I wanted to re-visit my blog post yesterday and add some thoughts on my experience with a MOOC and how I feel open badges could have fitted into that type of learning scenario. I also wanted to explore further how an open badge framework might support the range of ways in which we learn and if it could help develop desired skills for lifelong learning.
As a result, the original post was becoming too long so the previous post is now ‘What are Open Badges‘ (changed from ‘What Are Open Badges and How Could They Affect How We Learn?’)…
The concept of ‘Connected Learning’ seems to align with Siemen’s learning theory, Connectivism (2004) (Siemen’s Connectivism website contains resources relating to this). Connectivism, as a learning theory, I think helps to frame the opportunities and challenges of learning in an information rich, fast paced, digital age and puts forward the importance of our ability to tap into knowledge networks and to know where to find information. It points out that we learn in many different ways – socially with our peers, through formal and informal education, at work, in communities of practice and so on.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
This learning theory informs how MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), first delivered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes, run. MOOCs are free, open, online courses that anyone, anywhere, can join. Much of the learning in a MOOC is generated in ways outlined in the principles of ‘Connected Learning’ – through people from a wide variety of backgrounds and with an interest in the subject of the MOOC, communicating and collaborating together through open systems. A MOOC might have a looser or more defined structure depending on who organizes it (the Mobile Learning MOOC I participated in last year apparently had a slightly more structured design to it than some appear to have had). The contribution of ideas, knowledge and resources from hundreds of participants from various backgrounds creates a very rich, dynamic environment for learning and, as a result of the interest driven participation and volume of brains contributing to the learning, one which is highly likely to provide relevant and up-to-date thinking on the subject.
One of the key aspects of a MOOC is you get out of it what you choose to put in. The amount of information generated can also be quite overwhelming so advice is actually provided on how to manage and navigate that. I started the Mobile MOOC with ambitions to participate far more than I actually did during the period of the course (although I continued to learn after the end of the course by reviewing materials and discussion generated during it). There was an opportunity to gain a certificate of participation if I completed and participated in so many activities but other commitments and my failure to live up to my own expectations, meant I didn’t achieve this. That is not to say I didn’t learn a lot from the experience, both about the subject but also from participating in that kind of course environment for the first time, but I have nothing to show for any of that.
Developing and Recognising Lifelong Learning
MOOCs enable learners to gain knowledge that is current and informed by perspectives influenced by different experiences, cultures and backgrounds. I think this type of course lends itself to helping learners deal with the “shrinking half-life of knowledge”, (Siemens quoting Gonzalez, 2004) – to keep up with knowledge and ideas that are moving on more quickly now than they ever have before. However while theories for learning, such as Connectivism, help us to consider how we can keep up with the speed at which developments are occurring and knowledge needs updating, a framework for assessing and accrediting that fast learning or recognising a range of skills and attributes in a transferable and verifiable way, hasn’t really been established.