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