I think the best way to understand how and why educators need to change practice is for educators to be students themselves. But not traditional students in a traditional course either face-to-face or online. Not a course that has deadlines, pre-determined activities, and averages. Attending a course like that will not change practice. To begin to understand the needs of our students-what they know,  what they want to know, and how best they can learn-is to put ourselves in exactly that situation. Hence, the MOOC.

Massively, Open, Online, Courses.  The 2013 Horizon Project Preview (Higher Education Edition) summarizes the growth and potential of MOOCs:

When Stephen Downes and George Siemens coined the term in 2008, massively open online courses
(MOOCs) were conceptualized as the next evolution of networked learning. The essence of the original
MOOC concept was a web course that people could take from anywhere across the world, with
potentially thousands of participants. The basis of this concept is an expansive and diverse set of
content, contributed by a variety of experts, educators, and instructors in a specific field, aggregated
into a central repository, such as a web site. What made this content set especially unique is that it
could be “remixed” — the materials are not necessarily designed to go together but become
associated with each other through the MOOC. A key component of the original vision is that all
course materials and the course itself are open source and free — with the door left open for a fee if a
participant taking the course wished university credit to be transcripted for the work. Since those early
days, interest in MOOCs has evolved at an unprecedented pace, fueled by high profile entrants like
Coursera, Udacity, and edX. In these examples, the notion has shifted away from open content or even
open access, to an interpretation in which “open” equates to “no charge.” The pace of development in
the MOOC space is so high that it is likely that a number of alternative models will emerge in the
coming year. Ultimately, the models that attract the most participants are gaining the most attention,
but many challenges remain to be resolved in supporting learning at scale.

I think what I am most anxious about, as in excited, is coming to understand what “expansive and diverse content” looks like. As a former high school teacher turned literacy coach, I get that students will engage it what they are interested about. They will invest time in work that intrigues them. They will have stamina to complete projects that challenge them.  I just need to figure out how to make this happen for each and every student.

This is why I am here. I think. ETMOOC may be about higher education, but first we have to get the kids there.


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