#oCTEL MOOCs or Serious Gamification

In week one of the oCTEL course, we’ve been asked to look at a couple of examples of learning methods and comment on them and decide which one you think is more powerful and relevant for you.

First I selected the interview of George Siemens, talking about massive open online courses (MOOCs). Along with Stephen Downes, George developed really the current idea for MOOCs, only a couple of years ago. The MOOC concept stemmed from an idea of running conference material in the form of a course, delivered over the web. It followed earlier developments in social learning with the forming of Open Educational Resources, alongside a movement of social/democratic movements for education and an evolving pedagogy of rhizomatic education.

Since the first MOOCs were initially run, much has quickly developed, with a whole range of different courses now being hosted, by various platforms and providers. Using the word ‘massive’ and ‘open’ can easily be challenged, as what determines a ‘massive’ course. Similarly, what does one mean by open. Certainly platform providers such as Coursera can be criticised in that they select which courses they are willing to host – thus filtering what learning potential is available.

I see MOOCs as been powerful in that they provide a potential opportunity for learning that is free at the point of use, to hundreds of thousands of people across the world, at any time. MOOCs have had in excess of 150,000 students taking them, all for free, as part of a single course. Wow – that is a lot of learning taking place. Accepting that drop out rates can be high, that is still a lot of possible learning. Of course, people signing up to MOOCs might not really be engaging fully with all the study materials – but if they are engaging in some way, then they are learning in some way. Who decides what and who and when should be learnt, is a great break away for MOOCs, from traditionally fixed, linear pedagogies, with fixed learning outcomes. MOOCS give greater power and control and autonomy to the learner. For example, it is completely up to me, as a course participant, how much I engage with this oCTEL MOOC and who I decide to engage with through the provided Forum boards, and what links and how I try and develop.

This chaotic way of learning, whilst embedded within a framework, is something new for me to get used to, having spent many years as a student, and now as a lecturer, taking and designing rather rigid, linear courses.

And this contrasts very much with the use of some form of a virtual reality or serious game developed by Helen Keegan. Of course it was welcoming to see a northern speaker and academic featuring in this course, and someone I hadn’t heard of before. But the teaching methods and approach had a very powerful effect on me in that (a) I don’t really understand what was actually done and (b) I felt very unnerved, as was anticipated for the students on her course, to some extent, by the material and delivery methods AND by what appeared to be an experiment on students without their consent. The latter point had to be taken seriously after the project had started as some students seemed to be at least posting signs of psychological distress. But I admire Helen’s work for trying to develop curiosity for learning among her students – which was what the project was designed to do. Year on year, I find that students have less of an enquiring mind, and expect more and more instruction. This is not only frustrating but is sad, especially as access to the virtual world has brought tremendous learning opportunities for those with some initial curiosity at least.

So in a way, both the MOOCs and the use of some form of augmented reality, I find, appealing for learning opportunities. MOOCS allow social learning, and personal learning and networking communities to be naturally developed and games or augmented reality can help students embrace and deploy their innate desire for curiosity, so often squashed by externally imposed, and probably often needless tick boxes and procedures.

The thought of trying to introduce any augmented reality onto the course I teach on sees light years away – opening people up to the possibilities and advantages of OERs, and social learning environments needs to be tackled first.

I am interested to find out what others thought about these examples.





"a technophobic in recovery" . Hello - I'm a senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, England. My subject area is Public Health. I spend most of my time teaching postgraduate students on a fully online distance learning programme in public health and primary care. I have come from a research background in public health and primary in the UK National Health Service. My main research & public health interests include the evaluation and impact assessment of public health interventions. I have published papers on randomised controlled trials, cross sectional studies and systematic reviews. My teaching and learning interests, more recently pursued, include pedagogy for vocational postgraduate students in an international context; the use of web-based technology for learning; Open Learning and MOOCs and the development of critical thinking skills and research training.

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One comment on “#oCTEL MOOCs or Serious Gamification
  1. gotanda says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thanks for posting your thoughts. I haven’t yet, so it’s much easier to just post a comment to yours!

    I’m ambivalent, to say the least, about “free at the point of use, to hundreds of thousands of people across the world, at any time. MOOCs have had in excess of 150,000 students taking them, all for free, as part of a single course.” I wholeheartedly agree with you. Wow! Yes, that is a lot of learning. But, you’ve indicated by your qualification “at the point of use” does not of course mean really free, does it?

    The Chronicle article had anecdotes like these that show someone has to “pay.”

    “Typically a professor spent over 100 hours on his MOOC before it even started, by recording online lecture videos and doing other preparation. Others laid that groundwork in a few dozen hours.”

    “In all, the extra work took a toll. Most respondents said teaching a MOOC distracted them from their normal on-campus duties.”

    “It’s out of ‘my own’ time, which is quite limited,” Mr. Owens reported. “So, yes, other areas of my job suffered.”

    See: https://groups.diigo.com/group/iafor-actc-mooc/content/the-professors-behind-the-mooc-hype-technology-the-chronicle-of-higher-education-9237689

    How do you see the institutional demands and funding playing out? (Asking since I’m not sure.)

    But your “Wow!” remains–even with the drop off/drop out rate. And then I’m not even sure what that means vs “completion” on a MOOC. The other day Martin Hawksey Tweeted:

    “So fellow #ocTEL ‘ers are you #A = Auditing #T = On Track #B = Behind or #O = Out ” and sparked quite a discussion. https://twitter.com/mhawksey/status/324157477681762305

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