The Biggest MOOC Ever? NARC101: The Thought Processes of the Individual at This Moment in Time

A few more random thoughts from the MRI13 conference. Which probably won’t be the last. One of the ideas explored at the conference was that “course” is really a bad descriptor for open learning. “Community” would be a closer idea, especially if it is one that can continue after the official “course” end date passes. We also know that many cMOOCs rely as much on informal learning as they do formal learning. Some are even going into completely student-directed learning such as the DS106 Headless course.

Now, I’m not trying to say that we should get rid of instructors or SMEs or guides or what ever you want to refer to basically the person in charge. But the general direction of most good MOOCs are towards being community-oriented  gatherings for people to learn formally and informally with as much student-involvement/leadership as possible. As I was pondering this, something about it seemed really familiar. As if I had been a part of this for a long time and didn’t realize it. Then it hit me – we have all been a part of some of the largest MOOCs ever for a long time and may have not even realized it.

Facebook. Twitter. Tumblr. You name the social network. They are all… MOOCs.

Take Facebook for example. It is massive. It is open and online (and not just in the sense of free and digital). It is a community. And we are all learning things – whether it is informally about what our cousin had for dinner or a formal bit of knowledge that is similar to what we would find in college. Just today I watched a video about creating aluminum sculptures out of fire ant mounds. I probably saw a dozen creative videos just like this is some of my college art classes. Scrolling down my  feed just now I see at least a dozen things that would have counted as content back in college. And hundreds of other things that wouldn’t, but still count as informal learning.

But Facebook itself is completely learner-centered. There is no teacher dictating the content – we all get to share whatever we want. Or maybe Zuckerberg does see Facebook as course (NARC101: The Thought Processes of the Individual at This Moment in Time). Maybe “what are you doing right now?” IS the learning topic of any given social network.

Anyway, I am sure that I am not the first to think of this, and I know there are holes in my analogy. But what I really want to get at is this: what can we learn from Facebook and Twitter and other social networks about what it means to be in a massive, open, online, learner-centered community? Yes, I know that Facebook is not open in the sense of DS106 and supporting ideas of owning your own digital identity. But I think we can learn some things about how people interact in massive open online communities, what kind of interfaces they like, what they don’t like (especially when Facebook makes one of its infamous flubs), etc. I don’t have any specific thoughts off the top of my head in that area, but I’m sure I will soon :)

Matt Crosslin

Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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