This comment appeared in the Where are the professors? thread, which is one I’ve been focusing on. At the end of the first week of the Education and Digital Cultures MOOC, I’ve also been wondering about patterns. What will characterise this MOOC and how will it be remembered?
Later in the thread someone commented that the feeling of isolation and confusion is symptomatic of any new e-learning group. Having been an e-learning student as well as a lecturer, I’d agree that it takes time to work out “how to be” in the new online space. In smaller classes, the lecturers will be able to step in and reassure students on an individual level.
It takes time to work out “how to be” as a lecturer too, when the configuration changes and the teaching repertoire has to be adjusted or supplemented. My own strategy this week has been to focus on this one thread, responding to the legitimate question and trying to engage in discussion using this topic rather than scatter posts across the site. This morning, though, I’ve set off a couple of new threads to attempt to generate summaries of issues: one on strategies and one on what should be left in the past, and I’ve seeded some other discussions too. It’s too early to say whether these strategies are meeting the expectations for “facilitation”: I suspect there is a technology issue here as well as a tutoring one.
I’ve been reminded of Clay Shirky’s warnings from a decade ago – A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. This is not because I have negative things to say about our 40,000-strong MOOC group – indeed, I have warm feelings about it – but because Shirky also speaks of patterns, and offers advice on what we need to accept when designing large-scale social software. I paraphrase: technology and social issues can’t be decoupled; there will be a core group of users; core group rights will take precedence over individual rights. Individual students and tutors will attempt to make their own patterns, but if it’s all going to work, a stronger pattern will emerge from the core group – however that is constituted.
It’s good to be thinking about Shirky as his current writing comes up in next week’s resources. It’s contested too – and this is important. I’ve sometimes had the impression that people feel we are promoting readings and technologies rather presenting them for critical debate. That’s why I’ve started the thread What should we leave in the past? But there is some valuable critical thinking going on in the MOOC, and we welcome it. It’s been an amazing week and I’m learning a great deal. I think I am anyway; once I’ve found the pattern, I’ll let you know.