Launching into my first Massive Open Online Course, I truly did not know what to expect. My primary learning experiences have been, for the most part, pedagogically structured, and it is only recently that I have participated in student directed learning. To be quite honest, the chaos of the MOOC structure (or lack thereof) caught me quite off guard. Although the purpose of the MOOC is to allow participants to ‘connect’ to others to facilitate learning, I felt very much disconnected without the familiarity of the teacher-centered classroom experience. But I soldiered on, braced myself, and logged in to the majority of the sessions. I set up a Twitter and G+ account, and even created a blog to connect with my fellow participants. Unknowingly, I was creating my Personal Learning Environment and establishing a connected network within which to experience ETMOOC. Better yet, I was beginning my journey into Rhizomatic and Connected Learning, where we create our own path to knowledge through questioning and exploration.
As my ‘newbie’ anxiety faded and I began to experience a bit more comfort in the free-for-all format, I settled in and stopped thinking about the environment and started thinking about learning. The topic of Digital Storytelling was introduced, and although the content was mainly focused on the K-12 learner, I found the concept of storytelling compelling and wanted to investigate this further. In my professional and technical training environment, using storytelling is not typically used however, I dabbled with scenarios and examples with my learners in the classroom and found that these ‘stories’ enabled them to make the connection between facts and practice. The post-learning feedback I received indicated that the scenarios I provided helped the learners to apply abstract content to real-life situations with a positive result.
The third topic explored in ETMOOC, Digital Literacy, outlined the challenges of the ‘wild-west’ of learning and the challenges of navigating and validating endless sources of content. Within my own organization, I do have a good measure of control over the content that I create however, I do not have a good content management solution nor can I prescribe specific content as mandatory. Part of my role in supporting digital literacy for my learners, is to establish the evaluation of content through a set of newly established tags developed for this purpose. Rather than having to wade through thousands of archived documents in our learning management system, my learners can filter by topic/provider/audience tags that will help them get to the most relevant content. This step alone is greatly impacting the efficiency and reliability of learning content in support of building digital literacy in my organization. Beyond access to and appropriate filtering of available course content, I am also creating e-spaces for learners to collaborate, explore, and interact with learning. I am working to create environments that make individual and group learning visible.
Although the content I create for my learners will not be made publicly available, the Open Movement has provided a wealth of professional learning opportunities. As an example, we are beginning to explore the integration of new technologies and learning options and need to ground ourselves in these topics before we can recommend any expenditure. One of the upcoming MOOC opportunities is centered on Gamification, one of the topics we seek to explore. I and a colleague will participate in this MOOC, at no cost, to gain a basis of knowledge that will enable further exploration of this as a viable learning approach. It is also through open access to education that I’ve been fortunate to experience a variety of learning approaches including blogging, tweets, vlogging, and Instagram. The possibilities are endless.
The final topic in ETMOOC, Digital Citizenship, helped me to establish many of the participant expectations I now incorporate into my learning programs. With the Connected Learning model, collectively we shoulder the responsibility to provide a forum for learning. The migration of learners from the periphery into the center of the learning community should be embraced and fostered. Variances in levels of participation should be expected and allow for those most passionate about topics to take center stage while those only tangentially connected can step in and out as they deep appropriate. Taking a look at the ‘big picture’ and reflecting on the experience of participating in a MOOC, I may have now broken free of the pedagogical confines that I once ascribed to learning. It is my hope that I can persuade and influence other educators to take a seat in the back of the virtual classroom as well.