This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

#ocTEL MOOC (week 2 Webinar) Eventually, it's wise to distinguish the driver from the traveller!

This week, for the first time since the beginning of this course, I can attend the webinar. The connexion is easy and the environment is rather well designed. We have a sense of the audience (about 50 people), the moderators are active, the chat is lively and the presentation (slides and comments) is clearly displayed. May be, for a foreign leaner, not perfect in English, the discourse is too fast and difficult sometimes to catch; however with the support of the slides and thanks to a well structured talk, it is possible to follow anyway.

The topic of the webinar, presented by Helen Beetham, is to explore and consider possible responses to the question "What do we need to know about learners?".

I usually understand this question from an epistemic and cognitive perspective, but this time the angle is more focused on the learner as a user of the MOOC. This makes me realize the difference between a the user of a course and a learner. If one consider a course as a commodity, then there are a few question to ask about the user which are of a different nature than if you consider it as an instrument for learning purposes. I mean that there are two different questions: (1) what we need to know about the learner as a course user? (2) what do we need to know about the learner as a knowing subject? The commodification, if I may dare this neologism, of courses by the technology makes relevant questioning who is the learner as a user (eventually as a client as he or she may pay for the service).

Let's try a metaphor: a car is both a commodity and a means for go from one place to an other, however before travelling one must be able to drive. Hence, if you conceive a car you must know something about the driver, the question of who he or she is as a traveller is an other story... Back to learning: such a question is not that critical in a classroom because of the possibility to adapt in real time to the difficulties which may appear. In a distance learning course of a reasonable size, there is the possibility to intervene if needed and respond to needs with not a too long delay; actually there is a physical distance but the social distance is not too important. In a MOOC, the social distance may be rather critical since it is very easy to remain unnoticeable and isolated from the others. So, being autonomous, proactive and digital-something is required, and one may understand that the institutions try to ensure that this is fine before students engage in a MOOC. To some extent, ensuring that the driver has a licence is a wise idea.

Eventually, I think we have to consider seriously Roger Emery remark: "Issues I face: Concentration, Focus, Application, Dedication. In a traditional 'classroom' I am locked in a room for an hour with a facilitator and community of learners with no distractions to concentrate on the learning and subject. I've never been able to replicate that experience online" (@SolentRoger).
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