Why this MOOC is so different to anything I’ve ever done… it’s liberating, but confusing

10 Feb

I pride myself in being pretty familiar with, and capable of, independent study. I’m a full-time undergraduate student, doing this course as an ‘added extra’, purely for my interest in the topic; and before this I spent a year learning with the Open University alongside my full-time job. I’m used to balancing competing pressures, I know to look for answers to questions before asking my teacher, and I understand the value of sharing and developing knowledge collaboratively. After two weeks of the course I am still struck by an awareness of the sheer scale of it; which I think comes through the number of different people I don’t know communicating through so many different platforms and means, but I have become accustomed to this and have found the ways to communicate with fellow students that work best for me.

There is one thing, however, which I have struggled to get my head around; something that crystallised in my mind when reading the thread ‘Where are the professors?‘ in the course discussion board. I have been merrily posting, tweeting, blogging and discussing the resources for the two weeks with whoever has the patience to listen, read or comment; but for the first time in my ‘formal’ educational experience I do not have to be aware of what my lecturer thinks or is looking for, the course aims or assessment criteria. I am writing my own opinions of the resources and the course as a whole because I am not bound by the curriculum, or a need to demonstrate any particular knowledge or skills in my writing. Never before, even in formative learning, have I felt this free to interpret learning material in my own way; rather than to a prescribed framework.

And the result? Well, I’m having a great time, for starters. It’s really liberating not to have to prove my understanding of a given conceptual framework, cite specific theorists or memorise dates. I am aware that to an extent I am doing this implicitly, in order to make sense of what I have seen and read, but I feel so much more free to interpret this in my own way. What I don’t know (and what someone in the above thread quickly picked up on) is whether what I’m coming up with is any good. Am I poorly informed? Have I completely missed the point? How will I know if I have? Are my opinions franky facile and boring? (Quite possibly.) So while I enjoy the freedom of this model, I have no established set of expectations against which to judge myself. This is strangely disconcerting.

Clearly this offers me the opportunity to learn to express myself freely; and hopefully to judge what is and is not ‘valuable’ knowledge (whether my own, or someone else’s). … But how will I know when I have achieved this?!

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One Response to “Why this MOOC is so different to anything I’ve ever done… it’s liberating, but confusing”

  1. Emilia February 18, 2013 at 12:12 am #

    “I am aware that to an extent I am doing this implicitly, in order to make sense of what I have seen and read, but I feel so much more free to interpret this in my own way. What I don’t know (and what someone in the above thread quickly picked up on) is whether what I’m coming up with is any good. Am I poorly informed? Have I completely missed the point? How will I know if I have? Are my opinions franky facile and boring?”

    Interesting questions, I’ve been wondering about them too. But i’ve also been thinking…when it comes to this kind of topic (this week’s, for example, defining the human), is there actually a good or a bad answer? Can we be right or wrong? Can teachers give better answers that we do? I mean, these are endless discussions and there is no truth, this is only about reflecting, asking ourselves questions that can be answered in many different ways. And is through this process of asking and answering that we learn, I think. Even if we just learn to make better questions 🙂

    See you around!

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