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.