences of learning up to this point have been to take on as much information as possible, in the knowledge that anything could come up in an assessment / workplace scenario, rather than selecting one route and filtering out others. So it’s new and different, but being unsettled is part of the process so bring it on!

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