On Learning and Coursera

I guess I ‘failed’ my Coursera course, e-Learning and Digital Cultures. This is the first Coursera course I have actually started taking, though not the first I have signed up for. Why did I ‘fail’? Because I didn’t turn in my digital artifact, the only assignment for the course, in time for review. In fact, I haven’t even done one yet. I have an outline. I signed up for a platform I chose to be the medium for my message. But I got sick. And then the deadline passed. And then I moved on to other things.

But I don’t really feel like I’ve ‘failed’ the class, in many senses of the word. I participated in an in-person discussion group with coworkers from across the Library. It was refreshing and interesting to meet with them once a week for four weeks. One of the reasons I decided to really participate in this class was because I knew I had at least a few people who would be available an hour a week to talk about our impressions on the class and on online learning (or really, learning) in general.

I also blogged a few times, took notes, had additional conversations, and thought a lot about the topics and the materials assigned for the class. I still do think about this class and the materials I was exposed to during the five weeks the course ran. I’m looking forward to going back to the readings and my exposure to these concepts have already dispersed into conversations with friends, coworkers and my family when we talk about The World We Live In Today.

So in these respects, I think the class was a success and my experience in it, also a success. I am a bit disappointed that I don’t have a certificate to show that I did participate, but I have my blog, my conversations and the connections I made with my coworkers that serve as ‘proof’ I engaged in the subject. I’m not looking to fill a gap in my resume or showcase hard skills. I took the class for the purpose of digging a little bit deeper into the topic of education, especially technologically mediated education, and I was able to do just that. I could have dug much, much, deeper but I appreciate that the faculty organizing the course expected and welcomed a variety of ways of engaging with the topics.

We were not treated as students but as learners.

Maybe I’ll go back and ‘take’ the course again, reading what I didn’t the first time around and trying to engage with it through other channels (reading more blogs, twitter, etc.) and maybe I’ll work on my artifact and submit it for formal acknowledgement that I engaged in the course. Maybe I won’t.

Next week is Open Education Week and we have developed a series of events in the Library that celebrate openness in education, from discussions about Wikipedia (and edit-a-thons), to sharing stories about what open education means to students and staff. We are also hosting an open discussion on online learning and kicking off a campus wide discussion about connected learning environments. All of these things are facets of technologically mediated education and the cultures that develop around learning.

I’m looking forward to engaging in these conversations next week, especially after taking this MOOC. This acronym is mentioned a lot in conversations and meetings at the university, most of the time as a ‘new’ opportunity to engage learners on a very different scale than previously achieved. I was glad to get the chance to dig deeper into this concept in the class–getting beyond the ‘disruptive’ nature of the MOOC and really thinking about what learning means in today’s transnational culture. Too often I think we are finding ourselves distracted by scale, by computing ability (analytics), and by reach in education.

I didn’t join Open.Michigan to support these things. I joined because I believe that we have more (not necessarily new) opportunities these days to build our knowledge base, skills, and interests alongside, within, and outside of formalized education. I was, and still am, interested in providing not just access but enabling use of tools, and resources that individuals can use to better themselves and their own communities. MOOCs can be a part of this and so can OERs. But, like the eLearning course, Open Education is much more than that. I’m hoping we see more classes like the eLearning course, the Ed Tech MOOC (edtmooc) and MIT’s Learning Creative Learning. These courses give us practitioners, thinkers, and passionate advocates a chance to put aside the information overload, the hype about disruptive technologies, and really engage in thoughtful conversations about these things that lead to reflective/reflexive experiences.


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