This is from an article I wrote on Medium exactly a year ago….May 2013. For some reason it has been tweeted lately so I am reposting. Link to full article at the bottom. It’s still relevant.
Learning is our new hobby. Dr. Thrun’s first MOOC an xMOOC, which is what we now call what we see in Coursera et al was an experiment, which was obvious and transparent throughout the course. MOOCs are a work in progress, constantly evolving, new pedagogies and andragogies emerging, assessments and the management of massive groups of people constantly changing. Participants are tolerant. They are learners. More than half of them as of writing have undergraduate degrees, and almost as many have a masters or terminal degrees.
Where have we seen this before? Large groups of people, participating in the innovation, joining together for “projects” done with peers in the crowd? MMORPGs. We formed guilds instead of project groups. We looked for “powers” in our fellow guild members. In MOOCs those powers are a life skill that will be an asset in a course project that is assessed by fellow learners. Instead of waiting for an upcoming game which we paid for we wait for our next course to start.
I hesitate to speak about quality, because when we think of MMORPGs we think of a big business that sells software each person pays for, or even reserves ahead of time, that yields a profit. MOOCs are not there yet. They may have a “rock star” professor instead of fantastic animation, but people are taking the course at no charge. They are evolving and becoming more complex, just as MMORPGs evolved with better graphics and social layers. They have learned to shorten the lectures to 5 – 7 minutes, because that is what we tolerate. We are nowhere near the developmental phase we reached with MMORPGs. It is, however, a close analogy to watch. We learned from MMORPGs, we met peers, we formed groups, and we acquired skills. It is interesting to watch the parallel, and wonder where the divergence will take place. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of MOOCs, Open Education, Technology, and Online Learning – and to be a part of it.