I admit it. I’m the type of person who likes doing MOOCs.
I didn’t say that I finish all of them however.
The idea of enrolling into an online course, view the content, network with some people then decide whether you’re going to stick it out for its duration – or not is actually quite liberating because I haven’t spent thousands in course fees. (So universities may not like to read this but hey, if you’re offering something for free expect to have this reaction).
I’m a firm believer of “don’t knock it until you’ve tried it ” and in my travels, I have met many learning professionals at conferences who claim that they understand and know all about MOOCs but actually haven’t enrolled, let alone complete one.
Many don’t even know the different types of MOOCs available and some even believe that it will be an answer to all their learning woes or heaven forbid, their Learning Management System replacement.
As learning professionals, we owe it to ourselves to explore these new tools that enter our markets so that we can objectively advise our clients for or against them or if they fit with their learning strategy.
When I do a MOOC, not only am I learning the content, but the instructional designer in me ponders questions like:
- How did they design the course?
- Why did they choose YouTube videos?
- The interface isn’t intuitive, why can’t I find what I’m supposed to be doing?
- How do the forums work?
- If I was to implement this platform into our organisation tomorrow, what challenges around the access will I have?
- Will corporate learners accept this learning?
- Will corporate learners want to share their badges and achievements via social sharing?
- How will this work within the corporate environment?
- Can the content be delivered in any other way namely within the workplace other than spending so many $$$ on this platform?
Everything comes back to application of the platform into a business environment.
So when I do a MOOC, I’m not just doing it for the subject matter. Although I have noticed that when I am interested and motivated to learn about the subject matter AND if it has relevance and application to my work AND there is a social element of meeting and learning from others – I finish the MOOC.
That’s not to say that I’m Mrs Perfect either. I also have my doubts and express my opinions without thinking at times and yes, even poo pooed gamification and badges – until I tried a very different looking MOOC. Imagine my surprise when I entered the Curatr platform to do the How to Be An Effective Curator Course by Sam Burrough (@burrough) and Martin Couzins (@MartinCouzins)
This MOOC had both kinds, “Badges” and “Gamification”!
So not only did this platform look different to other MOOC platforms I’ve experienced such as P2P, Open Learning, NovoEd, Coursera, Google+, Open University to name some – it had an entirely different set up and I believe it was because it uses the curation and gamification aspects to learning. You can read more about the product here.
When I first entered the site, admittedly I was slightly confused as to where I should go and what I should be doing. It wasn’t set up like other MOOCs I had experienced but being a curious learner, I started clicking the functions which quickly revealed that I had to create my personal profile and upload a photo. Some elements of the Settings tab such as adding xAPI Endpoints was unclear to me but they showed they were functions that could be used for mobile learning or linking with an LMS but not relevant for this particular course. However this did not matter in the grand scheme of things as the important factor was to get to the content and begin the course!
That’s when I saw the Leaderboard!
My heart stopped. I’m really not a competitive person and any games, leaderboards or pitted up against other people in a show to get the most points, jibbers, stars – whatever – sends me in convulsions.
However, as a “professional” learning professional, I had to give this a go. I had to be prepared to test my assumptions and who knows, maybe even learn something.
And learn I did.
Initially, starting from zero and having to work your way through the content to get some points was slightly demoralising. My husband was calling out that dinner was ready and I was clicking on items that I could read that had more value to me to get me up that leaderboard. For example, would it be worth my while to read an article that would take me 60 minutes to read and get the most points versus reading two articles for less time and some points?
This was my initial thinking. I was gamifying the system. Maybe that was their intention? But is that true learning? Or is it something akin to what learners do nowadays with boring mandatory compliance training and go to the assessment first, make some guesses, get their answers and retake the assessment so it’s testing memory recall and not the content?
However, a funny thing started to happen as I was moving through the levels.
Things started getting really interesting. The articles and references chosen for the course started to make me think and reflect. Many of the sites I looked for on the web and saved them for my own future reference in Evernote.
I was having my “A Ha” moments about digital curation and I came upon a realisation that I’m more of an aggregator for my own research purposes. The only time I curate is for my internal clients is when I’m trying to coach or guide them around a tool or function that they could use in their business and where I have used my own references for work purposes.
Once you’re in the Curatr site and complete the course, racking up points for finishing the article, commenting and replying to posts and getting extra points if people vote your response highly, you get badges. Initially, I thought I could also transfer them to my Mozilla Open Badge Backpack but I had some difficulty however this didn’t worry me too much because really, it was all a trial really.
Here is a crappy screen shot of the Portfolio of badges (I should have closed the tabs but now you know that I was looking at shade sail installations as well as booking a service for our air conditioning unit and checking emails….)
Situation normal…Multi-tasking at its best….This is what our learners do anyway….
Of course, I was pleasantly surprised as I worked through the content which then took a life of its own. I was enjoying reading and commenting to the posts and getting notifications of people responding to them. Through a few levels, I completely forgot about the leader board and just continued to read, reflect and save my own notes to links in Evernote. I was getting into the flow.
Imagine my surprise when I got back into the dashboard and saw that I was FIRST on the leaderboard!
I did a bit of a happy dance and quickly sat back down. Once again, winning is not the intention of true learning but I couldn’t resist posting this up on Facebook for a joke….
Followed soon after the next couple of days with….
So what’s my message in all this?
You can knock MOOCs, Badges, Gamification, Google Glass, Apps, Mobile Learning – whatever but if you do, at least give the products a go first and see how they may or may not be used within the context of your work and for the benefit of your clients and your organisation.
Be the curious learner, have an open mind and just experiment because it may be surprising what you end up learning not just about the subject matter but more importantly, about yourself.
Photo Credit on Carousel on Front Page: