It is the fourth of July, in the US that is a holiday, a celebration of declaring independence from England some 235 years ago this year. Fireworks and firecrackers are the order of the evening as I write this post in a tiny rural town surrounded by corn fields outside of Springfield, Illinois. The relative peace of my little bungalow is broken by the thunder of fireworks and snap of firecrackers. While this national holiday dominates activity for the day in the culture here, many of our participants in eduMOOC are going about their normal workdays.
For me, this holiday means fewer calls and fewer emails, allowing more time to again reflect on what we are doing and why.
Two research teams are forming - one organized in New Zealand (http://wikieducator.org/OER_university/eduMOOC_planning_group), the other organized in Canada(http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2011/07/04/researching-open-online-courses/) - both drawing on volunteers around the world. They will be examining open online classes more closely than ever before. There are many questions to be asked, and much to be learned from this, prior, and upcoming massive open online classes (notably the expansive examination of "change" to start in September and run into May - http://change.mooc.ca/.
I am amazed that so many eduMOOC participants are networking, tweeting, blogging, discussing. Normally, I would need to motivate students in my classes to do this. Those students are paying tuition and fees. eduMOOC participants are not. Yet, they are the ones who are motivated, energized, enthusiastic. I ponder why that might be.
Perhaps it is the topic. Perhaps it is the time. Perhaps we have come to a point where people around the world are sophisticated users of the Web and social networking who can freely and comfortably engage in a MOOC. Perhaps we have come to the point that high-cost higher education is no longer sustainable, and people around the world are fervently seeking alternatives online.
People in small countries with few educational institutions and IT infrastructure resources, and people in large countries with many universities and resources are moved to learn, discuss, debate, suggest, test, and celebrate online learning.
Slowly, I get glimmers of understanding from the hundreds of postings and tweets. Ponderously, I come to realize just how complex this is. To me there is no simple, single apparent reason for the response to Moocs and to this particular topic.
And, so the research work of George Siemens and Wayne Mackintosh and their associates is important. They will gather numbers, assess, evaluate, analyze, interview, focus, and track. Turning over every stone in the river of MOOCs, they will discover some trends, patterns, and perhaps some reasons.
Out of these discoveries, we can all hope, will come some answers to meet the needs of people around the world.
Participants, know that you are being heard. We are hearing what you are saying individually and in small groups. We may not yet fully understand what you are collectively saying. But, the research teams will do all they can to more completely understand why, and what for, and what may be next.
"See" you online!