In this paper, you will see our team evaluations of two MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) and how we identified them with adult learning theories. We enrolled in “Rethinking Teaching, Redesigning Learning” created and delivered by OpenLearning and taught by Mohamed Amin Embi. This class focuses on revisiting traditional conception of teaching and exploring new ways to redesign learning so it is relevant to students in the 21st century education. The course was broken into twelve modules all focusing on different aspects of learning styles, however we chose to focus on Module 1 (Revisiting/Redefining Teaching) and Module 7 (Tools for Creating Engaging Screencasts).
The second class was “Inclusive Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication,” created by Catalyst and taught by Alixandra Pollack, Dnika J. Travis and Jeff Bath. Unlike the above class this course was focused on communication skills. The instructors discussed topics like; inspiring others, positioning yourself as a leader through inclusive conversation and making sure the message you (the leader) are trying to send is being received the appropriate way. Both these classes were self-paced which enabled all of us to attend and absorb the class work at our own pace without time restrictions due to our other classes and full time jobs.
Having completed a few modules on two different MOOC trainings gave our team great perspective on all the positive aspects of virtual learning. The first MOOC of Inclusive Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication and Rethinking Teaching, Redesigning Learning showed our team many positive themes. Overall this first training was the more intuitive and clear of the two. It provided clear text messaging in title pages that broke up the talking of the trainers during the course, which made you focus in on what the takeaway message was for that specific training. We also noted that the multiple choice quizzes students had to take as you went on with the trainings served as good reflective practice, as well as a point of engagement with the course leader. Towards the end of each module, the course took it an extra step further by also including a take home checklist on a Google doc that allowed for students to engage outside of the virtual world and focus on how you could take what you learned to apply it on a day to day basis. Some of our team noted that the social media interaction on Facebook was lucrative to getting people to step out of their comfort zone and put a face to a comment, while others thought it was too intrusive attaching a personal profile to the commentary.
Our second MOOC training was Rethinking Teaching, Redesigning Learning. Although this course seemed to lack in a few areas in comparison to the first course, we did enjoy the integration of multiple video sources to show different perspectives on the topic. It was a more enjoyable experience in comparison to just watching two people talking to the camera or even the written scenarios as in the first training. The instant messenger interaction was impressive use of an engagement tool that was easy to use and easily accessible. Lastly, this MOOC asked students to put something into practice at the end of the modules, which was another helpful tool in getting some hands on training.
With every pro there is a con; the two trainings Inclusive Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication and Rethinking Teaching, Redesigning Learning, although rather informative had some minor imperfections. The running facilitation script during the Inclusive Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication was distracting. As the facilitators spoke, the text was bolded and highlighted leading to overall attention blindness. This feature should have the option to be turned on or off at the preference of the learner. Furthermore, the facilitators spoke rather informally and with their hands, which also led to attention blindness.
Rethinking Teaching, Redesigning Learning was a true self-paced training in the aspect that it was not as intuitive as the Inclusive Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication training. The learner had to click on every link and utilize the “back button” to return to the module screen to resume the training. Both trainings were holistically set up the same, with videos followed by discussion topics. In the Inclusive Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication, facilitators encouraged learners to share discussion post answers/general interactions in a Facebook group. This could be viewed as a pro or a con dependent on the industry in which the learner works. Learners working in an industry in which posting to public facing websites could pose as a security threat, hinders the success and overall experience of the training. Finally, the open-ended scenarios in the Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication training proved to be confusing to the learner as there was not clear guidance on whether or not the learner successfully handled the scenario.
ADULT LEARNING THEORIES
Our group determined that the two MOOCs utilized the cognitive and social cognitive adult learning theories. The cognitive learning theory focuses on how material is learned, specifically how it is processed, stored, and later retrieved. In addition, cognitive learning theorists believe the learner’s prior knowledge is a component to the learning process. Specifically with the Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication, the facilitators continued build upon the student’s prior knowledge as each module concluded with a quiz and reflected back to material learned in the previous module. Rethinking Teaching, Redesigning Learning, incorporated the cognitive learning theory by progressing their modules from predominantly “minds on” to “hand on” and expected participants to do and demonstrate what they were learning.
Social cognitive focuses on the learning environment, or the social setting in which learning occurs. Learning is thought to happen through observations in one’s immediate environment. This theory focuses on the importance of the social context and the processes of modeling and mentoring. Rethinking Teaching, Redesigning Learning, really utilized social cognitive learning. Every component to the module included a discussion board, and nearly all the participation within this course was done on the discussion boards. Leadership Training: Leading with Effective Communication, also provided a social environment as the course offered individuals opportunities to participate through discussions, Facebook, and a collaborative wiki. Neither course allowed for much observable learning, with the exception of video clips, but these clips don’t truly follow the modeling behavior social cognitive theorists would expect.
In conclusion, you can see how our group identified certain aspects that made the class a positive and negative learning experience. A main point of focus for us was structure. When taking a MOOC class, it should follow an organized curriculum like you would in the classroom. When you enter the course, you shouldn’t have to figure out where the start button is or ask a fellow student, “am I in the right place?” That one sentence alone should make our point how organization/structure should be the first thing a MOOC class develops. If the student(s) need to ask if they are in the right place it doesn’t give a positive outlook to the content the instructor is giving. A class should be easy to navigate so the student spends more time reading and learning then worrying about how to get to the next page.
Our group did notice some positives. We noted that the quizzes at the end of sections gave us a platform to acknowledge that we were learning in the correct way and enjoyed how the course also gave us additional resources to follow-up on our learning experience. Both classes were primarily heavy with video presentations, however it was apparent that one class spent more time making sure the video/audio was at a high quality while the other seemed like a more set a camera up and just talk.
We then looked over our course material and found that cognitive and social cognitive adult learning theories were represented in our MOOC courses. These two theories were identified based on their focus on the importance of social context and the process of modeling and mentoring.
Next time when picking a MOOC class to take we will be focused on how the course is structured, organized and how adult theories relate to the learning experience to ensure a positive learning experience.
Merriam, Susan B., Caffarella, Rosemary S. & Baumgartner, Lisa M. Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco CA:Jossey-Bass