Thursday, 3 February 2011

Preparing a massive open online course on mLearning, balancing old and new thinking

A couple of weeks ago I started to structure an idea I had on organizing an MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the subject of mLearning. It will be an open and free course, so anyone with an interest in mobile learning can join, the course will be in English and incorporate a lot of social media that is accessible via smartphones, tablet pc's and computers. It will emphasize the possibilities of using mobile devices for educational or training purposes (basic cell-phones, to smartphones, mp3 players, tablet pc's,...). As such it will be of use to anyone who thinks: "If I only knew how mobile learning can work in my setting, then I would make a mLearning project and just do it!". mLearning can fit corporate training, k12 education, lifelong learning and of course as we see on a daily basis across the world: in regional and non-profit or ngo-settings.

In the next couple of weeks I will post about the process, and some of my thoughts as I build the course. At this point in time I did create online sites (twitter, facebook, google group, ...) to create an open (and free) course environment. I will list all of these web-spaces once I have added a bit more information on them AND once the facilitators are lined up (just started to contact some really great mobile savants!). The date will follow later as well, but ... we are well on our way.

So what is a MOOC? Look at the movie from the wonderful Dave Cormier to get an idea of what it is.

The MOOC is an idea that was put forward by Stephen Downes and George Siemens, they looked further then the boundaries of their institutes and put a course on the web that could be followed by everybody who could connect to the Internet. The MOOC courses tend to be chaotic, but at the same time energizing. One of the sad things however is that a lot of participants drop out of the MOOCs for a variety of reasons, although many of them expressed enthusiasm for the course.
This posed a couple of learning philosophy problems, as I was looking to find a way where old school instructional design could meet socio-constructivist learning/teaching.

So I got my first challenge: can a massive, open, online course be organized on the topic of mLearning, which would be able to keep more participants motivated and not drop out? Can participants be extra motivated to not only follow the course, but also engage in a minimum set of activities which would result in a stronger networking and connecting amongst participants?

This is what I think might help to achieve this goal:

Be really clear on the learning goal of the course, and connect it to a set of guidelines for activities from which the participants can choose, in this case a participant can choose to be active in 3 different ways: lurking (the most passive, but nevertheless learning), an intermediate, active participant (engages only on some occasions), and an active participant (who engages in at least 2/3 of the course's topics or modules and works on an overall knowledge activity).
Mix learning philosophies: balance a more classic, structured instructional design approach, with the more open socio-constructionalist learning view. Why? To hopefully build a learning environment that might connect closer to each of the participants learning knowledge (by creating clear learning objectives and offer learning activities), yet at the same time allow contextualized and personalized knowledge creation to occur (each participant engages with the other participants to collectively and collaboratively construct their own learning which suits their own teaching/learning need in the topic of mLearning).
Give those participants that are really active something extra once they have concluded the course by participating in 2/3 of the course (ah, are not you wondering what they will get?).

Linda Venter and El-Marie Mostert from the University of Pretoria send me a wonderful resource to get me back on track with basic instructional design and all its features: NetNet's guide to Internet Course Design and Development.