30 April 2014

Big and little questions for #ocTEL

So far I’ve participated in three MOOCs, with varying degrees of success. This is my fourth. All of them have been on some aspect of learning in the digital age. How do people learn in the digital age? How do they want to learn? How can we help them?

It seems that the people who are most successful in MOOCs, or in any inquiry-based online course, are those who are already skilled in the practice of self-directed learning, or heutagogy. For example, I was one of eventually 1616 participants in PLENK10 and the breakdown of our ages looked like this.

(Kop, 2011, p. 26)

Less than 15% under the age of 30, and most of those over 25. What about undergraduates? A large proportion of the undergraduates in my university, and in many others, are skilled in the use of digital technology and social media for social purposes but not for learning. It is not enough.
Our digital native students may be able to use technologies, but that does not mean they can learn from them. Being able to read and write never meant you could therefore learn from books (Laurillard, 2013, p. xvii).

Many of the academic staff I work with in the course of my job are skilled in using digital technology to create opportunities for students to drive their own learning. But their students ask for help. So perhaps I have two related questions to explore in this course:

  1. (With apologies to Bain (2004), how can we help our students to develop the habits of heart and mind which will enable them to become autonomous learners online?
  2. How far can heutagogy work in practice? As Plato wrote
But how will you look for something when you don’t in the least know what it is? How on earth are you going to set up something you don’t know as the object of your search? To put it another way, even if you come right up against it, how will you know that what you have found is the thing that you didn’t know? (Plato, 1961, 80.d).

There can be no definitive answer to either of these questions, but every MOOC I have taken has been a living thing that has grown and evolved in its own way. There’s always something to learn.

Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Harvard University Press.

Kop, R. (2011). The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: Learning experiences during a massive open online course. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/882

Laurillard, D. (2013). Foreword to the second edition. In H. Beetham & R. Sharpe (Eds.), Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: designing for 21st century learning (2nd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Plato. (1961). Collected dialogs of Plato including the letters. (E. Hamilton & H. Cairns, Eds.). Princeton, N.J: Princeton University. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1643/1643-h/1643-h.htm

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that doing ocTEL has got you back into blogging. One of the reasons we try to encourage it is that a blog is "yours" and, even if you leave it untended for ages, you never completely forget where it is or how to find it (which you probably would do if you were contributing on a course forum). So there is a sense in which you carry the record of your learning with you for later reflection.

    One difference I'm noticing from running the course this year, compared with last year, is that people who had already done other MOOCs were in a minority before. Now they seem to be the majority. So hopefully it's less of a 'culture shock'.

    If you're interested in heutagogy do you perhaps know my friend Fred Garnett or his work?