Adult 640 #18: In search of cognitive tissue

In an e-Learning course, one would expect to engage and fully support all things technology.  Digital culture, as the three (3) readings for this week suggest, has participated in the good, the bad and the ugly side of education and adult learning.  Learning in a Massive Open and Online setting captured my interest beginning in 2012 with my first course, e-Learning and Digital Cultures offered through the University of Edinburgh and Coursera. Rather than revisit and discuss my participation again, referencing components that influence my possible work as a designer are more relevant than an overview of what occurred six (6) years ago.

The Hopeful-    I blogged about :  My first experience

MacDonald and Ahern, in Exploring the Instructional Value and Worth of a MOOC discusses the assessment, value, and worth of a MOOC for adult learners.

Of importance for me to consider as a novice are:

  • The participant’s time is of value.  This value should be established at the beginning of the course and should be a “fair trade” on the part of the learner and the design team.
  • Value and worth are partner’s in the success of a MOOC.  Designers must consider what will maintain the active engagement.
  • Learners are engrossed, excited and alive when excited about what they learn.
  • A sense of meaningfulness is crucial in motivating participants to be engaged in their learning.
  • When considering the location of participation, select one location and the day of the week in which to participate.
  • Participation dwindles as both the week and the course progress.

My experience:  Two months prior to the beginning of the digital cultures course, the instructors suggested that participants explore social media formats as a way in which to prepare for the course.  The explosion surrounding the connections that emerged far surpassed their expectations.  Groups subdivided numerous times into smaller groupings, which ultimately maintained my participation.  Quad-blogging, the suggestion of a participant, connected me with individuals.  Google Hangouts were tricky with members who live in multiple time zones across the world but were the best part of the experience for me. Placing a face and voice with a speaker added the dimension necessary to move from peripheral participation to full participation in the weekly discussion threads.

The Realistic-

MOOCs were indeed rampant in the cyber world of e-learning. In his reflection, MOOC rampant, Jon Baggaley, suggests that this platform is probably the easiest to implement.  As I am learning, implementing and designing, are two different beasts. The time necessary to design my module for this course is comparable to any other coursework I’ve completed in higher education. When planning for learning experiences, the rule of thumb is 3-4 hours of preparation for 1 hour of instruction. In his reflection, he referenced an incident which occurred at the University of Virginia in 2012.  It’s one that sparked my interest in understanding this movement.  In referencing it in the above blog, I am reminded how far institutions can move from the ideals of learning and education.

Reality can bite:

  • I can lose my intellectual property?  In any setting where I have worked, what I’ve created is the property of my organization.  What I own and what the organization owns are two (2) difference beasts.  As an educator, ownership is not my priority. Learning for all and the placement of the learner in the curriculum is of greater value to me than that of intellectual property.
  • The disruptive and interpersonal effects don’t necessarily need to be a negative component, in my opinion, of collaboration and learner-centered learning.  Learning in a group is composed of paradoxes.  Establishing the ground rule for participation is crucial to maintaining collaboration.  I’ve taken Learning in Groups and Teams a well as Group Dynamics.  As the facilitator, I am expected to use what I’ve learned for the success of the group.
  • Accommodating cultural differences is a HUGE component of e-Learning, as I experienced.  Again, establishing ground rules and the concept of microaggressions is crucial.  A dimension of understanding is lost when learning is purely digital.  Planning for and anticipating it is necessary.
  • Discussion is an important component of the module created for this course.  AS facilitator, I am reminded to revisit the page and establish expectations for behavior.  As the moderator, I chose to approve posts, which may not adhere to the nature of open dialogue.
  • Rating and vying for the top dog position was evidenced in several MOOCs.  Competition rather than connection was rewarded.
  • Connectedness doesn’t always ensure interaction, as suggested in Baggaley’s reflection. Providing a safe place in which to do so is my responsibility as the moderator. It is the reason why participation in the module is closed, monitored and held in a space for those who provide the unique instruction of my work setting.

My experience: When considering how MOOCs have transitioned from my initial participation of open educational resources, I notice how many have options for certificates for purchase.  This was not an option in 2012. I have identified my participation on my Linkedin page.  It’s one component of my development as a learner. Certificates of completion are the ways in which I verify completion of required staff development as a way to maintain my license and position. To transition from open and free to “please purchase our program” reeks of bait and switch.  It is the reality of programs offered online in 2018.

And now for the snarky…

Robert Zamensky holds relatively little back in his With a MOOC MOOC HERE…

Of consideration to me at this stage in my development are:

  • My module will not have tens of thousands of participants.  I am not comfortable being in the limelight.  I want the learning, connections, and reflection to be of greatest importance to learners.
  • A digital platform will be an open door as long as the learners possess the correct key with which to open it.  As discussed in an earlier blog, the demographics of the participants in the course are composed of individuals who matriculated through full-time work sans digital learning.  Treading lightly with a very welcoming front door is essential for full participation to thrive.
  • Module users may have similar needs in terms of knowledge applicable to their work, however, expectations and scaffolding may be more complex.
  • This module will not sell itself as world-class.  There’s no price to pay aside from time, which is certainly of value to most.
  • It is my hope that the ROI (return on investment) will propel resistant learners to engage more fully.
  • Completion rates in the module are of great importance.  Benefactors, in the form of grantors, expect participation.  The onus falls on the learner, the designer, and the technician who creates the site.

My experience: It is not my desire to be a “merchant of learning.”  I’m not selling a product.  The module will sell itself when participants connect with others who provide similar services to adult learners who provide similar services to adult learners.  Connective tissue, as suggested by Zaminsky, plans for connected and meaningful learning exercises. Understanding how individuals measure meaningful inquiry leads to the embodiment of learning as opposed to content dump and regurgitation. One “O” in MOOC, he reminds us that one size does not fit all.  As the moderator, understanding the pulse of participants means shifting expectations and timelines.


Lab chewing a bone
There’s a lot to chew on…

One of the best ways to really evaluate and determine how relevant a MOOC may be for one’s module is to experience a MOOC.  I have completed three (3) MOOCs but have participated in many without completion.  What is your experience and how did it inform your decision regarding the module that you are creating for this course?


Baggaley, J. (2013). MOOC rampant. Distance Education34(3), 368-378.

MacDonald, P., & Ahern, T. C. (2015). Exploring the instructional value and worth of a MOOC. Journal of Educational Computing Research52(4), 496-513.

Zemsky, R. (2014). With a MOOC MOOC here and a MOOC MOOC there, here a MOOC, there a MOOC, everywhere a MOOC MOOC. The Journal of General Education63(4), 237-243.