Tag Archives: CCK08

Thoughts on the Curtis Bonk MOOC and Learning Management Systems

Recently, I have been pretty actively engaged in some coursework about blended and online teaching. While I have been teaching in both arenas for few years now, I am always on the lookout for new wrinkles and developments. Plus, I am just a learning junkie.

Were it completely up to me and I didn’t need to chase graduate credits to climb the wage scale for my teaching position, I would almost certainly focus a significant amount of professional development efforts on Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). For the past few years I have been following and continuously fascinated by the work that George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier have been doing. While I have never been able to stay completely focused on one of their MOOCs for the entire run, I have been following along in one way or another since the  CCK08. I was quite excited for year’s Change11, yet have been only able to dabble a little here and there, pretty much for the aforementioned credit chase. I am hoping to spend some more time this summer poring over more of the change11 weeks that I was too busy to investigate.

Still, timing was ripe and I was well primed to start following Curtis Bonk‘s attempt at a MOOC, called Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success. I first discovered Bonk a few years ago during one of my forays with the Flat Classroom Project. Since then I have gotten a lot more familiar with his work. He is one clever and comic professor. So his presence and the topic were instantly interesting.

As week 1 wraps, the course has me reflecting on a few things. It has reminded me of just how much I dislike Learning Management Systems (LMSs) in general. Bonk’s course is using Blackboard’s new CourseSites product, which is their new free application. In what is kind of a product debut, this course has already exposed not only its flaws but the flaws of an LMS being used for an experience that includes so many people. Currently this course is at over 3000. These kind of tools are really just built to scale like that. This product is particularly feeble in its ability to handle this kind of load. As in all MOOCs the discussions are enormous and overwhelming. Despite participating pretty strongly, that aspect can be pretty dissatisfying. Clearly others have felt similarly, because the discussion board for week 2, at least check on day 3 only has 30 posts.

All of my previous MOOC experience strengthens the notion that some of the best online learning happens across distributed networks. Even for Bonk’s course some of pretty interesting conversation is already happening outside the course itself, here and here. Even Dr. Bonk, himself, jumped into the fray of the Comments sections for both blogs’ rich exchanges. After all, LMSs are a whole lot more about management and whole lot less about learning, to be sure. Even the idea of blogging within an LMS seems to defeat the whole purpose of the activity. Yet somehow the CourseSites folks have served up that possibility. Truth is, threaded discussions might be the only real value added by an LMS and mainly because they simply act as a single repository. Even Siemens, Downes, and Cormier have gradually angled away from linking to an LMS.

An LMS is by its very nature closed . Also seemingly closed is the content or resources.  As much as I like Bonk and his work, I am a little disappointed that essentially all of the resources for the course are written or produced by him. That belies a little of the openness, despite Bonk’s clear open nature. This makes participating a bit like being an outside observer in one of his Indiana University classes, which is certainly worthwhile to me. However, I can see how that limits the appeal and weakens it claim of MOOCness, if there is such a thing.

I am going to stay with it, in part because I am interested in the content. Plus, it weaves nicely with some of the other PD on which I have been working deeply. However, were that not the case, I am not sure I wouldn’t be feeling a little like some others. There definitely seems to be some serious criticism flying around the blogosphere, which I have joined. Still, in spite of any criticisms I am still fascinated and want to continue.

A Path to PLENK2010

Over the last couple of years, I have tried to follow and participate in the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, that George Siemens and Stephen Downes lead on the learning theory Connectivism. Yet, ultimately, as my own teaching responsibilities got rolling, I inevitably fell off the pace and ultimately had to abandon my efforts.

Each failure was instructive, however. With CCK08 I was just kind of fascinated by the whole concept of an open course and curious. I never really got off the ground in terms of the course. In retrospect, I am not sure that I was completely ready to understand Connectivism at that moment anyway, being far too consumed by other demands, as well as fascination with my one year-old daughter. I had been keenly interested in some of the things that Dave Cormier had been doing, most notably the Living Archives project. That lead me, in that peculiarly serendipitous web way, to discover Alec Couros’ open course after the fact. Yet, it was around that time that I became more aware of the work of George Siemens and Stephen Downes, which has been a boon to my thinking on technology and education. So CCK08 served as to open my awareness and widen my radar.

By CCK09, I was determined to jump in and participate in earnest. It started well, The first couple of weeks I was deeply engaged and making all of the rookie mistakes of open course experience, trying to follow everything without any possibility of success. I did this despite the emerging understanding that it is impossible to drink from a firehouse. Plus, starting a new school again, with a new course to plan, and a newborn son conspired to once again derail my efforts to participate. However, I had a much better sense of Connectivism, as well as how to more successfully wrestle with the new paradigm of an open course.

Consequently, the new Personal Learning Environments, Networks, and Knowledge massive open online course seems like a more natural opportunity now. I have a bit more time than I have in the past. I have a bit more understanding of how and what to do to improve my experience with the new paradigm. Also, I have even more interest in the focus of this new venture. Now, if I can stave off the distractions that will keep me from seeing this opportunity to the end.