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.