Will the New Generation of MOOCs (*) define what real Education should be?


Aim for success, not perfection.
Never give up your right to be wrong,
because then you will lose the ability
to learn new things and move
forward with your life.
Remember that fear always
lurks behind perfectionism.
David M. Burns

There hasn’t been a day where Education’s shows in most conversations, papers, blogs and discussion boards. The rising rate of dropouts, students indebted for half of their remaining life, the rarity to get a job after graduation, the disengagement of students from the schooling system that falls within a bureaucratic mania, and more.

When the MOOC phenomenon came to be known to a larger number of people, very soon “experts” focussed on the “potential” negative aspects rather than to have a positive “expert” view about MOOCs. Every new discovery or re-discovery will evolve, adjust until it becomes a more mature and robust solution, such is the same with MOOCs, experts should have known that, I guess!

From the first MOOCs I attended, the success factors were the personality of the professors and teachers, as technology and processes were a transposition of the academic format as performed at schools colleges or universities.

Experts were still predicting the short life of MOOCs as on the opposite hands thousands of people could finally reach somehow a mean to collect knowledge (with all the online challenges), experts kept on their skeptical track…

The following MOOCs I attended did improve and the collaborative sides of online aspects were favoured not to say reinforced (I am not speaking of discussion boards) by proposing to students a few more choices, and a variety of paths: work individually (the standards) but also the team work (like in real life), using available technologies, students could “meet” virtually, exchange their own work and share opinions and above all feel they weren’t just isolated pegs in the ocean of virtual world!

From the latest available MOOCs one can notice the fast evolution of the changing approach and most important is the “pedagogical” intervention that can be noticed from now on. MOOCs are truly proving that they are on the right track of growth and adjustments to the users’ needs and less reflecting to the “institutionalized” manner of providing education.

From attending, to collaborating MOOCs offer now a possibility to students to contribute to the course. If we consider the path that MOOCs followed from the initial launch it is obvious to admit that contribution means people’s engagement to the success and to the refining of the educative process of MOOCs.

MOOCs experts have an amazing opportunity to free themselves from the academic constrains but also from the “top-bottom” format and let their ideas and skills provide more adapted means to learners. The actual format of a MOOC offers to learners a possibility to learn their own way, yet not a perfect offering but a potential one. Learners who like to learn on their own can as others who are used to work within a team have such option, moreover all students can now contribute to the course. This last point is essential – to my opinion – as it reflects the trend that can be observed in various companies and corporate environments where employees start earning this “collaborative towards contribution”. Instead of concentrating all efforts and tasks towards a manager, people contribute in a multidisciplinary process breaking the silos that were prevailing for ages.

I do not pretend that MOOCs are the miracle solution to today’s educational challenges, yet I am convinced that they will be a trigger to a renewed thinking process that offers possibilities to all types of learners. The “one size fits all” will progressively fade out to a “learn as you know better”. Choices are endless, and of course the academic is here to stay, no one would claim it has to disappear, but may get influenced from the MOOCs oriented formats.

Education has. So far, offered two options. The first being the actual that relies on objectives, performances and grade to pass, students who do not meet the expectations will have to adjust else they are directed to the alternative educational type, the education for special needs (if and when diagnosed as unable to fit ad meet the requirements). In either ways there are many students who are “lost” in the labyrinth of such standards, not finding an appropriate environment to learn.

Education needs to fit all needs and not the other way, people fitting to the available formats.

Speaking of students with educational special needs, it has one among many, various solutions to provide to the targeted learners. Students can learn in groups or on a one on one basis, they are at the center of specialists concerns and efforts to bring learners to discover and start collecting what they need. Many tools are or can used for their learning needs. I have read a lot of studies and papers stating that the use of new technologies can help young students in that realm to better grab reading elements and to learn vocabulary or discussion through the various telecom and online video conference applications. Learners who must commute to go to their school or learning centers, can now connect online with their teachers, the fun side of such learning adds to the “schooling” format, as learners feel engaged into a contribution (response and solution finding) mindset. This would favour a better relationship with their mentor or teacher, and most likely create the “group” connection outside the learning time through chat, emails or online audio-video sessions. Ultimately they could always meet for a given activity in real life.

For those who fear that such approaches would not keep students focussed, I would rather share – from past live experiences – that the more they feel themselves as “contributors” the more responsible they act and stay focussed. I have in a recent past used the contributive approach with young learners, it was clear after almost three hours that the person who felt the need for a break was not them but me!

Again, I would encourage both mainstream and special needs specialist to sit with MOOCs designers and instructional designers to put together the amazing richness of their skills and expertise. It is a unique opportunity to define the “real education” of these times of human kind!

Let’s wish for the coming New Year 2015, to make the creation of a new Education offering a reality!

Michel – December 24, 2014

(*) MOOC: Massive Online Open Courses


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