MOOCs, Motivation and Me

MOOCs, Motivation and Me

I am intrigued and inspired by Steve Greenlaw’s observations (in two parts) on motivation in the OpenLearning17 cMOOC and on motivation and MOOCs more generally. For OpenLearning17 specifically, I have an additional theory. Like Steve’s observations, mine are based on my own experience. I don’t have the data in hand, so I’m relying on Steve’s interpretation of it and simply adding to his insightful comments.

I am particularly intrigued with the notion that some participants who did not continue through the whole course may have gotten as much as they wanted from it. MOOCs are not the same as credit-bearing courses. No one is paying to be in the MOOC and no one will receive a degree based on their completion. MOOCs do require a different kind of motivation, a more intrinsic one. We have to want to complete it to do so and in order for that to happen, the MOOC needs to have priority over other things. Steve addresses this issue in Part 2 of his reflections.

The reality is that for many, the MOOC cannot be the priority. Life gets in the way. Work gets in the way.  OpenLearning17 was an opportunity for professional development, primarily for those of us working in higher education. As Steve suggests, maybe the motivation isn’t there because we’re not held accountable for our own development in the same we are for other parts of our professional lives. Professional development is about self-development and therefore focuses on the self, not on others. Here’s my theory, it seems to me that self-development often ends up towards the end of our list of priorities because we put the needs of others first. We do this even when we know that our improvement will positively impact others (e.g. teacher development improves teaching, thereby improving the learning experience for students). Most of the participants in OpenLearning17 were educators, or involved in higher education in some way. We are “givers” as a breed and therefore, we tend to put the needs of others before our own. We start out with good intentions about improving ourselves, expanding our knowledge, and then the needs of others creep into the space we had carved out to focus on our own development. I know that for myself, during the weeks I couldn’t participate at all, it was the needs of others that took priority: the needs of my team, my institution, my family. I just didn’t have time for me, which meant I didn’t have time for the MOOC.

There are comments that suggest that participants who had to drop out due to competing priorities would try again. To help give participants and organizers a sense of completion, we could try offering a different approach to the content. If 14 weeks is not sustainable for focusing on one’s own development, perhaps a shorter time frame might be more manageable. Perhaps the same course content could be reorganized into smaller parts that could be offered sequentially with each part requiring a smaller commitment of time. The parts could be offered back to back for those who want a more immersive experience, but each part would need to be able to stand on its own so that those participants who can only commit to that part can begin without prior knowledge needed.

The course content is still available, so of course past and new participants can access the information, but we know that the synchronous (Twitter chats and Google Hangouts) and time-bound asynchronous pieces ( annotations) had significant value for participants. The activity of the course is what brings connection and community to it and the course (or perhaps some other event?) must be active in order for that element to occur.

I hope that in the next iteration we can intentionally design the experience for participants who have a limited amount of time to devote to the cMOOC and I look forward to helping figure out a way to do that. For those of you hoping to participate in future iterations, what would you like to see?


Image courtesy of Addison Berry “Changed Priorities Ahead” via Flickr.

From Novice to Node in One Semester or Less

When I started out on this journey with the Faculty Collaboratives Steering Committee and the OpenLearning17 cMOOC, I found out that in order to fully participate, we needed to have a blog and a Twitter account.  We would have weekly Twitter chats (whatever those were…) and our blogs would be linked to the main site for all to see. I definitely felt like a novice. I had played with eBlogger sometime back in the noughties and I had created a Twitter account a couple of years ago, but hadn’t ever tweeted or retweeted and I rarely logged in. I was using other social media pretty actively in my downtime (I’m a Pinterest junkie with nearly 2,000 followers; librarians love to curate!), but I hadn’t yet wrapped my mind around how I could use Twitter in my professional life. I had talked with colleagues who use it to keep up in their field or with the news, but it just seemed like noise to me.

I dutifully started a blog and found the hashtag #OpenLearning17 on Twitter. A couple of people from the cMOOC started following me and I followed them back, pretty sure that was the polite thing to do.  Then came the “share your space” OpenLearning17 Twitter chat that our Connected Learning Coach, Laura Gogia facilitated. It was into the fire pan chaos! It was like my first tango lesson, lots of missed steps, a few sweeping moves where I almost thought I was getting the hang of it and then it was over before I even knew what had hit me. By the time it ended, I was already working on my strategy for next time (Refresh, refresh, refresh! Shorter tweets! Don’t forget the hashtag!).

By the time the Open Access week rolled around in week 7, I had already won an award (in the form of a Minion meme–thanks for the encouragement, Amy Nelson!) for “most improved” and my Twitter activity was working its way towards the top of the charts in the cMOOC. When Gardner Campbell pulled up the network map showing the participants and their activity, I was stunned to see that my name wasn’t a spec as I had expected it to be. It was actually legible, a real deal. Even though I didn’t feel like I was participating enough, I was a player, just by making an effort and building a strategy.

Then came Open Access week. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have co-facilitated the week with Maha Bali, who is one of the most networked people I know . “I’m pretty good at getting people to agree to Hangout,” she assured me as we started our planning together. Great, and I’m pretty good at finding good sources on topics (I am a librarian, after all). So off we went on our tasks. I found the Peter Suber text and knew it was just right for the week’s reading. We’d use to annotate the text. “Oh yeah, Suber is great. I’ve met him,” she said. And the next thing I knew she had talked him into joining our Google Hangout.Suber tweet

Dang, she is good at this! We agreed that I would handle the chat while she asked Suber the questions. He’s really delightful in that down-to-earth, brilliant sort of way. So I hammered away in the chat, adding links and catching questions from the participants. I was working the chat like a champ.

Then we had an amazing VirtuallyConnecting session (cut to me Googling VirutallyConnecting–oh, what a cool idea!). Uber-networked Maha set this up with folks from around the globe who were attending OEGlobal in Cape Town, South Africa. I was going to let Maha take this one solo and watch the video later, but then I decided I wanted to be there in the moment, even if it meant getting up at o-dark thirty (have I mentioned that I am NOT a morning person?). I was only on my first cup of Joe and I was hitting the chat hard and they were liking what I had to say. That was the moment when I decided to join the revolution.

I found them all on Twitter and followed them; they followed me back!  So now I’m connected to those amazing educators who are pushing the Open movement forward all around the globe. I retweet them, they retweet me.  It’s getting to know you on the Net.

The cMOOC wrapped up with an empassioned Google hangout with Gardner, Amy, Steve Greenlaw and Susan Albertine (even watching the recording is moving). I didn’t want the cMOOC to end!

The opportunity to have a panel about the cMOOC came along, thanks to ODU’s Faculty Summer Institute on OER and Stephanie Blackmon’s initiative in writing a proposal. Over lunch during the conference, I met some of the other Faculty Collaboratives Steering Committee members for the first time. In talking about my journey in the course, Gardner Campbell told me I was now a node and had the responsibility to keep it up. What? Me, a node?! I felt like I’d become a Jedi knight (use the Force, Sue) after being an apprentice for months. Node you are, connect you will.

I started the cMOOC with no followers on Twitter. I remember Maha noting that she was my first. I’m up to 30 followers and 239 tweets and counting. 15 weeks from zero to thirty, novice to node. It’s that easy, folks, but you do have to make an effort. You have to be present and active. You have to want to be part of the conversation. You might have to leave your comfort zone behind. And you might have to get up in the dark to chat with passionate people doing amazing things, all for the good of students and the power of learning together.

OpenLearning17–an end and a beginning

OpenLearning17–an end and a beginning

We are in the last week of OpenLearning17. It’s been a marathon of learning and connecting, and the experience has reminded that I’m not built for marathons. The only sport I was ever remotely skilled in was fencing–short bouts where it’s not about endurance, but rather strategy, sizing up your opponent quickly and leveraging your individual strengths (being left-handed is nearly always an asset). I have made it to the final week. It’s been sporadic bouts for me, but I’m still in the game. I’m still learning and connecting and I want it to continue.

How will we sustain the learning and connecting after the course? Certainly many of us have new connections on Twitter and through our blogs, but how can we use the to continue the conversation? What it will look like after the cMOOC is finished? Where will the conversations go? What needs will emerge that the hub could support?

I think we’ve only scratched the surface of possibilities. The participants in the cMOOC have been so thoughtful and insightful. It’s been wonderful to see the sparks of individual epiphanies and the connections between and among participants. We have built a community of learners here and I am eager to see where we take it.

It seems to me that much of what we have discussed involves experimentation with learning environments, whether they are online or face to face. How could the hub support that experimentation in a sustainable way? I want to continue to hear more about what others are doing as they try new things with open learning. If I get brave enough to experiment, I want a place to share that experience and get feedback.

I would also like for us to explore how we could incorporate student experiences into the hub, not just second hand reports from instructors, but actual student voices. We’ve had some links to student blogs, but that’s linking out to students, not bringing them in, right? We’ve included students in panel discussions, but that brings them in for just a moment in time. Are there ways we could incorporate the open learning experiences of students in an ongoing way? Is the life of a student too transient to make this possible? If open learning is student-driven, how can we bring students into our discussions about open learning? What are the risks?

Open Pedagogy Praxis

Open Pedagogy Praxis

This week’s focus for OpenLearning17 has been Open Pedagogy. Co-directors Amy Nelson and Shelli Fowler have provided an engaging array of readings and activities that have inspired some great dialogue (don’t miss today’s Twitter chat at #OpenLearning17). Inspired by all that I’ve been reading this week, I talked with a colleague here in my library about our “Roadmap to Research” course (a face-to-face, 2-credit class) and how we might be able to fold in some open pedagogy praxis. We also need to be thinking about how to move this course into an online environment and the whole OpenLearning17 cMOOC experience is helping me think about what that could look like.

I have been especially inspired by Robin DeRosa’s Extreme Makeover: Pedagogy Edition and am thinking about how we might have students collaboratively create the learning outcomes for the course. I am excited about the possibilities and wish that I were the one teaching it next, but perhaps I can focus on what the course could look like in an online environment while others are teaching the F2F class.

As I said in Wednesday’s Twitter chat, I was never trained to teach (many MLIS programs have “user education” courses, but those are often not required), so I am a clean slate, with no formal training to undo. This lack of training has always seemed a hindrance to me, but after reading Amy’s interview with Shelli about Contemporary Pedagogy at Virginia Tech, I now realize that it might be a gift. I have only habits to break (that’s easy right?).

So Amy and Shelli, thank you for an inspiring week! See you in the Twitter chat.


#OpenLearning17 is Connected Learning

I was a bit daunted when I was asked to be a co-director for the Open Access week of OpenLearning17, and had mixed feelings when I realized that my co-director was a total stranger in Egypt.  Would this person be a good collaborator (yes!) and how would we plan a week of activities together when we were so many miles apart (Google Docs!).  I could not imagine a better experience.  Maha and I both embraced the spirit of collaboration from the start and have had a great synergy and a likeness of mind, but also a welcome diversity of experience and knowledge.  I hope that will come through in the activities we have planned for week 7.

So from this learning facilitator’s perspective, OpenLearning17 has definitely been a connected learning experience, both as a student and as a learning facilitator. I have learned a great deal through connecting with Maha and through our collaborative design of the learning experience for week 7 and I hope she feels the same. Teaching is always a learning experience for the teacher and I am grateful for having been nudged out my comfort zone (that is where the best learning experiences happen!).

I hope you enjoy week 7 as much as I have enjoyed planning it with Maha!

How to survive (and thrive?) in a cMOOC

I’m in my first MOOC and I’m learning.  I’m learning how to be a learner in this new-to-me environment.  This is a constructivist MOOC, so while each of us is constructing our own learning path, we are also all shaping the learning experience together.

What I’m learning about how to be a learner in this space is this:

  • We need a strategy for managing our time.  This is exactly what our first-year students need to learn and I find myself struggling all over again to find time for learning.  This morning I replaced my 1/2 hour morning-coffee-social-media time with #OpenLearning17 time (I kept the coffee).   I think that’s going to work.  What little bit of time could you let go for the duration of the MOOC to spend on learning?
  • We need to engage.  Commenting on other people’s blog posts and writing my own is not in my current comfort zone, but here I am doing it and I’ve already been rewarded with some great interactions.  We need to step out of our comfort zones and engage.  And won’t it be fun if we meet in person someday and feel like we are already connected!
  • We need discipline.  Just like a new exercise routine, it takes discipline to create a new habit.  It takes discipline to get results.  If we are going to learn in this space, we need to be disciplined enough to come back to it regularly and actively participate.
  • We need to be discriminating.  Not every post will grab our attention, not every week’s topic will pique our interest.  That’s okay.  We don’t need to follow every hyperlink or comment on every post.  We just need to stay engaged in the overall learning and follow what interests each of us.
  • We need each other.  This form only works if we connect, discuss, and debate.  We need to ask questions.  We need to be provocative.  We need to be caring.

What am I missing?  What are your strategies for thriving in this learning environment? What have you learned so far?

Updated 2/10/17:  I just found Laura Gogia’s great Conversation with Gardner Campbell where she articulates the need to develop a strategy for our connected learning.  Great stuff!