What’s a MOOC? (And can it help us save humanity?)

A diagram from Dave Cormier’s video.

I’ve been scratching my head, wondering “what’s a MOOC?”

Someone at SCUP sent me a helpful link to a succinct four-minute video by Dave Cormier that describes MOOCs and explains that the acronym stands for “Massive Open On-line Course.”  I also found a helpful blog posted by Lou Mcgill titled  What is a mooc? Massive Online Open Course and the learner perspective.

SCUP is using a MOOC to facilitate communication among its members.  I’ve been visiting SCUP’s MOOC for weeks now but I haven’t been able to “see the forest for the trees.”  I haven’t understood what’s going on all around me.  I find my way to some places that seem like classrooms and other places where discussion is going on, but I don’t yet understand how to navigate effectively.

Thanks to Dave and Lou I can finally stop scratching my head!  And, once I understand how the platform works, I can start using it to generate knowledge about planning and sustainability — rather that just about how to use MOOCs and the internet more effectively.

In any case, I believe that this on-line communication platform (i.e., SCUP’s MOOC) is the reason that my article got so many downloads so quickly after it went “live” on the internet.  The splash page for the article was viewed 644 times between November 9 and November 12.

To be honest, up until now I didn’t actually think people read the academic articles I’d published.  But now that I think about it, several people did contact me regarding an article I published with SCUP in 2010 titled Strategic by Design: Iterative Approaches to Educational Planning.  So perhaps SCUP’s audience reads and communicates more about its publications than is the case with many other organizations!

MOOCs provide a platform for learning that can help communities develop new knowledge quickly.  SCUP’s is aimed toward generating knowledge about how universities run and how they can improve their approaches over time.

Perhaps humanity will develop viable paths to achieving sustainability by using tools like MOOCs to share and build knowledge.  That’s part of the focus of my article just published by SCUP and something I think society MUST focus on if we are to persist on this planet.

But I’m quite interested in knowing more about how people work together to generate new knowledge.  The research project I’m conducting right now with Gavin Duffy and Brian Bowe (as part of my Fulbright) investigates how a group of teachers here at the DIT (i.e., a learning community) has been able to implement changes in the way DIT teaches Electrical Engineering.  These are topics I learned a lot about in the Ph.D. program I completed at The College of William and Mary on educational policy, planning, and leadership.

And interestingly, so many of the women I’ve bumped into recently–Esther, Joan, Máirtín’s wife, and myself–have been studying topics of leadership and change management.  Now that I’ve joined SCUP’s MOOC, I have found a whole new community discussing change, strategy, and the university’s role in addressing social and environmental issues. I hope we can elicit the types of sweeping change that this world needs, and do it fast enough to save ourselves.

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