(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

6 Teaching Ideas Inspired by MOOCs


I have written previously that I believe teachers can use MOOCs for professional development. Here, i share briefly some ideas i plan to try in my own course that inspired me from MOOCs I took or am taking.

1. Syllabus negotiated via Google doc
I have always had a negotiable syllabus, but I never thought to actually put the syllabus online in a space where students could comment on it throughout the semester. This idea is inspired by Cathy Davidson’s #FutureEd (MOOC yet to start). (#rhizo14, below, also gives me ideas for how far to negotiate with learners… But that is another blog post).

2. Sustainable assessment
This I learned from #flsustain, Nottingham’s Sustainability, Society and You. I sometimes try to make my assessments authentic (i.e. something relevant and useful to the learner’s life beyond class). I now think I should not have any assessments that do not directly influence the learner outside class. No assignments handed in to me. Only assessments that make sense to learners outside class. When I teach teachers, this means something they will either use in their class, for their school, or their professional development. Something they might want to do again or use again beyond the class. Hosted on a platform they can continue to use. E.g. Blog or wiki or other social media

3. Allow multiple approaches for connecting
I am learning a lot from #rhizo14 (Rhizomatic learning) beyond this, but I think it has been great to negotiate my way around learning via different social media for one course, and since i teach ed tech, my students could benefit from this on a meta-level (exploring multiple intelligences, learning new technologies,comparing their learning potential) – another sustainable form of learning! So i might have my students blog for one week, use twitter for an assignment the next, have a facebook and/or G+ group (unsure they need both) – and then let them choose freely among those (and the Moodle discussion board) for their preferred platform for later weeks.
(To be fair, this idea started for me with #edcmooc below, including giving students annotated content to choose to read/watch, but I participated in more platforms in #rhizo14, so the idea grew)

4. Digital artefact as project
This I learned from #edcmooc, eLearning and Digital Cultures (Edinburgh) – the final project was a digital artefact of our choice that represented learning in the course. I liked the freedom and simplicity of the prompt, though it was actually an assignment that required reflection. I learned from some of the shortcomings of it, too. It asked a little too much (in the peer assessment criteria – which i think in my case should be negotiated) and i would also add one thing (suggested by Sandra Sinfield after i raised the issue in the discussion forum): allow the learner space to explain why or how they think their artefact met the goals of the project. I also think they can ask for a couple of additional criteria to be assessed on that are valuable to THEM personally. I also learned to give learners space to explore some new technologies before the final project to help them choose among possibilities.

5. Quadblogging
This one I learned from Ary and Maddie, CTAs in #edcmooc – have students blog in groups of 4 such that each blogs for a week while others comment and help support and promote, then they rotate. I might do it slightly differently, but along those lines so students who have different commitments throughout the semester do not feel pressured to blog weekly.

6. Medium-term synchronous collaborative events
This one I learned from the #readmake project, not a MOOC, but a 2-day collaborative writing event on a google doc, with a Twitter hashtag on the side. I am not a big fan of synchronous communication online (love it when it is convenient and it works, like today with #rhizo14 folks, but it is rare for me to be able to participate, and infrastructure in Egypt is choppy). Sooo the idea of all people using twitter and some collaborative platform like a wiki to work on something over a short time period of a few days (but not just within 1-2 hours) sounds more doable. It allows for some immediacy but also some reflection and allows for people’s busy schedules and tech glitches.

Will I be able to do this all next semester? See #1: i will negotiate with my students and see! Every semester is different. Will it all work? See #3: some will work better for certain people than others! So the only certainty is uncertainty… As we have been saying somewhere in #rhizo14… Facebook was it?


Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

8 thoughts on “6 Teaching Ideas Inspired by MOOCs

  1. Hi Maha, I found this an interesting post as one of the reasons I’m exploring MOOCs is fascination with the learning design – particularly cMOOCs. Each is slightly different and what interests me particularly is the (often fine) balance between providing content and structure vs freedom for learners to explore, discuss, discover & create their own content and structure. And like you, my interest in these aspects of learning design stems from a desire to see what might be able to be adapted or adopted in my own work context (which is corporate learning – so probably requires a bit more selective adaptation as there are more – or perhaps different, constraints compared to higher ed).

    I’m also intrigued by the use of multiple platforms in rhizo14 – I think it’s a really interesting idea, and am finding it certainly fits with the concept rhizo learning – creating abundance, complexity and also a multiplicity of entry points for participants to engage and carve out various paths and dip in and out of different groups. It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out and reflect on the experience during and after.

    • Hey Tanya, nice to see u here (I saw u on facebook earlier) and good to hear we have some common goals. Corporate is of course quite a different context, but has intersections when higher ed students are adult learners taking courses for professional development, right? Looking forward to learning with you throughout the coming few weeks

      • Yes, likewise! I’ve seen you around various rhizo spaces too. I was compelled to explore some of the other posts in your blog – drawn in by the titles : )
        I have since realised quite a few people do it in the MOOC community but I can’t imagine doing multiple MOOCs at once with a full time job and family…I struggle with one (though am also trying to finish a masters too…however often find the MOOCs much more interesting and end up procrastinating on my actual *real* uni work…hmmm…I’d probably quit and just do MOOCs if it not for the fact that I’ve only got 2 subjects left!)

        Anyhow…yes you’re right in that there are people in corporate environments who are in higher ed part time for various reasons…though what I’m actually interested in is what aspects of MOOCs might be able to be adapted in a workplace training context. Part of the challenge here I think – particularly in the context of rhizo lerning – is that the objectives of corporate training are often organisationally rather than personally directed. Reconciling those two things can be difficult. It’s something I’m interested in exploring further though. Look fwd to chatting again elsewhere…or possibly here!

      • Good point about the goals of corporate training… But individual people will almost always have their own personal objectives and motivations, regardless of the corporate trainers/trainings… And so i think maybe there should be a way to incorporate learner goals, aspirations, motivations in order to make the experience valuable. Otherwise, you set the learning goals, but you have no guarantee that they are reaching the learners at all – i think focusing on the learner might help corporate training offer variety of content and pathways towards goals… If that makes sense? I used to work at Procter and Gamble and in that company, we get trainings where folks from diff departments participate. The diversity is great, but there are also opportunities to meet individual needs esp. If doing some of that training online over an extended period of time, rather than a few days f2f. Other trainings brought folks from same department but from diff countries, and again the diversity helped but there were local contextual issues that meant we each had diff needs. I don’t think i am saying anything new here, really. Just saying even though some goals might be centralized and pre-set away from learners, some amount of taking learner needs into account is important to make thr learning experience beneficial to the learner. What do you think? Do you do corporate training for just one place, or design and deliver it to different places?

      • Yeah, I think one of the challenges that Helen Blunden (who I met through the xplrpln MOOC and now collaborating on a few different things) and I are struggling with is that much corporate training is compliance related and therefore mandatory which kind of kills the notion of learner directed learning from the outset.
        However, I agree even with mandatory training there should be ways to offer options for learners, and also to design it better so that it’s not necessarily just focused on ticking a box. One of the things I’ve picked up on through cMOOCs is this idea of focusing on promoting meaningful peer / participant interaction and sustainable relationships that potentially extend past the course end (e.g. PLNs). Helen has previously suggested this could be useful in contexts like induction and I tend to agree.

        I actually work for a state government transport agency which encompasses a number of diverse operational agencies (trains, buses, roads & maritime).It is diverse in terms of function, culture, location but also challenging because it is largely an operational environment – a lot of technical and safety training, process, procedures (i.e. contexts where there IS one ‘correct’ answer or way to do something) and where people need to be rostered off for training and are not sitting in front of a computer all day as in most corporate environments. Anyway, these are some of the challenges…but there are always opportunities, it’s just a matter of finding the right ones!

      • Oh, and btw, i don’t engage closely with every single MOOC i take. Some are great like this one, some turn out not to meet my needs. So i just get what i need out of some others (e,g. A few useful readings to look up later) – which is really funny coz for this MOOC i am hung up on interacting and experiencing rhizomatic learning and resisting reading (if u have seen my rants on fb)

      • Yes…one thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t read every comment or post, but that it’s important to engage and interact so I’ve been doing the same, with whatever time I have (which is only pockets really – like everyone I’m sure). I’m at the point though where I need to start reflecting on some of it via a blog post/s of my own….but keep getting distracted by other posts or commenting on posts! (I was in the middle of writing a post when I came over to your blog and got distracted…..(!)

  2. Pingback: Sunday Salon: A Round-Up of Weekly Reading | the dirigible plum

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