Scaffolding an Entire University to Open Learning

A lot of what I have been blogging lately is just me struggling through various ideas surrounding this whole “Dual Layer MOOC” design idea. Probably the whole term “Dual Layer” is a misleading descriptor anyways. Multiple pathways is better, but since that term already has specific designs attached to it, its hard to fight against that. “Multiple pathway” courses still tend to be “multiple siloed pathways” in which five or ten or how many ever specific defined pathways are given. That’s not really the goal that instructors have for this course.

The underlying goal is create a course that emphasizes diversity, experience, and autonomy in learning, to borrow a description from Stephen Downes.  The problem we are dealing with is the reality that the entire University system is set up in an instructivist manner that values all students going through the same path in each course in order to pass the course by doing exactly what they are told. Students are so used to this system that they are comfortable with it and start freaking out if they are forced to take an open course. To borrow a statement from George Siemens: “We can’t force students to be open.”

So the dual layer MOOC is not about blending cMOOCs and xMOOCs as much as creating a scaffold for those students who are used to instructivist learning to dip their toe in and try out networked learning – if they want. But there are those that want connected deconstructed learning from the beginning, so that option has to be a viable one from the beginning also. If at any time we create narrow pathways that force students to scaffold from instructivism to connectivism, we leave diversity, experience, and autonomy behind. So the door has to remain open, but the learner has to choose when to pass through it.

So this is not a case of the xMOOC wagging the cMOOC tail, or vice versa. If it looks that, its just because I am failing to create adequate metaphors to explain what has been coming out of the design meetings. I still like the play dough metaphor best (we’re just throwing a bunch of play dough cans on the table and learners can pick them up and use them as the like in groups or individually or even just leave the room and go get their own play dough) – but that makes for a lousy blog diagram :)

So, in a lot of ways, I just see this dual layer thing as a step on the process of scaffolding the university system from instructivism and teaching to “sharing the process of thought and inference and discovery with those around you” (to quote Stephen Downes again). That sharing process is the main reason why I started blogging so much about the dual layer MOOC – it will change and even possibly go away. I’m just sharing my process openly. And the feedback I have received has been awesome – so it has been a worthwhile process and will continue time permitting.

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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