Updated 3/3/14, 3/26/14
StarAfrica predicts that “by 2015, Africa will be the land of the MOOCs” (2/28/14). This prediction is interesting, but what caught my attention is the awareness that MOOCs are not only related to but an extension of online learning in general: “Universities around the continent are taking hard deep looks at the way to use online courses for the betterment of their students, of their fellow citizens and of the rest of the world” (emphasis added). Perception is critical. As long as we’re blinded by the Coursera/edX glare, we can’t see the full potential of MOOCs. View them as extensions of online learning less some of the restrictions that have carried over from traditional onground courses and possibilities suddenly loom limitless.
This prediction also confirms disruption theory — that it’s an external force that acts on a different population. Disruption is relative. MOOCs are not disruptive within traditional campus-defined cultures. They’re disruptive when viewed on the outside. Thus, to understand the potential of MOOCs, we ought to be looking outward at how they’re changing the lives of non-traditional students.
I recently learned about Remind101 and began piloting it this spring in my classes. It’s one of those apps that are so intuitive that you’re comfortable with it from the get go. I log in to the website, key in a brief reminder, and it’s instantly texted to students who have signed up for the service. They receive an incoming buzz on their smartphones and are reminded, for example, that a post in the class discussion forum is due at midnight that day. I include a URL to the assignment description so they can click it for details. They can then log in to our forum, review the discussion, and post their comments. And, as a sign of the times, they can do all of this on their smartphones, wherever they are, whenever they choose. BTW, it’s free.
I’ve been using Twitter for this function. It’s a lot better than email in reaching students, but texting is even better. The single factor that makes t-blasting (text-blasting) practical is safety. Cell numbers remain private for everyone. Period. Registration is quick and simple. The interface is even simpler. My courses are listed in the sidebar, and the composing window is front and center. I click on a course, type my message, and click “send.” That’s it.
In OLDaily today, Stephen Downes mentions Oppia. I haven’t tried it yet, but my hunch is that this is, like Remind101, another natural for teachers in the trenches — a no muss no fuss way to share a lesson with others. Quick. Simple. Intuitive.
[Update 3/3/14: See Stefanie Panke’s review “Oppia: Google’s New, Free E-Learning Tool.”]
Tomorrow, the University of Queensland (UQ) launches Think101x: The Science of Everyday Thinking, its first MOOC on edX. Seventy thousand worldwide have signed up for it, but the focus is on the 200 traditional students on campus. This freebie is a wonderful gesture to openness, but I can’t help but wonder What if the focus were on all the students rather than the ones at UQ? What if the line between us and them were erased and the course was completely online for all? But that may be a question for tomorrow. For today, all the best to UQ!
Jimmy Daly, in EdTech (2/28/14), tells us: “200 Million Smartphones in North America: The Market Is Officially Saturated.” This is just another reason why apps such as Remind101 may be the wave of the future for teachers. I can also see how apps such as Oppia could become increasingly useful as a way to share quick & dirty lessons with students via smartphones. Ironically, as the windows to our students shrink, they grow more powerful, and the underlying factor is a familiar one — portability. The smaller and lighter the medium, the more portable it becomes, and that translates to freeing up learning, to enhancing it as an anytime-anywhere experience.
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