Blog Post

MOOC Research Underscores Importance of Engaged Participation (True Inside the Classroom Too, BTW)

Steve Kolowich reports this morning on a new study of MOOC participation in Forums that suggests about 90% don't participate except by lurking---but those who do, and even better, those who actually engage in face to face conversations about the content of their MOOC courses, do much better on the tests than those who do not:    This is great news for all of us who believe in connected learning, where participation is important.   It reminds everyone that participation is not "natural" or "easy" (even face to face) but that it matters.   


What I like best about MOOCs is how much the reassert (I know this seems counterintuitive so bear with me) the importance of higher education.  The last three decades has seen not only progressive defunding of higher ed but a rhetoric that we don't need turns out that the world is (a) clamoring for an opportunity to learn  (b) that face to face learning still matters and that (c ) the majority of us online are lurkers and that is ALSO true of the majority, the research shows, in a classroom.  So a great face to face teacher also must learn from this to find ways for ENGAGED individual and peer-to-peer participation, as true for our classrooms as it is for online learning. 

Participation is very difficult for most people.   In general, we are lurkers, not just online but face to face, fearful of stepping forward, putting ourselves apart from the rest.   Why wouldn't this be the case?   After all, we're trained through most of industrial age education to sit still, in rows, for unconscionable amounts of time, and passively take in information that we then give back by filling in little boxes on standardized tests.  It is not a system geared towards active participation.  We have to encourage this.  And Massive Online Open Research (MOOR--I just coined that) is underscoring this important connection.  As I keep saying, "if we can be replaced by a computer screen, we should be."   By that I mean, we need to ensure that what we do in the classroom is absolutely irreplaceable, urgent, and engaged.


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