Back in 2004-05, while I was writing The Information Commons Handbook (ALA / Neal-Schuman, 2006), I became keenly interested in the potential for Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) to be morphed into web-based learning environments by enterprising and creative faculty in collaboration with librarians. I was especially struck by a) the extraordinary size and scope of the typical MMOG player base, and b) the remarkable degree of user engagement and persistence. I called attention to these factors in my book, because I saw the new academic library framework of the Information Commons and Learning Commons as possible platforms for MMOG learning-model development by faculty and MMOG learning-model engagement by students. These possibilities seemed to me exciting, and potentially transformative.
Since 2006, of course, we've all seen the development of MOOCs. We've heard the hype about them as the "future of higher education," often by commentators who seem a bit giddy by their sheer MMOG-like initial enrollment numbers. But while rigorous MOOC outcomes assessment has been underwhelming, the assessments I've seen indicate levels of student engagement and persistence that are anything but MMOG-like. Some claim this doesn't matter. I disagree. I think it may be time for MOOC enthusiasts to to take a fresh look at the idea of morphing the MMOG into a model for web-based learning.
What I did not anticipate in my 2006 book was that any faculty, let alone "star" faculty at prestige institutions, would be content to initiate a web-based learning model that would essentially do little more than port-over the creaky old concept of sage on the stage. Yes, a MOOC may now be a virtual sage on a digital stage, but in terms of underlying learning-model dynamics, the parameters of that physical-to-virtual shift remain essentially trivial, not transformative.
True, some more enterprising faculty are now trying some new interactive MOOC add-ons and apps to boost student interactivity, and presumably, thereby boost engagement and persistence. Perhaps we will eventually see the development of something like a MOOC / MMOG hybrid, in a framework that blends modalities of the star professor's sage persona reframed within the more engaging interactivity of an online learning game with its players guided on the side. At the very least, I hope someone tries.
---Donald Beagle < firstname.lastname@example.org >
LinkedIn profile: < http://linkd.in/rDKecu >