“Glorified correspondence classes”.
“All the drawbacks of sage-on-the-stage, Professor-based teaching.. but without the warmth of human contact.”
“The latest fad.”
“Nobody ever finishes them.”
“Isn’t it just e-learning with a few more bells and whistles?”
All accusations levelled at the new generation of online courses – whether you call them MOOCs, xMOOCs, cMOOCs or guided digital blended learning pathway journeys (GDBLPJs – no, it’s ok, I just made that up).
So why are we looking, in the Diplomatic Academy, at the potential of online courses?
An obvious starting point is that we want to provide central learning opportunities for a workforce scattered around the globe. And then there’s the attractiveness of connecting colleagues from different continents who will never, ever find themselves in the same country or even timezone at the same time – let alone the same classroom – and yet have a lot to talk about. It’s also about helping our experts to share their knowledge with 2,000 people globally, rather than 20 people in the same building.
Maybe it’s because I quite like doing things via an app on my iPhone as I commute into work on the Gatwick Express, and believe that others do as well – I mean, whatever their equivalent of the Gatwick Express is – the Bogota metro, or the Viennese tram. I’ve been dipping into the Future Learn MOOC on Blended Learning, and enjoying it, especially the comments (didn’t quite expect that).
It’s dangerous to extrapolate from personal preference. But we know our staff are already out there experimenting with MOOCs – on Future Learn, Open Learn, Coursera – and that we’ve had a great response to our own experiment with online content at Foundation Level. That’s 41 units of “static” content, which can be accessed at any time, in any order, and brought to life locally.
It’s got to be worth a go.
We’ll start by deconstructing the acronym. We don’t want M for Massive, we want to start with S for Small. We’ll start with C for Closed. We’ll keep the O for Online, but instead of calling it a course – which suggests a one-off event – I’d be happier calling it a Programme, as the classic pattern is four or five weeks.
So we’ll pilot a couple of SCOPs – Small Closed Online Programmes – and see what happens.
Any advice or thoughts? – including on..
- should people be encouraged to form small groups locally, even if they are already joining a wider global community?
- what about countries which are de facto excluded because of poor bandwidth? (we have colleagues who find even simple e-learning impossible to access)
- what are the best ways to mark the “beginning” and “end” of a programme which has no physical presence?