MOOCs – an awkward dance

Last Friday I attended the FutureLearn Academic Network (FLAN) day at the OU 2017. It has been interesting working in EdTech over the past seven years as MOOCs have been something that sparks discussions about education. Even at this conference we ended with a discussion asking if anything has actually changed. In order to explore the question of MOOCs I think an analogy of a dance may help. I recently saw a tweet that said something along the lines of the following: Open is like having an invitation to a dance, but access is getting people to actually dance. In broadening this notion in a way almost everyone at FLAN was trying to figure out how to get more people dancing.

I like the idea of thinking of a MOOC as one giant middle school dance. We have a large number of people getting together for a social event and so far it seems like there are lots of people that are showing up in an awkward fashion and not necessarily dancing. Recapping some of the research from the conference in terms of this analogy you can get a sense of what happened at the conference.

Tina Papathoma asked how teachers learned to get people dancing. Fereshte Goshtasbpour asked how first time instructors got people dancing in discussion forums. Shi Min Chua looked at the the dance moves people had in discussion and classified their moves in terms of loners and those that reply . Philip Tubman asked if we needed to coordinate the dance better so that everyone could be dancing together. While Steve Cayzer was interested in measuring how well three people danced together. Tim O’Riordan wanted to know if the dance was an expression of critical thinking. Janesh Sanzgiri compared the global dance of MOOCs with a more local dance going on in India like NPTEL. Francisco “Paco” Iniesto asked if students with disabilities were dancing and the project I worked on with Paco asked if the song that was playing was emotional enough to get people dancing.

As this post has centered around having lots of people at a dance that are not yet dancing it reminds me of the “Leadership From A Dancing Guy” video posted by Michael Hughes.

In this video a lone nut starts a movement. In a way, the conference was a group of people trying to identify the lone nuts in MOOCs and figure out how to get them followers. It was a fun afternoon and it was great to see peoples ideas about MOOCs at FLAN.