The Truth about MOOC MOOC

by Sean Michael Morris

The truth is there have been other MOOCs about MOOCs. Almost all the early connectivist MOOCs pioneered by folks like George Siemens and Stephen Downes were, whether explicitly or implicitly, exploring the form, the pedagogy, and the process of MOOCs. The information about MOOC-style learning those courses generated is substantial. And you'll definitely find the fruits of that work peppered throughout MOOC MOOC. Similarly, the newer MOOCs -- such as those offered by Udacity, edX, Coursera, and others -- provide new information about what is possible in MOOCs, what happens when they aim to be corporatized (and, down the line, monetized), and what students and other participants both look for and prefer in a massive open online course.

It would be easy to contend that, at this early stage in their evolution, that every MOOC is a MOOC about MOOCs -- that every MOOC is a MOOC MOOC.

At the same time, we are unaware of anyone who has done a MOOC specifically about the MOOC phenomenon. A MOOC that explores unhesitatingly -- even a bit recklessly -- the potential, pitfalls, drawbacks, and advantages of this approach to teaching and learning. MOOC MOOC aims to expose all of us to the grand experiment of MOOCs by participating in that grand experiment, albeit in a concentrated, one-week format. 

The Laboratory

While designing MOOC MOOC, we investigated a lot of other MOOCs. One problem we consistently encountered was knowing, once we landed in the course, what to do first. For that reason, we chose to set MOOC MOOC within the Canvas learning management system. Here, we were able to make as clear as possible the steps everyone can take to participate how they want to.

There are obvious problems with containing something as expansive as a MOOC within an LMS structure. Canvas is particularly good at keeping an open door to the rest of the Internet; but even so, we have devised plenty of ways for all of us to connect with one another outside of the LMS. We'll be collaborating in Google Docs, discussing our ideas on Twitter, creating movies to share on YouTube, and more. We're all encouraged to blog, post, tweet, and communicate every which way with each other all week.

The Experiment

This MOOC is an experiment. Not a "will it work?" experiment, but a "let's test an hypothesis" experiment. The hypothesis is the MOOC. The tool we're using to test it is MOOC MOOC.
Because it's an experiment, we expect a certain amount of failure. We don't set out to be proved right, necessarily, nor to be proved wrong. We set out to test, to try, to witness, and to reflect. We think it's important to risk failure by pushing the boundaries of the form, by questioning its nature and purpose, because only then can we understand its capacities, and where its potential lies. So, when something doesn't quite work the way we hope, let's take that as part of the experiment -- something to reflect on, consider, and maybe reinvent so we can try again.

The Chemistry

MOOC MOOC has prepared the chemistry set. There will be plenty to mix, stir, pour, and combine -- more, in fact, than some of us may have the stomach for. Make no mistake, there is work here: the work of discussion, collaboration, invention, de(con)struction, and reflection.

Your first decision when entering this, or any, MOOC is to decide how you want to participate. Will you throw yourself headlong into the work with us? Or are you a lurker? Either way, there's something for everyone. No matter how you participate, you'll become part of the chemistry, part of the fusion we're testing. 

One of the biggest criticisms levied against online learning in general, and MOOCs in particular, is that the act of learning feels isolated. Students find they are unable to interact with their instructors (sometimes stuck behind the fourth wall of a prerecorded video), or with each other. Threaded discussions can only go so far to create a sense of community. But we believe that community is integral to learning -- especially online -- and that it is equally possible to form virtual communities as it is to form on-ground communities.

And so MOOC MOOC is all about discovering the community -- and the bold experiment -- you've come to be a part of.

Some Additional Material to Explore

Jeff Dunn, “A Quick Guide to the History of MOOCs
George Siemens, “What is the Theory that Underpins Our MOOCs?
Bonnie Stewart, “The MOOC Is Dead, Long Live the MOOC
Jesse Stommel, “The March of the MOOCs: Monstrous Open Online Courses
Dave Cormier, “What Is a MOOC?
Dave Cormier, “How to Succeed in a MOOC