Monday, April 22, 2013

Literacies for Open Learners

Open learning takes place on the world wide web. So in order to develop the following list of necessary or desirable literacies for online learners, I have gone back to basics. Open learners will never be effective learners until the basics of existence in the online
environment become second nature. Each literacy suggested here consists of a set of sub-skills, each of which forms a necessary component of the larger literacy.
  • Basics of cloud computing: server/client network concept, using secure passwords, keeping track of passwords, backing up server hosted data, keeping track of downloaded materials
  • Effective browser use: especially opening new material in a new tab, bookmarking, use of browser plug-ins
  • Effective search engine use: predictive searching, boolean searching, search filters, chain or radiative searching, criteria for critical analysis (discernment)
  • Online notetaking: Google Drive/Docs, Diigo, Pearltrees, Dig, Evernote, etc.
  • Understanding online environments: recognizing navigation bars, using the cursor to find hyperlinks on the page, exploratory strategies, understanding redundancy, you can't break it! - learn by touching
  • Visual communication: image/film/sound interpretation, image/film/sound re-use & re-mixing, embedding media, using online media/communication tools
  • Comfort with social networking tools: blogs, Twitter, forums, social media sites
  • Collaborative skills: contributing, sharing, constructive criticism, courtesy, negotiation, summarizing, editing
  • Ability to filter & focus: scanning abundance, selecting & prioritizing critical items, blocking chaotic noise to focus on one task at a time
This list has been devised to include only those literacies that are directly related to the open aspect of open learning. Some, of course, are useful with other forms of learning as well. A couple of aspects of this list were added after reading the list offered by Jenkins et al. (2009), but those usually fit as a sub-skill under one of my more general literacy categories.

Developing these literacies for open learners would best be accomplished by offering a cMOOC (or perhaps several cMOOCs) that allowed exploring and mastering each of these areas in turn.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. and Weigel, M. (2009) Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Chicago, IL, The MacArthur Foundation. Also available online at (Accessed 22-April-2013).

[This posting is for Activity 24 (Week 6) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. The text and illustration are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The earth photo is in the public domain.]

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Contribution of Wikis to Open Education

 According to Wikipedia, "A wiki is a website which allows its users to add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser usually using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor. Wikis are powered by wiki software. Most are created collaboratively." And they should know.

The first wiki was created prior to 2000 and utilized Perl software, writing files directly to a web server using the common gateway interface (CGI). Many later versions have been developed using various combinations of server-side software and database backends. One website ( lists 140 different versions. The majority of them are open-source software and many have been created in collaborative communities.

At first sight the fact that one wiki user can edit the contribution of another may seem to be a problem. The better wikis, however, get around this by versioning, that is maintaining a historical record of every version of a page, throughout all the edits that have taken place since the page was created. Thus any earlier version of a page can be examined as well as (usually) an indication of who supplied contributions or modifications, and when.

Wikis can be created and operated in many ways, but there are two characteristics that can make any wiki valuable for open learning:
  1. publically available on the world wide web
  2. configured to allow anyone to allow anyone to edit the pages
The result is a collaborative platform for writing and exchanging resources and resource links that is open to anyone. Clearly this type of platform is fundamental both to openness in education and to collectivist learning processes.

Many contemporary LMEs incorporate a wiki as a medium of learner exchange. And many open-source software development projects rely on wikis for collaborative compilation of user manuals as well as answering user queries. Perhaps the largest and most successful open-learning wiki is

The single weakness that most wikis have had in the past was the requirement for using a simple, but often unfamiliar, mark-up language. Learning how to use yet another kind of system to post material on the web has been a barrier for some. Fortunately, of late many wikis are starting to incorporate standard WYSIWYG editors of the type used by blogging software.

Wikipedia entry: (Accessed 19-April-2013)

[This posting is for Activity 22 (Week 6) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. The text is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The cartoon is by Michel Kichka]

Thursday, April 18, 2013

R-Learning - Rhizomatous?

The video below is of Dave Cormier explaining rhizomatic learning. It's well worth watching and I think rhizomatic learning is an important concept. The worst thing
about it for me is its name. In botany there are many terms derived from the Greek word 'rhiza' for root, but the majority of them do not even refer to true roots but identify instead a variety of different 'root-like' structures. When one attempts to derive a metaphor from the existing confusion of botanical terminology, further mystification and misunderstanding are almost inevitable, especially if the learning process being discussed is challenging to explain. Thus, I would prefer to use a more neutral and connotion-free term like R-Learning.

To respond to some questions on this topic posed for Activity 20 (Week 5) of the course Open Education (H817Open, #h817open):

1. Were you convinced by rhizomatic learning as an approach?
Yes, I think it's an important concept to have been recognized and an important learning approach to be conscious of. But it seems to me that r-learning is the appropriate approach  only in very special situations. Because the learning outcomes are not known beforehand, and are in fact created by the group during the process, the majority of prospective learners will not be able to handle it. Like some aspects of theoretical physics, r-learning is just way too far outside our normal intuitive experience of the world to have any universal appeal.

2. Could you imagine implementing rhizomatic learning?
Yes, but not in any conventional educational system. It would work best with a group of people that share a common understanding of the process and a common objective in solving a complex problem.

3. How might rhizomatic learning differ from current approaches?
R-learning can give rise to radically new concepts, insights and intellectual break-throughs, all things that are rare in current approaches. It will have no syllabus and can not produce measurable results (apart from simply monitoring the activities of participants). In the absence of traditional learning, implementing r-learning might lead to creating a lot of largely ignorant geniuses - students with brilliant insights that are new and innovative for them, but of little use because they are not grounded in any depth of understanding of real-world issues and circumstances.

4. What issues would arise in implementing rhizomatic learning?
  • dealing with participants' fear of uncertainty
  • adequate background in traditional education of participants
  • competition and refusing to share by lurkers, along for the ride
  • knee-jerk right or wrong expectations
  • still must establish what this 'has to do with'
R-learning probably characterizes effective personal learning networks, but not any kind of formal education. It's not really part of the task of education. It's part of the toolset for exploring the totally new and the unknown. It should be great for think tanks, leading edge research organizations and all other groups dealing with complex domains.

[This posting is for Activity 20 (Week 5) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. The text and illustration (but not the video) are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license.]

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grokking Museums

For #h817open, activity 19 of week 5, we have been asked to create a hypothetical connectivist course. Here's mine. Only Section 1 is elaborated in any detail...

Museum Studies 501: Grokking Museums

Section 0: Introduction to MS501
  • process; seeding the learning; digital literacy; connecting; building shared knowledge

Section 1: What is a museum?
Concept 1.1: Where did museums come from? Have they evolved?
  • -suggested resources: URL1, URL2
  • -suggested group activities:
  1. build a collaborative introduction to the history of museums on the course wiki; this can be in either prose or list format, but if the latter, add comments or explanations at the bottom of the list
  2. build a collaborative tree of online references to the history of museums on
  • your personal contributions: blog about what you think is the single most important historical event contributing to the rise of museums
Concept 1.2: What are the key elements in defining a contemporary museum?
  • suggested resources: URL1, URL2, URL3
  • suggested group activities: make a collaborative comprehensive list of defining elements of the contemporary museum on the course wiki; add an explanatory for each element of the list
  • your personal contributions: blog about what you think is the single most important element in the definition of a museum and why
Concept 1.3: Stretching the definition of museum
  • suggested resources: URL1, URL2
  • suggested group activities: make a collaborative list of new types of museums that have recently emerged on the course wiki; add comments or explanations at the bottom of the list
  • your personal contributions: blog about your choice of the single most important contemporary change in the definition of museums and why
Section 2: What Goes On in Museums?
Concept 2.1: what are the basic museum activities
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Concept 2.2: museum jobs
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Concept 2.3: considering a museum career
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Section 3: museum collections
Concept 3.1: the benefits of museum collections
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Concept 3.2: collections & information management
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Concept 3.3: museum research
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Section 4: engaging the museum's publics
Concept 4.1: museum exhibition
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Concept 4.2: museum education
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Concept 4.3: museum programs
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Section 5: museum management
Concept 5.1: strategic & business planning
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions

Concept 5.2: marketing
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Concept 5.3: fundraising
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Concept 5.4: human resources
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Section 6: Museums in the 21st Century
Concept 6.1: environmental scan
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions

Concept 6.2: museum future trends
  • -suggested resources
  • -suggested group activities
  • -your personal contributions
Note to self: Blogger is not a very good place to try hierarchical lists
[This posting is for Activity 19 (Week 5) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. The text is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The photo is by JamesF, CC License.]

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Equipping Learners for an Abundance of Knowledge

Weller (2011) claims that the deveopment of the internet has made knowledge
abundant. Certainly if you look at the results of a Google search on any particular topic, it is clear that there is an awful lot of information out there. But I am inclined to wonder if truly useful knowledge is really all that abundant. If it's anything like the OER we studied earlier in the course (#h817open), it may be 1) hard to find, 2) of uneven quality.

In trying to develop a pedagogy of abundance, one of the questions Weller asks is how do we equip learners to cope with abundant free knowledge.

My own view is that the most immediate student need is not primarily one of critical analysis. Critical analysis of web materials is both labour-intensive and subjective, and it is a competency that is also very difficult and time consuming to teach.

When students need knowledge they need it fast. Normal critical faculties help in separating the nuggets from the gravel in the pan, as does the fact the good search engines already have a certain degree of critical analysis built in - those knowledge items found to be most useful by the most web surfers tend to appear near the top of the list of search results. The more immediate question for the majority of students is, how do we find a pan of gravel that is likely to contain nuggets in the first place?

I suspect that the answer to satisfying this need is instead of teaching facts, teach practical competencies and provide guidance:
  1. Teach effective internet search techniques (Does anyone remember in the old days how we had to be trained to use the university card catalogue?); with serious, in-depth search competency, each individual can activate their own professional support or 'just-in-time' learning system.
  2. Teach the use of social networks for problem solving; use social networks as the basis for a mutual learning network; the peer members of learning networks can assist in critical analysis of search results to pick out the nuggets.
  3. Instead of acting as a content expert, the teacher should learn to act as a filter guide; that is, don't find the stuff for them, but help them find it themselves; suggest what search strategies, even what search terms are likely to be most productive in any given situation.
It seems to me that the best way for anyone to cope with bewildering quantities of information is to learn the two basic competencies of filtering and harnessing peer assessment.

Weller, M. (2011) ‘A pedagogy of abundance’, Spanish Journal of Pedagogy, vol. 249, pp. 223–36. Also available online at (Accessed 10-April-2013).
[This posting is for Activity 17 (Week 5) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. The text is released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The photo is in the public domain.]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Personal Learning Network - What's Up With That?

Thinking about the term 'personal learning network' (PLN) in a little more depth...

Let's take a look at each of the three words in turn. And let's start with the noun, network. This word has a reasonably firm meaning in contemporary usage. A network is a set of entities that are connected by some form of tangible links. That, is each entity in the set is connected to one or more of the other entities by a link.

The nature of the entities and the links can vary widely. The concept is a useful one and it has been widely applied. In the contemporary world we can recognize, for instance, networks of television stations, computer networks, and ecological networks in natural communities. In human social relations we often speak of a network of friends or a support network. One's support network is commonly understood to be a group of people that provide support, in terms of things like advice, sympathy, understanding, or financial assistance, during times of stress or simply coping with the everyday challenges of personal and professional life.

Then comes the adjective, learning. The concept of a learning network is easily seen to have direct parallels with a support network. A group of learners is connected by some sort of communication channels, and from time-to-time one in the group learns from another. In support mode, one member may assist another with understanding. Hopefully sometimes two or more members of a learning network even build some knowledge or understanding together. But how far can we extend the parallel between a support network and a learning network?

One aspect of human social networks that is seldom considered is reciprocity. In various forms of physical network, the concept of reciprocity is implicit. In a computer network, it is not sufficient to note that all of the computers can exchange information with a single computer. Instead it is understood that each of the computers in the network can exchange information with each of the other computers. Each of the links supports a two-way flow of information, that is, reciprocal exchange.

But the commonly understood notion of a human support network is that a single individual calls upon a diverse group of other individuals for support in a variety of different situations. The individual seeking support may occasionally provide support to one of the others in the network, but that is not part of the support network definition. This understanding of the term network is me-centric. Reciprocity is not implicit.

So what about a learning network? As soon as we add the modifier 'personal,' it comes to seem like a me-centric support network, in existence simply to satisfy the needs of the individual at the center.  In contrast, we would expect a learning network to incorporate, by definition, the commitment that as my fellow learners support me when they can, so I will support them when I am able as well. It will be most powerful when the energies of all members are combined in achieving learning goals.

It seems, as a consequence, that use of the term personal learning network may tend to send the wrong message at least some of the time. A better term, perhaps, one that more clearly expresses the intention of learning networks, is mutual learning network.

Having dealt with terminology, let us turn to more practical questions surrounding the concept. Does a mutual learning network (MLN) ever exist? When did we humans first experience an MLN, and has the concept changed over time? To the first, I think, many of us can say, "Yes." Most of us have experienced a period, often short, when we were engaged in mutual learning. Probably not in a classroom, but maybe as members of a professional group dedicated to professional development for its members. The phenomenon even occurs in the workplace when office gossip serves to inform everyone in the company about the details of some impending change that has not been revealed or clearly explained by management.

When might this type of mutual support group have originated? Presumably mutual learning was one of the behaviours that gave early humans the edge when we co-existed in hunting groups or tribes. The first communication channel was speech. The faster everyone learned the latest tricks for capturing food or avoiding predators, the higher the fitness of the group. But MLNs probably became less pervasive, we might speculate, as socisl groups became larger and social structure or hierarchy was introduced. In complex societies, competition, it would seem, may well have supplanted mutual support as a strategy for success.

Yet mutual learning continues to crop up even today in special circumstances. It becomes particularly important for those who see life as demanding continually evolving reponses to a continually changing environment. These individuals will seek the ability to learn continuously over the course of a lifetime, the state of life-long learning. The age of computers and information overload has seemed to make learning ever more challenging in the twenty-first century because of the sheer volume of new knowledge being created every year. But at the same time digital technologies have provided many broad channels for information exchange with very low entry thresholds. Mutual learning networks are easier than ever to establish today, and they seem to offer one powerful solution to the challenge of sustaining life-long learning.

My conclusion is that although mutual learning networks have been with us almost since the dawn of human existence, they have undergone substantial change over the millennia. The communication channels that act as links between members of the network have changed, and the personal needs of members have evolved as well. Today's digital communications allow for ever larger networks and more frictionless delivery of support.

But digital communication has not solved the newest concern for MLNs. If they are to support life-long learning, how is membership to be sustained after the network is first created? What are the mechanisms for keeping members committed and involved over time? How can new members be recruited as old ones slip away to focus on other interests? There is still some important work to be done in finding answers to these questions.

[This posting is for Activity 16 (Week 4) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. All text and graphics are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license.]

Monday, April 8, 2013

My definition of my Personal Learning Network (PLN)

An ever-changing, often widely-dispersed community of individuals providing, and inviting, lifelong learning support - a network of fellow learners.

Visualization of my personal learning network
[This posting is for Activity 15 (Week 4) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. All text and graphics are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The network line diagram is by EmilJ, CC license.]

Of MOOCs, Models and Moebius: Comparing MOOCs

The specific history of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, is short. Ignoring
various precursor pedagogies, the first MOOC to be so labelled was held in 2008 (Wikipedia 2013). That first MOOC was driven by a connectivist philosophy, which in starkest terms means that teachers are facilitators and students create their own knowledge collaboratively, through the connectedness afforded by modern Web 2.0 platforms. The connectivist approach may be described as teacher-mediated. In this model, the teacher/instructor seeds the learning environment with concepts and invites students to undertake collaborative processes in support of their learning.

The traditional educational model has been termed behaviourist (Daniel 2012). In this model the teacher is seen as the holder of the knowledge and learning consists of students internalizing fragments of the knowledge as they are delivered by the teacher.

Interest in MOOCs as platforms for connectivist learning, labelled as cMOOCs by many, continues to the present, especially among educational theorists. In the popular mind, however, a new kind of MOOC, based on the behaviourist approach to education, has assumed dominance. These are the so-called xMOOCs, adopted by many large universities, especially in the United States. In a typical xMOOC, the behaviourist teacher/instructor provides a series of information fragments and requires students to submit periodic evidence that they have internalized this learning content satisfactorily.

Because of this brief history, the competing educational philosophies and the many economic and scale factors involved, "the precise function of the MOOC within higher education still remains unclear" (Knox et al. 2012).

MOOC Pros and Cons

Using for the moment the simple distinction noted above between cMOOCs and xMOOCs, it is possible to identify some broad strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches.

A cMOOC is highly accessible and promotes the discovery of new knowledge and of self-directed learning (Kop 2011). Achieving a state of self-directed learning is likely closely associated with the initiation of life-long learning. On the other hand, this type of MOOC has limited audience appeal, and is actively pursued primarily by those with a strong interest in educational theory or personal enlightenment. Because our traditional educational systems are largely behaviourist in structure, the cMOOC environment may be confusing and anxiety-raising for many students.

An xMOOC, by contrast, tends to confer technical knowledge and so is avidly pursued by large numbers of students who wish to improve their employment and/or earning prospects. Most people are comfortable with the xMOOC environment, even if they chafe at the spoon-feeding approach to learning. Sadly, however, xMOOCs do not lend themselves well either to the generation of new knowledge and insights or to the initiation of life-long learning. They, of course, are not truly open because work done by students is typically trapped within the registration wall (Parr 2013) and so not widely available.

Bases For Comparison of Existing MOOCs

In attempting to understand the basic nature of MOOCs and to assist in the determination of what may be the most productive way to use them to realize overall improvement in the effectiveness of education, it can be instructive to compare several existing MOOCs.

Even the most superficial comparison of MOOCs shows immediately that the distinction between cMOOCs and xMOOCs, other than as archetypes, is overly simplistic. The field is young and of interest to many. Large corporations, large universities and progressive educators all share uncertainty as to what potential impact this new form of education may have and what operational modes may lead to sustainability. As a result, all of the players are continually experimenting with the MOOC format and adapting it to better serve both philosophical and practical objectives. Some cMOOCs are adopting platforms or procedures typical of xMOOCs. Some xMOOCs are experimenting with broadening their offerings by incorporating some aspects of connectivist learning.

The Comparisons - Four MOOC Exemplars

Exemplar 1 - Change MOOC: We may expect this to be a 'dyed-in-the-wool' cMOOC, coming as it does from some of the founders of the concept. The technology platform is a unique, open-source LMS called grsshopper. It appears to be most similar to a wiki or a CMS, with a strong emphasis on aggregating and integrating external materials. The pedagogy of this MOOC appears connectivist in format and behaviourist in delivery (things happen at predictable times). This is a teacher-marginalized system. Its general approach and philosophy includes lots of invitational lecturers providing multiple seeds to learning. There appears to be a primary focus on text, but it's hard to tell as materials seem to be unavailable when the course is not actually being given.

Exemplar 2 - DS106 (Digital Storytelling): Ostensibly a cMOOC, this one depends on delivery using Canvas by Instructure, billed as a supposedly open-source LMS, but primarily, it seems, a fee-based cloud service. The pedagogy in this MOOC is connectivist in format and in delivery - materials are continuously available and student participation is invited on an anytime basis. This is a teacher-mediated system. The general approach and philosophy in DS106 includes many instructor seeds to learning and a focus on multimedia modes of communication.

Exemplar 3 - Gamification on Coursera: This is, without question, a pure xMOOC. It is delivered via the Coursera proprietary LMS platform. The pedagogy is behaviourist both in format and in delivery. This is a teacher-centered course. The general approach and philosophy used in Gamification includes a large body of information provided by the instructor, supplemented by material from external sources. Requirements for the delivery of quizzes and essays by students is rigid, although access to course materials is extended. There appears to be a balanced focus on text vs. visual forms of communication.

Exemplar 4 - E-Learning and Digital Cultures on Coursera: Bucking the trend, this was primarily a cMOOC, but based on the Coursera proprietary LMS platform. A hybrid, or blended MOOC in many respects, this course adopted a largely connectivist pedagogy with a behaviourist approach to delivery. Course activities were regularly scheduled as were student assignments. This MOOC was teacher-mediated, and course materials with links to student projects remain available to all who registered after the course finished. The majority of student-generated content remains publically available on the internet. Balance was achieved as well in general approach and philosophy - multiple instructors provided seeds to learning, with a heavy dependence on external sources. Both text and visual forms of communication were utilized.

Discussion & Conclusions

As suggested above, a simple division of actual MOOCs into xMOOC and cMOOC categories is insufficient to characterize what is happening in this field. In addition to aspects of the classic (i.e., two-year old) binary classification, one should also be looking at such factors as temporal characteristics of course delivery, multiplicity of instructors, method of seeding concepts, the balance between text and visual foci (that is, the extent to which digital literacy is favoured over print literacy), extent to which student collaboration is internal or external to the learning platform, extent to which the teacher/lecturer is marginalized, extent to which materials are available between sessions and level of dependence on external sources.

One observation made here appears to have escaped much attention previously. I have used the term 'seeding' the learning with concepts and examples. Here the term seeding has been used in the sense of "seeding the clouds" to initiate rain. In physico-chemical terms a seed is a minute particle or crystal, usually invisible, that serves as the foundation for the accumulation of additional particles, droplets or crystals until a large, visible structure has formed. In the educational context I use the term 'seed' to refer to the articles, videos and other digital artefacts that are introduced by a teacher/instructor to students in a MOOC, sometimes in association with a question. These learning 'seeds' then trigger the accumulation of collaborative comments, thoughts, and other reactions, including the creation of new digital artefacts, by the students. Learning seeds, then, may be seen as minute fragments of knowledge that can give rise to relatively larger and frequently innovative bodies of knowledge when incubated in the connectivist environment.

The comparisons above have largely ignored some of the more fundamental challenges to MOOCs making a major impact on education. Perhaps the two most significant are monetization, how can MOOC programs achieve financial stability, and certification, how can an institution be assured that the student being certified is the individual who has satisfied the course requirements. Coursera is making an effort to address both of these concerns with its new Signature Track program. This initiative claims to create a digital ID for students who pay a per-course fee (introductory rate of $39 US), consisting of photo-ID and a keystroke pattern signature. This approach, they feel, will allow for verified certification of student achievements, and incidentally establish a revenue stream at the same time (Rivard 2013). Signature Track is offered for the Gamification MOOC discussed earlier.

It is too early, I suspect, to determine exactly where we are on the Moebius strip of educational development. I cannot do better than to echo here, once again, the assessment of Knox et al. (2012),  "the precise function of the MOOC within higher education still remains unclear." That remains true today.


Daniel, J. (2012) ‘Making sense of MOOCs: musings in a maze of myth, paradox and possibility’, Journal of Interactive Media in Education, no. 18 [online]. Available at (Accessed 2-April-2013).

Kop, R. (2011) ‘The challenges to connectivist learning on open online networks: learning experiences during a massive open online course’, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol. 12, no. 3 [online],  (Accessed 2-April-2013).

Knox, J., Bayne, S., Macleod, H., Ross, J. & Sinclair, C. (2012). 'MOOC Pedagogy:
the challenges of developing for Coursera.' (Accessed 8-April-2013)

Parr, Chris. (2013) 'US Mooc platforms’ openness questioned.' Times Higher Education, 4-April-2013. (Accessed 8-April-2013)

Rivard, R. (2013) 'Free to Profit' Inside Higher Ed. 8-April-2013 (Accessed 8-April-2013)

Wikipedia (2013). Massive open online course.
(Accessed 8-April-2013)

[This posting is for Activity 14 (Week 4) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. The post has been awarded the MOOC understanding badge displayed at the top. All text and graphics are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license.]

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why Not MOOseums?

I have been interested in museums for a long time, with a special concern for museum effectiveness in offering open, informal or free-choice learning for the visitor. I've recently written about this (Barr 2013: online at

"There are plenty of fascinating things about museums. And one of the most intriguing is that during the 20th century anyway, museums have been one of the few places where adults (and children) could experience informal or free-choice learning. During that century, the educational mandate rose to become one of the primary goals of most museums."

But that museum focus has been almost entirely onsite. Museum learning has been mostly for those who walk through the doors.

"In spite of the speed with which museums embraced the world wide web, few of them seem to have become equally enthusiastic about the prospect of expanding their on-site educational activities into the online environment. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, including most of the mainstream educational institutions are taking up online learning, or E-Learning in a big way. The internet has meant that the potential museum visitor today has many [new] options for free-choice learning."

Combining the museum mandate with the learning potential of MOOCs, especially cMOOCs, seems to me like a natural. Why not MOOseums (massively open online museum learning).

All one would need is for existing museum education staff to gain some familiarity with cMOOC structure and develop some facility with digital literacy. The informative content is already available in the form of label text from a hundred past exhibits and the websites of not only their own but also dozens of sister institutions.

The connectivist learning opportunities offered through cMOOCs offer a whole new dimension to museum learning. As in other fields, the museum specialist staff can become facilitators instead of instructors. Group learning activities in this type of course are likely to far exceed the experience of learning on the museum visit alone.

The new MOOC experience should function as an "extension of the visitor experience for museums. The museum visitor who has enjoyed an online learning offering before arriving at the museum will not only come armed with a pre-ignited enthusiasm for seeing the actual artifacts, but can also spend more time examining and appreciating those artifacts and less time reading the wall-mounted didactics."

"The museum visitor who delves into online learning after the visit can re-kindle the excitement of the museum experience and be more highly motivated to undertake additional museum visits in the future."

[This posting is for Activity 12 (Week 4) of the OpenU course on Open Education H817open. All text and graphics are released under a Creative Commons Attribution license. The museum logo is by Otterinfo, CC license]