MOOC X-Games

johnson51-cqo-0001-0In the last couple of weeks I have spent some time off-piste with academic colleagues from other universities who have been delivering MOOCs this year.

Engaging in MOOCs was always a bit of a leap into the unknown, these colleagues look like they have been engaging in a high adrenalin extreme sport. They  have come back grinning from ear to ear. For them it has been a total rush.

Perhaps this is what the X actually stands for, these are the new education  x-games and there’s a hunger for it.

Putting yourself out there, not knowing how it will feel, managing the experience of mediating learners in their thousands and surviving unscathed*. They want to do it again and again, and they want to know ‘what’s next?’

They also recognise the role of support teams who made it possible.   The striking benefit for institutions, beyond the increased dopamine levels of the individual  teaching academic, is the renewed boost to the engagement of academic colleagues with the learning technology/ edtech/ instructional design/ media production teams on campus.

When you are standing at the top about to jump, the support teams play a vital part in getting you there safely and supporting you when things get hairy.  They do the heavy lifting, they test the equipment,  they’ve got your back. They do their best to  help you manage the the high number of inherently uncontrollable variables. They give you the best advice they can on environmental conditions based on expertise and the best data they have.

Once you have  had that experience together,  you want to do more, you spread the word, you tell others how much fun it is, you encourage them to try too.   There is now  a queue of people, mustered, kitted up and ready step out into the void.

Given Oxford’s key role in the development of extreme and dangerous sports**, and colleagues’ interest in rejecting authority and the status quo, I  do think it is a shame we are missing  this opportunity to  push new boundaries. But there’s still time.

As with sport, whilst traditional educational success criteria may be adopted when assessing performance, extreme teaching performers tend to reject unified judging methods, with different MOOCs employing their own ideals and having the ability to evolve their activities with new  developments in the space. That is what makes it edgy, the experience will be different every time.

Some new variations of adrenalin MOOCing I predict we will soon see include:

Team Moocs:  There are not many extreme team sports, they tend to be solitary pursuits, but while at the moment  most MOOCs are delivered and badged as individual institutions,  colleagues will increasingly work together across disciplines and institutions to team teach, probably on several MOOCs in parallel.

Rapid response MOOCs:  MOOCs have broken free of traditional course approval timescales. Once the production processes are established, it is just a matter of how agile and cutting edge your content can be, and this is what the elite universities really have to offer***. Need a global food security expert today?  Just pop across the campus. Need a ‘History of the Crimea’ MOOC? No problem.

Just in time MOOCs: Looking ahead, MOOC-able moments abound. Which Scottish university has a referendum MOOC up its sleeve?  Will the BBC and FutureLearn launch a raft of Great War centenary MOOCs ? Who amongst us will charm the Irish diaspora family history market with an Easter Rising MOOC this time in 2016?

21st Century MOOCing:  Who will harness the power of the crowd to think on the big global questions? MOOC learners (and teachers) are predominately smart cookies with time on their hands, enquiring minds and a motivation to  venture into new lines of enquiry. Lets go there with them.

South-South MOOCs:  At the moment MOOCs are predominately global northern in language, pedagogy and presumption. There is no reason why this should not change.

Relationship MOOCs:  Currently most institutions are offering a spread of single-topic MOOCs. MOOC learners are showing an appetite for taking one after another. Clusters of  topics and themes  for progression will offer  opportunities for increased ‘hook in’ to individual institutions. Institutions will begin to establish lasting relationships with their MOOC alumni.

Big data MOOCs: Hands up who has big data sets they think the public could do interesting things with?

Maker MOOCs:  With a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively, ‘Maker MOOCs’ will teach new and unique applications of maker technologies (3-d printing, robotics, constructive textiles etc) to encourage invention, sharing, collaboration and prototyping.

Rolling bungee MOOCs:  What do you do if you are getting slated because you have high attrition and drop-out on your MOOCs as they approach the end of the presentation?  Make it a never-ending presentation. No final week. No final metric. Just keep stretching until they reach the end and bounce back.

Skeleton MOOCs: Ditch the fancy kit and padding, put on a pair of goggles, a lycra suit and head down the mountain chin-first on a tea tray.

*There have been casualties, some  have crashed and burned.

** Invented bungee jumping you know.

*** This is something I enjoy very much about the Oxford podcasts- we can turn around new content in a matter of hours.

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