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 me 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?