I am the Beast: A MOOC Tourist

Photo by James Frid

What is this label - MOOC Tourist? Is this a “bad” thing to be? Why is MOOC tourism so often discussed by perplexed faces? I’ve been a grown-up for long enough now to have collected a very, very busy existance. Truth: I don’t really have time for studying. I really should be doing the dishes, running the vaccuum, taking the dog for a walk, changing the oil in my car, sewing new curtains for the breakfast room, repairing the button on my favorite sweater so I’ll have something to wear to the office in the morning.

Instead, I pass through #edcmooc and find the hangout from last Friday. I put my feet up on the coffee table and hangout with you all. I start an essay or two so I will remember to think about the things that got caught in my ears on the way by.

I am doing what a tourist does. I am relaxing. Does this desire spend my recreative time learning something, thinking constructively about questions and issues that are not related to work, home or family somehow make the knowledge I acquire in my happenstance way of less value?

Tourist, indeed.

There seems to be an assumption that it is possible to know “enough”[1] about a subject. Enough to get by. Enough to pass. Enough to move on to the next”[2], the next what? But this idea does nothing to meet the needs of the life-long student nor does it meet the demands of the engaged teacher who continues to learn his subject through teaching, through communication and collaboration with his students.

Yes, of course another class is coming behind this one to keep the teacher busy - but when does it become, for the teacher, busy working and no longer busy learning? And how does one continue teaching after that? Is there a conceptual rule for teachers to parallel the one we all know for lovers? Does education also have a value shift akin to the shift from falling in love to loving?

Broadcast -vs- Collaboration

How are either of these models different from the reality of the traditional lecture hall / study group set-up of the University experience of the late 20th century? The professor broadcasts from the stage, the students consume the lecture, make and exchange notes, meet in the cafeteria or the library or the local pub to collaborate and make meaning. In this way the MOOC is nothing new. Possibly, we are blinded by the scale, but even that seems to be unimportant to the educational core.

Is it the role of teachers to ask the right questions? – Hamish

Yes, I think it is and then it is clearly the role of the student to seek the answers. Who invests the most time in this equation, the honestly seeking student or the question asking professor? Who stands to gain? Who stands to lose? What is at stake, and why must we always compare as if whichever answers we consider stood a snowballs chance in the oven of being binary enough for a satisfactory comparison in the first place?

“Interaction, exploration, and contribution were emphasized over any sense of mastery or completion.”

  • http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/stewart_bonnie_0613.htm

For me, effective and enjoyable learning is both participatory and transmission-based. To start in a new subject, programming for instance, I won’t get far if I don’t understand the static concept of an array. I can discuss it’s meaning all day long, nothing I say will change how it works or it’s proper application.

I think, beginners need to know “What is an array?” or “How is Knit different from Perl?” and these answers must be received as transmitted. However, the minute our student accepts and embraces the array’s ordered-key-value-pairness, she is ready for her first steps in the participatory and creative application of new knowledge in a meaningful discussion, project or setting.

What does a tourist do? Am I wasting my time?

  • Vacation
  • Relaxation
  • Re-Creation
  • Word of mouth increases standort fame – increased standort fame = increased income from “real” students

Are the professors wasting their time? What is the role of the teacher? Who is the teacher and who is the student?

Why is my education important to you, Professor? Why do you teach?

[1] Look, there it is again, that word: Enough. On the one hand I am muttering about administrators who can never have enough money with a nod to the idea that "not more" should be part of the definition of the word - and yet - here I am fussing about the idea that some professors believe it is possible for a student to learn "enough" about a subject. Where does the concept of "not more" fit into that version of enough?

[2] Hey, wait! Is that a gamification metaphor already built in to concept of academia? You mean it's not a technological construct? Hmmm...