DIY MOOC: How we are recreating our education

March 29, 2013 § 2 Comments

How can we build our knowledge online? Credit: Oliver Berger

How can we build our knowledge online? Credit: Oliver Berger

Although I only experienced learning without Internet in a small period of my life, I must say that I can’t image one without another. With full, everyday access to this medium, our relation with technology changes, in the same way as our jobs and even personal lives. And I believe the web can offer incredible opportunities for users interested in building their own career path, improving their knowledge in a specific field or even get expertise in a totally different area. This is probably why MOOCs are becoming so popular. With their digital tools and flexibility (for schedule and assignments, for example), students have many possibilities to create the course they want to do on their own. With access to lectures and further readings, they have the liberty to explore what they want: create communities (online or even offline), build their own websites about the topic, write a blog about it, even enroll in a complete course or many other possibilities.

To my mind, this is a different, but positive type of Do-it-Yourself (DIY) learning. As author Anya Kamenetz puts in her book Edupunk’s Guide: DIY is a movement about self-reliance and empowerment. DIY communities help each other get the knowledge and tools they need to solve problems and accomplish goals on their own without being told how to act or being forced to spend a lot of money. (…) it means getting the knowledge you need at the time you need it, with enough guidance so you don’t get lost, but without unnecessary restrictions. DIY doesn’t mean that you do it all alone. It means that the resources are in your hands and you’re driving the process.

For students willing to explore knowledge online, MOOCs offer great possibilities. With the decentralized design of protocols of the web, it is possible (and becoming even better) to study within networks: our knowledge can be spread and easily found online – in a worldwide scale. And it is great to see that MOOCs themselves are being built upon students’ experiences. For instance, this week of the UvA MOOC was very distinct compared to previous ones and also other MOOCs initiatives. Lectures were about questions students had in the forums, social networks or sent directly to the teacher himself. Although it is hard to answer everything in only a few minutes, lecture Rutger de Graaf and the team innovated, and made an entire class based on students’ experiences in the previous weeks. In my opinion, this is an interesting way to grab students’ attention and stimulate them to engage even more with the content of the course.

The first MOOC created in 2008 also had this idea in mind: students are not just audience. They are part of the course, and they can built it for themselves, explore what they want and create their own challenges. Launched in Canada  by educators Stephen Downes and George Siemens, the MOOC ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge’ (CCK8) started a wikipage about the topic and highlighted how the “openness” of the course was important to its own growth and development: every student should collaborate somehow. As Downes wrote in article published in the Huffington Post two years after CCK8: We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us, and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves. It is time, in other words, that we change out attitude toward learning and the educational system in general.

Personally, I want to do more MOOCs. See how far I will go, what type of things I will be able to learn and how I will learn them. Must say that UvA MOOC is already offering many great possibilities and ideas! Can’t wait for the next challenge 🙂

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