It has been my experience that educators tend to teach the way they learn. As the delivery method of education has changed over the last several years, we have asked educators to teach using tools and methods that they did not experience as students.
There is, however, a movement underway that is transformative in nature as online education is changing the way people teach and learn. Massive open online courses have opened the door to the online classroom and allowed us to look inside. According to recent reports, the participants of MOOCs today are highly educated, most with a master’s degree or higher. Are educators finally getting a chance to learn from each other’s teaching methods? Are faculty using the opportunity to see how other professor’s teach online? What are the implications for the improvement of teaching and learning online as a practice and how will this improve our understanding of online pedagogy?
Learning theorists have presented various pedagogical approaches for teaching over the years, however, a new entry: connectivism has captured my attention as it is the underpinnings of MOOCs and is a learning theory for the digital age. Prior to the introduction of connectivism I would have self-identified as a social constructivist, however, a merging of the two is a better description of my current philosophy.
Connecting learners via social networks and open courses builds a community of practice or personalized learning networks (PLN) around topics. Connectivism was introduced to the world by George Siemens in 2004 and explored in more depth during the first MOOC – CCK08 in 2008. This first MOOC would later be coined a cMOOC or connectivist MOOC.
There is tremendous value in having faculty participate in MOOCs so that they can learn alternative strategies and new tools to enhance their own teaching practice. The opportunity exists to study the MOOCs that are available on a variety of platforms in order to identify the best instructional design models, teaching methods, and learning technologies.
I have many questions that I hope to answer with my completed research paper: how does social learning or peer learning support the learning process? What new instructional design models are emerging in MOOCs that can be leveraged to improve online courses? What can we learn from the educators who attempt to deliver a high-quality online education to scale about new teaching methodologies that will allow for the democratization of higher education? In order to answer these questions, I’ll need to dig into the research around social learning, peer support, instructional design models, MOOC pedagogy, and innovative teaching practices in the online education space.