Over the past 15 years, I have been researching student experience and use of language through being a student: in a new subject area (first mechanical engineering, then digital education); in a new mode (fully online); and on a new scale (a MOOC).
It’s hard to get published in reputable academic journals on this topic, probably because it seems too subjective. One anonymous reviewer wrote: ‘Can staff/researchers ever really become students in any meaningful sense?’ My response to that question is: ‘Yes, they can, and indeed it would probably help their practice.’ I’d even say that – in a very meaningful sense – researchers should never stop being students.
Of course there is a danger in assuming that my own student experience is generalisable: that would be foolish. But being a student provides insights on processes of learning as they happen – and before they become ‘fossilised’ as Vygotsky wrote in Mind in Society (page 64). Many of our EDCMOOC students are teachers who are doing the MOOC to find out what it is like to be a student on one. (Some teachers are auditing the MOOC – also useful, but not the same as being an active student.) Being a student provides a great opportunity to see first hand not only how other teachers design a MOOC but also how many different students respond to it and how meanings are jointly constructed. And at the time that it happens. Blogs are great for recording these moments; we forget them so easily once we’ve passed from not-knowing to knowing.
We all bring resources and repertoires from previous experiences: no student comes to a course with a blank slate. And nowhere is this more obvious than on the EDCMOOC. Students of all kinds (not only teachers) are sharing insights, aha moments, experiences, techniques, software, and many other resources.
This sharing is important for peer support; teachers also learn from it. This always happens in a course; every time I mark an excellent assignment I increase my own knowledge and teaching repertoire in some way. It often happens with less than excellent assignments too. Here, it is happening on a huge scale. I’ve lost count of the new ideas stimulated by students I’ve had over the past four weeks. I only hope some of them stay in my head long enough for me to do something with them.
All the recent posts in ‘Teaching E-learning and Digital Cultures’ show that our whole team has been enriched by what the students have brought to EDCMOOC. We’re learning too.