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When a MOOC became a GROOC we all became co-creators


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Presented at the Open Education Global Conference 2016 in Krakow, Poland on April 12

In the fall of 2015, McGill University launched its first offering of Social Learning for Social Impact (SLSI), a 12-week group-based MOOC - or GROOC - hosted by non-profit MOOC provider, edX. Drawing on connectivist MOOC, social, and experiential learning principles, SLSI attempts to translate an ambitious social mission into an online platform for sustained social learning. As course facilitators, we are uniquely positioned to explore the origins and development of SLSI’s networked learning ecosystem designed with concerned citizens in mind. We discuss the current limitations and challenges of open online education practices, particularly in relation to group-based learning, and how this first iteration, which we call GROOC 1.0, attempted to overcome these by crafting a highly adaptable, participatory curriculum that positioned learners and facilitators as co-creators who can also inform the design and delivery of GROOC 2.0.

We explore how course designers actively encouraged learners to subvert the constraints of the edX platform and even of SLSI’s formal curriculum so they might achieve their particular objectives. Similarly with the pro bono facilitators who were coached from the outset to anticipate confusion and uncertainty, trust their own judgment to resolve problems, and support one another, the call was to be subversive. The systems in place, it was acknowledged, might not be optimally suited to serve the learners.

Furthermore, we discuss the technical elements that support and constrain the online infrastructure. For example, to support SLSI’s vision of group-based learning, edX released a “Team Forum” tool that - beyond helping learners form their initial teams - proved inadequate to foster the kind of group engagement necessary for sustained social initiative-building. This shortcoming prompted many learners (along with their facilitators) to emigrate to a combination of more suitable digital platforms and connectivity apps like Facebook and Google Apps to accelerate social learning for (eventual) social impact.

We also discuss the feedback mechanisms embedded into the curriculum and the opportunities to course-correct, which, for the SLSI’s design team, was a clear priority, so that any real-time adaptations could be shared with facilitators. For example, open licensing for course content and the development of open education policy were issues raised by learners and facilitators in GROOC 1.0. Furthermore, we anticipate that McGill University will engage with the open education community to share insights about the implementation and outcomes of SLSI through conferences like Open Education Global 2016 as we plan for GROOC 2.0.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs); Group-Based Learning; Learning Facilitation; Social Learning; edX; Open-Source Software

Published in: Education

When a MOOC became a GROOC we all became co-creators

  1. 1. When a MOOC became a GROOC we all became co-creators Alannah Fitzgerald, Ruchika Arore, Jessica Xiao, Andras Lenart, Emilie Salvi Image: ..
  2. 2. MOOC with a call to action
  3. 3. Facilitator feedback and feedforward • Facilitator Issues – Sustaining and scaling facilitator provisions • Design Issues – Cultivating a cMOOC within an xMOOC platform “ learning, it’s not a course, it’s not a pedagogy, for me, it’s a culture.” – Carlos Rueda, GROOC co-designer, 2016
  4. 4. Social Learning for Social Impact Group-based MOOC Overview: #1: Engaging - Group Charge: “Find Your Team” #2: Co-Creating - Group Charge: “Preparing Your Team” #3: Designing - Group Charge: “Experimenting & Prototyping” Live Session 1: Opening Global Conversation #4: Scaling - Group Charge: “Scaling Your Social Initiative” #5: Resourcing - Group Charge: “Storytelling for Resourcing” #6: Assessing - Group Charge: “Developing a Logic Model” The Groocathon #7: Impact Gallery Live Session 2: Closing Global Conversation
  5. 5. GROOC facilitators • 31 pro bono facilitators of varied ages and ethnicities • collectively speak 16 languages • connected to social change networks across 52 countries • social initiative experience and field expertise in educational technology, education, management, arts and culture, and community organization
  6. 6. Facilitator training, Montreal 2015
  7. 7. Co-Creation of a MOOC “We who are working behind-the-scenes to create a platform for the GROOC to actually happen care so much about your experience. And we are very open to your feedback at all stages of this GROOC to course-correct as we go. Henry has taught us all about emergent strategy and we are trying to live up to that and also for future GROOC experiences.” (Anita Nowak, GROOCx Co-Designer, 2015)
  8. 8. MOOC facilitator model “What I find really interesting about the GROOC facilitator concept is that it is a community, it’s a community of an educational sense, these are individuals who are committed to the educational process. They’re along for the ride in order to really tackle the learning itself and engage with it in a really tactile way.” (Alex Megelas, GROOCx Facilitator Trainer)
  9. 9. Facilitator-led research post-GROOC 1.0 • Interviews and focus-group discussions with GROOC co- designers and subject academics at McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management, and with MOOC learning technologists and managers at McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services • Online survey distributed to 26 GROOC facilitators (excluding the GROOC research team) with a return rate of 50%
  10. 10. What were your main reasons for becoming a GROOC facilitator?
  11. 11. Prior engagement with the social sector
  13. 13. Facilitator issues going forward • Training and developing expertise in MOOC facilitation – GROOC as a cMOOC with an xMOOC platform • Creating co-designing opportunities • Documenting what does and doesn’t work with facilitation • Collecting and sharing impact data on teams • Continuing contact with teams post-GROOC • Creating facilitator certification opportunities (badging?) • Investing in paid-work opportunities to scale facilitation
  14. 14. If given the opportunity, would you volunteer again as a GROOC facilitator?  “Yes. I find it is a great atmosphere of like-minded individuals. It gives you hope that change is possible.”  “Probably not. It was a fabulous experience and it is unlikely I will ever again be able to put that amount of time into a volunteer activity such as this.”  “I definitely would but only if we work on improving the planning and design to canalize volunteers’ strengths, energy, motivations and enhance learning and impact. I could be interested in participating in the planning and design (I would love to)...”
  15. 15. Which aspects of the GROOC could be improved for successive iterations?  “I think we should rethink what is our target market. More specifically, we only have a successful strategy when we are providing the best product/service for a specific market (clientele) and not the whole market. I feel we can further tailor our course to a specific group instead for trying to reach for anyone.”  “Not thinking about it as a course. If we are trying to build a social movement then how does that need to be structured?”  “The platform definitely. It should be more user friendly or the course [content] could be hosted at edx and the forum and/or team discussions in other platforms, more suitable for that kind of activity.”
  17. 17. The race to platform education “The value of MOOCs may not be the MOOCs themselves, but rather the plethora of new innovations and added services that are developed when MOOCs are treated as a platform.” – George Siemens, 2012
  18. 18. cMOOCs • The original developers of the MOOC were George Siemens and Stephen Downes who led Connectivism and Connective Knowledge in 2008 (CCK08) with around 2,300 participants for distributing and exploring connectivist pedagogy (Siemens, 2005). • The emphasis with CCK08 was on aggregated, open and remixable resources, collaborative dialogue and co- development of the MOOC. • Downes would go on to characterise this type of MOOC as a connectivist MOOC or cMOOC.
  19. 19. Teaching & Learning Services view on bringing a cMOOC to a xMOOC platform Adam Finkelstein: [The GROOC] was certainly one of the first courses on a big xMOOC platform--being edX or Coursera--to actually do a thing with group learning, to do some ambitious thing with group learning. To be very fair to the MOOC space, MOOCs came from a very collaborative environment, they came from George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Dave Cormier and what happened was they got twisted up halfway through but that being said [...] they had to go down a path, I think, to put them on a map in a way that the MOOCs that George Siemens [et al. of CCK08] started just couldn’t get traction at the higher levels of the university, once scale started coming into the conversation [...] They [the CCK08- type cMOOCs] were far more advanced than anything we’ve done.
  20. 20. Co-Designer view on the edX platform: Leslie Breitner: We decided that because our IMPM [International Masters in Practising Management] classrooms were all about group learning and the community [...] we wanted to do that in the MOOC. And, Henry came up with the name, GROOC, which is group-based MOOC. But getting the structure, getting the infrastructure, the platform architecture, and everything to work in a way that we would be able to do that, was hell.
  21. 21. [Cont.] I can’t blame it all on edX, who didn’t have the platform that we needed nor could they create it apparently. And, I don’t want to blame it on TLS [Teaching and Learning Services at McGill] who had a much more narrow view of the possibilities than we did.[...] Partly it was us because we had different ideas among the four of us [GROOC co-design team] about how we saw the groups, and how we saw what would constitute a group, what wouldn’t. [...] So, we struggled with that for basically the two plus years of preparation because we didn’t know what the platform was going to be able to accommodate when we finally got there.
  22. 22. edX CEO view on the teams tool “We are also bringing social and collaborative learning into MOOCs. We have seen that people who do a MOOC together in a small group have a higher success rate than if they take it [individually] as a MOOC. We launched a feature on edX called teams where a student taking a MOOC can invite their friends and up to 10 people can sign up as a team and they get a private discussion area and social persona. Currently, we are testing this 'Teams' feature in a course called social learning. It is called a GROOC and we will now be making it available in all our courses.” (Agarwal, 2016)
  23. 23. Facilitator views on the edX team tool • Please rate your reaction to using the edX platform. – An average of 4 out of 10 • Please rate the software design of the team tool in the edX platform. – An average of 3.5 out of 10 • Communicating with peers via the edX team tool was easy: – 8.3% Agree – 58.3% Disagree – 33.3% Strongly Disagree
  24. 24. MOOC learners as beta testers Current activity with MOOCs can be characterised as having reached a beta phase of maturity. In much the same way that software progresses through a release life cycle, beta is the penultimate testing phase, after the initial alpha-testing phase, whereby the software is adopted beyond its original developer community. • xMOOC learners are not necessarily as skilled as CCK08 MOOC learners with managing distributed online learning
  25. 25. Teaching and Learning Services on collaborative learning support • Adam Finkelstein: That’s when the resource page came out. So it was sort of an ok we’ve got to do something to give people some guidance. [...] • Alannah Fitzgerald: Would you say that’s an extra week at the beginning of the MOOC on how to get started? • Claire Walker: Yes. I think there would be a week zero all about how to work in a team and finding a team. There wasn’t enough time for finding a team and figuring out how to work together as a team.
  26. 26. Learning Technologist view on “perpetual beta” culture at edX Alexander Steeves-Fuentes: [...] you know, there’s a lot of, well, “it’s in beta coming from them [edX]. And, that beta seems to last for a stunningly long time. Alannah Fitzgerald: [...] I think we’ve entered that age, haven’t we, the age of everything being in beta indefinitely. Alexander Steeves-Fuentes: But then the thing is that edX is, then, restrictive on who they release it [code] to. [...] There’s a tension there that we’ve always been, you know, Harvard comes up with this new thing and says, well, it’s in beta so we can’t really release it to everyone else. So, they give it to one or two select universities, and so there’s no question that there’s favouritism within the edX community. It’s not completely balanced.
  27. 27. Be subversive Henry Mintzberg: I never have expectations for new things because I always get it wrong anyway and I never know what’s going to happen with something brand new like that so I’m not sure what our expectations were. …certainly not disappointed. Did things come out that surprised me? Yeah, the whole facilitator activity that you were involved with, the enthusiasm, the nature of the learning – not just the facilitators but at one point when I said be subversive, if their platforms aren’t working just develop your own and people took that up with a vengeance and I was saying it about the edX platform and the edX people were promoting my video about that and talking. They used that – they liked that. That I was telling everybody to be subversive about the very things they were doing.
  28. 28. Design Issues going forward • Providing facilitators and learners with support and tools in collaborative distributed learning • Building a parallel platform to edX for social learning • Critiquing the edX platform culture with the open-source dictum: “release early and release often, and listen to your customers” (Raymond, 2001)
  29. 29. References • Mintzberg, H. (2015). Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal Beyond Left, Right, and Centre. Berrett-Koehler: Oakland, California pdf version. • Bhattacharyya, R. (2016). edX now offers complete programmes online, not just individual courses: CEO Anant Agarwal. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from offers-complete-programmes-online-not-just-individual-courses-ceo- anant-agarwal/articleshow/50632132.cms • Raymond, E. (2001). The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary. O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. Sebastopol, CA, USA • Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1). • Siemens, G. (2012). MOOCs are really a platform. Elearnspace. Retrieved from platform/
  30. 30. Thank You Comments and questions welcome: Alannah Fitzgerald: Ruchika Arore: Jessica Xiao: Andras Lenart: Emilie Salvi: Slideshare: Twitter: @AlannahFitz