I don’t have anything funny to say about MOOCs.

Not right now, at least. I just got home from my second to last class in INSDSG602 and I can’t believe the semester has gone by so fast! Three more classes to go and then I’m ready for my capstone, which is crazy to think about.

We  went all out on Connectivism and MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) tonight, and I was finally able to stretch my legs and talk about modern learning theory, which I think resonates with a lot of my thoughts about learning. The first article on my RSS reader was about Wellesley starting MOOCs, so it was a sign I needed to get this post out of my system.

Strangely enough, my experience with MOOCs reflects my experience with Wellesley. Going to school right down the road, I would frequently bike through town and pass the campus. Many times I would tell myself, “I should ride through, it must be beautiful”, and EVERY TIME I chose to “just bike through” I would get lost and appear four hours later completely weary and befuddled. It’s not like I’m bad at directions, it’s just my personal Bermuda triangle.

I tried a MOOC before (the Stanford AI course), but it was right as I was starting my UMass classes and after a few weeks my schedule was too tight to continue. Those first weeks, though, were black holes in my life: I would arise hours later from the computer, wondering however I got to where I was on the internet.

I think a personal goal is very important for MOOCs, or else you get lost, or over exert yourself. Neither of these are bad things, if that’s your goal, but if your goal is to complete the course, you should treat it like a marathon and not a sprint.


Adults and generations

INSDSG 602 – Class 4

Last class was one of those where it flew by – I was shocked when I looked at my phone! Those are the best classes. We split up into “generations” and summarized how we felt about ourselves and how other generations felt about us. I was pretty surprised that out of a class of 30 there were only 5 of us who could classify as…ugh…”Gen Y”. I can’t stand that term, probably because it feels so throwaway compared to Gen X.

When discussing what defined us, the internet was an obvious choice. Somehow, though, I had forgotten that 24 hours news and the advent of cable was such a defining point within our generation as well. I’ve never known a time without hundreds of channels, each with differing viewpoints. I remember watching OJ Simpson and his Bronco and when Princess Diana died. I remember 9-11 and when we were electing a new Pope. All of those instances would have been completely different without constant news coverage.

I’ve also grown a new appreciation for adult learning, or andragogy. I never thought of myself as teacher material, hanging out with kids all day and lecturing. My training methods definitely lean more towards the andragognous: making learning a conversation, including lots of activity, making learning relevant to real life.

I’m a spoiled adult learner.

INSDSG 602 – Class 3

Those of you who wish I would post more, you’re in luck. Part of my participation grade for the 602 class is to post in my blog about what I’m learning about. For those of you who loved my rant about discussion boards, this is actually an idea I can get behind…mostly because it feels more honest and less doing it for the sake of doing it. Maybe it will even get me back into blogging more frequently.

However, I am a tad behind in my posting duties for class because I won a scholarship to visit Dreamforce and I was out in CA all last week. So, I’m still playing catch up, forgive me.

So why do I call myself spoiled? Because I have to take the one in person class this semester and I had it easy all last year. I have to drive 3 hours round trip to “scenic” Dorchester every week as opposed to doing my classes in my pyjamas. I had to – gasp – buy real books instead of digital Kindle editions. I have to talk to people (well, that’s never a problem).

My point is, the study of andragogy, or adult learning, shows how different adult learners are from children. They have different motivations, they are coming from a different frame of mind, they work differently. We did an exercise in class the week before describing adult learners, which the prof put into a Wordle word cloud. The larger the word, the more frequently it showed up.

Wordle: Adult Learner

There’s lots of theories about how adults learn, even those which look like they’re stolen from J.K. Rowling (I’m looking at you, Illeris), but I think what stuck out to me is that we have a long way to go in our study of andragogy. Education has been around for centuries, but adult learning has only had a few decades of research. It’s also very tied to the American baby boom, as that was the first generation to create a formal need for adult learning. We see learning in general expanding from the silos of LMSs into the open world, and I think the theories around adult learning will spread out as time goes by.

And when it comes down to it, if I really want this degree, I have to be all those things that an adult learner needs to be. Motivated, experienced, self directed. I guess I can suck it up a little.

Shameless plug. You’ve been warned.

Hey all! I’m looking for website evaluators and advisors to fill out this questionnaire for me. All responses are confidential and will not be shared with HQ – they’re for a class in my Masters program. Thanks in advance – please share!


The discussion board is dead.

I’m not going to bury the lead here: I think it is lazy for e-learners to rely on integrated discussion boards as a complete and authentic discussion solution.

Last semester I was in two classes that were completely online. Both have a “discussion” part of the grade that I was failing miserably at. Why? Because the discussion is so forced. Each of them require I post by Wednesday and then by Sunday I have to respond to five classmate’s comments. While I don’t mind at all posting to the board with my thoughts on the reading, I think what bothers me most is that most everyone is phoning in the responses. I don’t think my classmates are bad people, or that the intent was poor.

But I do think it is lazy. Here’s why:

  • In an ID program, you are failing to explore new technologies by relying on the pre-baked board. So maybe you don’t have a choice in the LMS that your program chose, I understand. And I’m familiar with the school policies that require a participation grade. But to rely on the technology that comes within the LMS is like sitting on the sidelines when the rest of the world is dancing. There are so many more ways to have discussion! Web chats, video responses, the list goes on and on. And by exposing new Instructional Designers to the many ways to get discussion across over the internet, the more they are likely to adopt it in their future portfolio.
  • The internet is no longer a closed-wall universe. Back in the early ages of the internet, it was almost required to have a discussion board. But as sites become more social and there are more and more places to login I follow an acquaintance on twitter who was encouraged to post discussion on twitter with a particular hashtag. I
  • Focusing the grade on the original response does not encourage discussion. If the rubric explicitly states that I get full credit if I respond to five students, then I will respond to five students. If that student responds back, I will not get notified until I log back in again. When am I most likely to log back in again? Next week, when I have to respond to discussion again.

Please don’t get me wrong and think I hate discussion boards, because I think they still have lots of use on the internet! I’ve been involved in the same board for over a decade and keep coming back because the discussion is thorough, the technology on the board alerts me and allows me to rely via email, or through an app.

Sure, whining on the internet is about as old as the discussion board itself, so how do you stretch discussion beyond the board?

  • Make comments public. Most people try to put their best foot forward when something is being publicly scrutinized. Students will do the same, and even better, if they can take it with them in an online portfolio, then there is a double benefit.
  • Encourage discussion with a broader audience. Allow students to comment, but make them engage their own audiences instead. Have them command their own discussion and show how their friends and colleagues respond. This encourages students to build their networks and utilize them in constructive discussion.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, but I think it’s time to get back into blogging. I should be commenting on my current classes to make sure I get the full points allotted, but I felt the need to finish it instead. Funny how that works sometimes.