About forty young women are going to leave Japan for the United States, UK or elsewhere and their parents are going to spend a lot of money and energy for their education. Most graduating students don’t know what they are going do for a living in the future, they just dream of freedom, travel, making friends and learning in a new environment.
It will take them some time to find their path. They may graduate in a specific field but end up working in something different and will have to study again.
This is why Massively Online Open Courses (MOOC) matter.
Mooc are different from conventional online courses offered around the world because they are based on the principles of connectivism. Georges Siemens, a theorist on learning in a digitally based society, and one of the initiator of MOOC, explains in his blog:
“Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.
Principles of connectivism:
– Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
– Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
– Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
– Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
– Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
– Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
– Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.”
In MOOCs, learners are active in the process of learning and teaching. They share information and resources through online social networks, forums, blogs, wikis and Twittter.
They connect and build a virtual community and create study groups, textbooks and projects.
Five years after he started his first MOOC, Georges Siemens said in an interviews with the New York Time:
“A lot of the relationships formed through that first course are still continuing today … What we found was that in a MOOC, instead of the classroom being the center, it becomes just one node of the network of social interactions.”
Some MOOCs are offered by prestigious Universities like Stanford and MIT, some are sponsored by nonprofit organizations such as United Nations, all of them are dedicated to the democratization of higher education.
MOOCs definitively mark the end of an era where people were graduating in a field, kept the same job their all life and accomplished it the same way years after years. MOOCs is an extremely optimistic concept because it gives everyone the chance to learn and adapt to his/her environment and workplace, no matter the age, the sex, the location and the social background.
A very interesting project is the University Of The People, a Tuition-Free Online University sponsored by the United Nations that tries to create an environment as closed as possible to a real world.
“the learning community is divided in small groups of 20 to 30 students participating in online courses”. “Each study group (or class) has a course instructor” who monitors “course forums to ensure that student’s questions are being properly answered”. This seems quite similar to CoeTAIL and I can tell that the chances to finish the course are bigger when learning in small groups than on a big MOOC course!
Students and faculty also have access to the University of the People Library and Resource Center (ULRC). This virtual library “provides students and faculty access to various collections of quality academic resources and services to support the University’s academic programs.” and even offers online assistance by librarians.
I like this idea of this “library without walls” with librarians working in different universities participating in a common project. It makes me think about what we could do here, in Tokyo, if libraries from several international schools could combine their fonds and their librarians’ expertise to
– be able to afford a catalog system using sophisticated search technologies similar to search engines
– offer a union catalog and encourage interlibrary loan for students and faculty
We already have this wonderful International School Librarians Of Japan group, were librarians share the Sakura Medal Book Award, author visits and professional development events. I have the feeling that , with technologies, we can do way more in the future!
World’s First Tuition-Free Online University
– Siemens, Georges. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. December 12, 2004.
– Draycott, Matthew. Disruptive technologies in higher education: adapt or get left behind. Guardian Professional. Wednesday 21 March 2012.
– Lewin, Tamar. Instruction for Masses Knocks Down Campus Walls. The New York Time Education. March 4, 2012.
– Cupaiuolo, Christine. The History and Future of MOOCs and the New Open Education Week. Spotlight on Digital Learning and Education (blog). March 2, 2012.