ETMOOC and the seven principles for good education

The first topic of ETMOOC, Connected learning is ending today. After given some opinions about the risks I see with connected learning I want to devote this post to my experiences with it in ETMOOC. I will focus on what I learned so far, why I think I learned and how I think my learning could improve further.

There are many ideas out there why learning occurs but I have always liked the “Seven Principles For Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” as a guideline for determining if learning is likely to occur. So what I will do is take these seven principles and apply them to the ETMOOC experience.

Encourages contact between students and faculty

The main idea of this principle is that contacts between faculty and students is motivating for students and gives faculty the opportunity to support students when they run into any type of problems.

In ETMOOC there is the potential for a lot of interaction between the organizers, moderators and speakers on one hand and the participants on they other hand. The organizers are putting a lot of energy in providing a safe and cooperative environment. During the scheduled “classes” in Blackboard collaborate they provide several opportunities to interact and also outside of classes there is a lot of interaction between the organizers and the participants going on.

For me it was motivating to see that my first blog post was tweeted about by two of the organizers of ETMOOC. What was very motivating was to have Dave Cormier reacting to my post about Rhizomatic learning. Also because it was a very friendly reaction while I was critiquing Rhizomatic learning. It is difficult for me, because of the timing, to take the scheduled “classes” so I watch the recordings.

I think the set-up of ETMOOC really applies this principle though I have no idea how much interaction with the organizers other participants experience.

Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students

The main idea of this principle is that cooperating with other students and reacting to what they are saying and doing “sharpens your thinking and deepens your understanding” of the subject matter.

In ETMOOC all participants are encouraged to have a blog where they write and reflect  about the topics that are discussed. It is encouraged that other participants react on those posts and that the original poster reacts back to that. Participants are also encouraged to set-up sessions with other participants about any relevant topic they want to discuss with them. Both things, reacting and setting up sessions by participants, are indeed happening.

So far I have experienced little interaction with other participants. Quite a few people have read my posts but no reactions to them so far. I must admit that I have been lazy myself also in reading other peoples blog posts and in commenting to them (the one comment I did give is still under moderation :-). Apart from being lazy myself a reason for that is that the amount of blogs you can go to is a bit overwhelming. Too much information and (even with featured posts) hard to find out what I would like to read.

I think the set-up of ETMOOC really applies this principle but I could imagine that it is still hard for a lot of participants to get to real interaction with others. What could be helpful is if the organizers would give out interaction assignments to the participants.

Encourages Active Learning

The main idea of this principle is that you have to for example talk and write about what you are learning.

As said before all participants are encouraged to have a blog and write about the topics that are discussed there is also encouragement for discussing topics with the other participants. There are a lot of participants that write blog posts and are discussing topics with others.

This here is my first blog and it is there because of ETMOOC. I have written posts I would not have written without participating in ETMOOC. So I have spend quite some time on writing and reflecting about the topic so far.

This principle is well applied in ETMOOC. Also here I think the participants could profit from the organizers being clear about the amount of posts (and length, thoughtfulness etc.) they expect from the participants in order to come to learning.

Gives Prompt Feedback

The main idea of this principle is that your learning improves if you get frequent feedback on what you are writing, saying and doing.

As described before the whole idea of ETMOOC is set-up around a lot of possibilities for interaction between the participants among each other and with the organizers. Interaction is not the same as feedback though. The safeguard for if feedback is right and worthwhile seems to be that most of it happens in public spaces where other participants can see it also and can correct if necessary.

For me it was great to get feedback from Dave Cormier on my post it stimulated me to think some more about my opinions. But I would have liked to have a lot more feedback. It would have been great to get feedback for example from Sue Waters about my first blog posts to see if I had understood what she had been teaching is in her sessions. I understand it is not possible for the organizers to give direct feedback to all the participants. An idea could be to transform some of the things you learn (how to blog as an example) into rubrics that participants could use as a guideline to react to your posts.

I think there is great potential for benefiting from this principle in ETMOOC. For sure some valuable feedback is been given but I certainly see room for improvement here.

Emphasizes Time on Task

The main idea of this principle is that the more time you spend on a topic the more you learn about it.

In ETMOOC there are a lot of scheduled activities and the whole set-up is such that you can spend endless time reading all the blogs and the links within them. Actually the organizers warn you to not try to read everything there is. There is no control on the amount of time the participants spend and its hard to get a clear idea of the average time the participants spend on their tasks for ETMOOC. I have no hard proof but it feels as if there is a lot of difference between the time the participants spend.

So far I have watched all the recordings of the scheduled sessions, spend quite some time on writing my four blog posts and have spend to little time on reading others blogs and reacting to them.

I think there is great potential for benefiting from this principle in ETMOOC. Participants who are motivated will have no problem devoting a lot of time to the material that is available and writing about it. There is no explicit push from the organizers to spend time apart from (successful) attempts to make participants enthusiastic to do something.

Communicates High Expectations

The main idea of this principle is that if a teachers expects more from students he or she will get more from them.

The organizers of ETMOOC certainly do there best to communicate high expectations to the participants. The making of the lip dub in a short time was a good example of this. For sure effective for the people motivated to participate maybe less so for the people that are struggling to devote sufficient time to ETMOOC. The whole set-up with writing blogs and expecting the participants to write worthwhile contributions on them is also communicating high expectations.

For me it was a nice challenge to finally set-up that blog that I had been thinking about quite a few times already. So far I did not really feel the high expectations when it comes to interacting with other participants and reacting to their contributions.

Its hard to effectively communicate high expectations in a set-up like this MOOC. Weak links seem to have great effects in some areas here I think they don’t work really well.

Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

The main idea of this principle is that there are many different ways in which students learn. Education should be set-up in such a way that students can do it in the way that suits them best.

There is a lot of freedom in ETMOOC for the participants to find there own approach to the way they learn. You can participate in live sessions but also watch the recordings, you can write your own blog posts or react to others, you can use the tools you like best to do the activities you have to do. Participants can be seen to do things in all types of different ways.

For me learning occurs when I can engage critically with what is presented to me. ETMOOC certainly gives me the opportunity to do so and also has an atmosphere where you feel free to do it your own way.

I think this principle is applied very well in the set-up of ETMOOC.

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8 Responses to ETMOOC and the seven principles for good education

  1. ilonkahebels says:’s af reaction 🙂 I agree that communicating is not the same as usefull feedback. If you get it that’s an extra stimulus I guess,. My main learning experience so far is being in the Mooc itself and finding out how it is organized, how other people are moving around in it and so on. But that is valuable to me already. Besides of that there are some articles and concepts I was not familiar with yet. So I , like you, enjoy being in it in the first place. We’ll see where it leads to.
    Kind regards from another participant 🙂

  2. susanvg says:

    I think we all go into the etmooc with different backgrounds, needs etc. and will only get out of it what we put into it. I am not trying to ready every blog (or even many blogs). Life gets in the way. But I am trying to engage in conversation with a few blogs.

    I do agree that getting feedback (a comment) is encouraging and sets off my thinking. But I have to remind myself that I don’t write for the comments. I write to clarify my thinking.

    The nice thing about the blogs is that they won’t go away. I can do this course at my own speed – even reading blogs in months from now. There is no real deadline, no marks. So I can set my own goals as to what I want to learn and how I will go about learning.

    You have brought up some interesting points. I think moocs work best with self-directed learners. For others it can be overwhelming and feel directionless.

    • louwarnoud says:

      Thanks for your comment. Yes being able to do the course at your own pace is another good example of respecting diverse ways of learning. I do like to get some comments to see what others are thinking about the points I raise.

  3. Sue Waters says:

    Hi Louwarnoud

    Not sure if I can say I’m awake yet this morning! But here goes.

    First question before I start is did you set up Google Reader and subscribe to the blog hub? Checking because you mention featured posts and if you’re not reading with Google Reader it will make blog reading time consuming.

    Interaction assignments is an interesting concept and maybe it should be considered to help the connections? Suggest you tweet the post at Alec and ask if he minds responding when you’ve approve my comment.

    I agree there would be a lot of posts that people aren’t getting comments on. It’s hard because comments motivate people and are an important part of the blogging cycle; while trying to balance people on not being too worried about who reads as that can affect some new bloggers ability to blog.

    Years ago we did a commenting challenge where each day participants had a different task relating to comments to complete. There were some critics of it; because they felt some participants where commenting for the sake of commenting rather than being moved to understanding the skillsthey needed to become more effective commenters.

    Learning does happen when you critically engage.

    I’ve visited a lot of participants posts. The reasons i hadn’t left comments on your earlier posts are really simple (and that should be taken as a good thing!). I could see that you were both linking well and reflecting.

    • louwarnoud says:

      Thanks for your response. I did set-up google reader but did not use it so far. The other blogs I read are mostly links from tweets from other participants.
      I think the benefits of making commenting more of an obligation outweigh the drawbacks. Especcially if you give participants clear instructions (rubric) what a good comment looks like. If I think about your sessions on blogging they could easily be translated in a set of guidelines for participants on how to blog, other participants could then be asked to use those guidelines to reflect on the quality of a blogpost of somebody else. Of course this should be done in such a way that participants don’t get a fear for blogging.

      The quality of the comments could also suffer because people are completely free to blog about what they want. That makes that there is a wide array of things that people blog about. This amount of topics does not make it easier to say something worthwhile.

      As a participant you would also like to see how the quality of your blogging improves over time and really gains in quality by also taking commenting seriously as you stated in your talk. For me this relationship untill now is not really clear, commenting feels like a burden and so far does not give me the idea that my blogging improves. With the exeption of reacting on comments on my own posts. Sounds a bit egoistical but being open about it maybe helps to change it.

  4. Sue Waters says:

    Hi Louwarnoud

    The key really is about being time effective.

    1) Reading – make reading faster so that if you choose to comment the whole process is speed up. Nothing wrong with getting the links from Twitter however I can promise you it is far more time efficient to be using Google Reader with the blog hub feed. Also inserting that it is considerably faster again if you use an Android tablet or iPad for your reading and commenting.

    2) Comment – use the Notify me of follow-up comments via email. at the end of the post to subscribe to email notifications of new comments so you can easily reflect on someone’s else’s response and choose to respond back.

    It’s not necessarily that your blogging improves over time; it is that your learning greatly increases when you realise reading and commenting are an important part of the cycle. That is what is even more important.

    Let me show you an example of the entire blogging cycle in action where all involved where evaluating, reviewing, reflecting and revising through comments and posts on each others blogs.

    Brent wrote a post on “Please don’t over-share” . I responded back to say you have to appreciate there are reasons why people take different approaches and it is important to understand that – Jeannine came back to the post and reflected on our conversation to say it gave her deeper insight –

    Jeannine followed up with writing her own post about it –

    Meanwhile Lynn Hilt wrote a post on Blogging about Blogging – where she reflected on my blogging cycle I left a comment on her post which then lead to her and Brent connecting.

    • louwarnoud says:

      Thanks for the great example of the whole blogging cycle. Maybe I am a bit to impatient and want to experience the effects of this cycle immediattely while I should just give it some more time.

      Will do my reading in Google reader next week and write about my experiences, hope it does lead to a more natural flow of commenting. I am allready reading on a tablet, the only drawback is the comments that I get from my family about the tablet being in my hands constantly (I like to play games on it also).

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