Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

To MOOC or not to MOOC

"To MOOC or not to MOOC, that is the question. Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrow of outrageous learning, Or to take regular classes against a sea of technology, and by opposing them, return to the classroom...." loosely paraphrased from William Shakespeare's Hamlet: Director of educational technology.
In other words, the decision on whether to use a MOOC (or not) is not a quick fix to any institutions educational technology challenges. Deploying a MOOC requires as much planning and development time as any other class, online or classroom. And one of the first decisions that need to be made is about what type of MOOC should be used, a decision that relates to an institution’s general approach to learning.
The xMOOC is best used in formal settings that use traditional, pre-determined-curriculum, instructor-led classes (sage-on-the stage or guide on the side), and fixed schedules that use lectures, assignments, and tests. Good examples of this type are the MOOCs offered by Stanford University. Daphne Koller's gives an excellent presentation about this at the TED conference. She also describes how Coursera was developed as a platform at Stanford that later became an independent company for other schools.
But an institution that whose pedagogical approach is connectivist and informal (or free-choice) learning would be better served by deploying a cMOOC. This model is based more on a bottom-up style of learning, driven more by the desire of the participants to create their own meaning of content by connecting different types of data from multiple sources. In this example, the instructor provides questions and general guidelines for the class material, but the students find, interpret and aggregate and make sense of the material, in a way that is both meaningful and authentic to them.
The cMOOC is messier than the traditional style of the xMOOC, yet can be just as effective, if not more so than the xMOOC. By relying on the input of the students, there is greater access to more experts in the course content, as well as related fields then is possible then the xMOOC. This is particularly important in the humanities and arts, where content and meaning is driven by interpretation and iteration. I would argue that the cMOOC could also be an efficient and excellent model for museum education, which is more often based on informal, free-choice learning than the stricture of a fixed curriculum. Museums and their programs attract a wide range of visitors, each with their own expertise, experience and knowledge. A cMOOC creates an ongoing, 24/7 learning experience that prepares and extends a visitor’s experience. A cMOOC can be used as a platform for reaching out to those unable to actually visit. Additionally, in today’s economic climate, a cMOOC is a potential platform for creating large, online exhibitions based on content from a wide range of museums and collections that would be finically challenging to do in a practical exhibition.
After the learning approach and type of MOOC are identified, the technology platform and curriculum can be developed.

NEXT: Technology platforms for museum MOOCs


Siemens, George, MOOCs are really a platform-

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