Open Education and MOOCs

#EDCMOOC Week 2

Most of this week’s videos and readings focused around the future of education, focusing on different reactions to the emergence of MOOCs.

The element of teaching and teacher is quite present in many of these commentaries on MOOCs, mostly in terms of a sort of cost-benefit analysis: Are we getting the best bang for our buck in duplicating the same course on hundreds of university campuses worldwide? how can we bring the best teachers to the largest audiences? etc.

But the interplay between the teacher and the actual process of learning is something I find most interesting. In the description of the course materials for one of this week’s videos, Campbell, Gardner (2012). Ecologies of Yearning,  it states: “This lecture is important this week because it addresses learning as a difficult problem – perhaps the difficult problem – and not as a natural consequence of free access to information.”

And it’s true: free access to information does not guarantee learning. At its best, the art of teaching is what bridges the gap between all of the information available out there and the learner, and in many cases facilitates learning. A teacher acts as curator of this knowledge, picking choosing what’s relevant, what’s necessary and at what moment. The teacher scaffolds this information, adjusting the quantity and complexity of the flow of information in response to the learner. Many learners need their learning to be structured and monitored by someone, who will also give them feedback, encouragement, motivation, and perhaps a kick in the arse when needed.

Many people are able to  take the information out there that they need and structure their own learning experience out of it. But many people benefit from what a teacher can bring to the equation. The current faculty lecturer model is not necessarily the ideal teacher-student relationship, and its unlikely that a 40,000-to-1 MOOC student to teacher ratio is either. In any case, how to keep the art of good teaching and how to aids real learning in the picture as we imagine the future of education is a necessity.

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