MOOCs vs. University Online Courses

I’m in the process of taking my second online MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) with Coursera.  I’ve been teaching online classes for UMass Boston over the last 6 years.  These UMass courses have taken the traditional semester long courses and in many ways their structures and moved them into a online environment.   These online courses have had the typical 10-25 students foll lowing along with material that would be somewhat similar to what is delivered in an face-to-face class.

The similarities of the MOOC with the UMass online offerings are the following:

  • Instruction is by a university or institutionally validated inidivudal
  • Classes have a defined start and end date
  • Course materials are released in a sequential nature
  • There are assignments and assessments
  • Students may be very geographically dispersed
  • Lectures via PowerPoint and instructor audio or video are present

Yet there are concrete differences between the two. In the MOOC,

  • There are thousands of students.
  • One on one Interactions with professor and teaching assistants are limited.
  • The role of the study group and peer learning community becomes much more important for parsing out confusion
  • The two courses I have taken were free
  • Individual motivation and agency in learning becomes much more important
  • External validation via a degree is not present, but I can get “certifications”
  • Not sure how more subjective work such as essays would be assessed and validated — guess I should take a literature course
So here are the questions that come to mind:
  • How can you leverage peer support and learning present in the MOOC in an online university course?
  • What sort of validation would learning done completely in MOOC have in replacement of a traditional college degree?
  • How can you enliven intrinsic motivation and independent inquiry present in a MOOC for a university course?
  • What would happen is an online University course could accommodate 1000 student each pay $10 or $15 rather than 10 paying $1500 each?
  • What content is not very appropriate for a MOOC?

Thoughts on 119 Organizational Design

So I’m starting to think about the 119 and its organizational design.  Starting to pickup more concretely literature in this area.  It seems to me that looking at the 119 as a case connects to literature from the following areas like:

  • Organizational Studies
  • Business Management and Leadership
  • Collectives and Cooperatives
  • Grassroots Organizing
  • Volunteer Management
  • Motivational Studies
  • Social Network Theory
  • Complexity Studies
  • System Thinking
  • Network Design

This format rests within a long history of community action and engagement coupled with traditions coming out of the business sector formed during the middle part of the last century and then amplified by advances in science and technology which have produced new ways of sharing and communicating.

The 119 sits somewhere between social network theory and organizational management theories.  The organization is concerned with organizational tasks such as creating goals and outcomes, designing roles and responsibility / accountability, and coordinating and communicating key information (management and leadership).  At the same time, there is a need for trust, community, reciprocity, social bonding and bridging (social network). The system also mechanisms to provide feedback for adaptation and response (system).

Thinking too on what self-organizing groups need in terms of platforms, coordinating structures, values, etc.

It also seems to me that the 119 Gallery responds and adapts within a context of problem-based organization.  Laurie Ross’s report on Youth Workers talks about Dilemna-based approaches.  It seems that there is something there.  The idea that problems become and opportunity respond and adapt systems.

For instance, current tensions at the 119 appear to revolve around roles and responsibilities and confusion when these are crossed without prior understanding.

I’m going to start reading on some older literature from the early 1990s to early 2000s about these concepts.  I am thinking that while the business sector has had a lot of these ideas shifting around and there exist NPO models, articulation of these concepts within the NPO literature is under-developed.

Mental Models

Over the last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about mental models and how we come to understand new ideas, technologies and ways of doing things.  At a meeting at the MOS regarding the next global World Wide View conversation, Larry Bell mentioned the idea of “anticipatory governance.”  The idea that if we start changing how we do things and thinking about things in new ways, policies will change.

I was then talking to Peter Taylor about the Collaborative Explorations process and trying to link it to the 119 Gallery.  When the 119 Gallery opened up its space for others to coordinate and book events and exhibitions, our programming and attendance jumped.  I was wondering if by opening up CE would we get more interest.  But then, I though the 119 Gallery worked because people already had the mental model of how to use the space.  They knew what a band was, an art exhibition, a performance, etc . . . there were and have been many spaces like these before.  But what does a CE online look like?  Certainly software developers and international folks work on collaborative projects.  But what if you are brining a new practice to someone?  How do you help them gain the mental model so that they can in turn act?

I was then thinking about an interview that I did with a teen at SSI yesterday.  She loved the place because she could have the kinds of conversations she always wanted to have.  She was allowed to see herself as a leader.  And without the space, she wasn’t sure if she would see herself in such a role at this point.

I think I’d like to explore more fully how we come to understand new ways of doing things of understanding new processes.  I am wondering if this might not be a CE of my own.

Computer Clubhouse Learning Model

Danielle Martin just took on a new job as the director of knowledge management at the Computer Clubhouse.  I think their learning model:  has some relevance here.  I am wondering how this model can be added to to heighten social justice and political engagement outcomes.  It would seem that DERC is using this model.  How is this model different than positive youth development.   What does it need to be a social justice youth development.  I need to schedule times to chat with Danielle as well as Laurie Ross.

Enhanced Discovery Learning

Peter just posted this on the CESPOC Diigo group:

in the words of, ‘a “meta-analysis” of hundreds of others: It found that “direct instruction’ was a more effective instructional method than “unassisted discovery learning. “And it found that “enhanced discovery learning” trumped them both.” –

I think this is related to the idea of why open spaces may be so effective in building up the lessons learned in such environments. I should take some time and read more about these sorts of “enhanced discovery learning.” environments.  Ferlazzo also calls this sort of learning “inductive teaching.”  I’ll need to add this ideas to my literature search.

Open Space Ideas @ DERC

So part of my thinking regarding another research project has been around the idea of open spaces and self-organizing groups and how they link to ideas about personal empowerment and community change.  I just interviewed my third teen at DERC today and it is seem clear to me that this space has some profound impacts on the teens there.  All three have talked about the space being welcoming, like family and caring.  At the same time each has articulated a journey of growth as well as expressed some profound ideas about political agency — “I have a voice, ” “I am more tolerant of diverse settings,” and “I’ve come into contact with others I never would have.”

This space is pretty informal in the way it operates, but at the same time it has a lot of the same elements as the 119 Gallery space.  There is a space.  It is open and welcoming.  Individuals there create an atmosphere where you can try and explore.  The staff and space are responsive to individual needs and ideas, but at the same time express interest in the individual growth and development of each teen.  The staff share their own stories and struggles.  There are bonds built.  I need to explore this more, but it was an amazing “ah ha” to me.

Some other things that came to mind as I was driving back from DERC:

  • Programs should capture young people before they are of working age and create a bond for them — having fun things or volunteer “jobs” seem important.
  • There should be ladders of increasing responsibility
  • There should be centers close to the homes and / or schools of teens
  • There should be multiple opportunities — work, academic achievement, chill time, fun learning, etc
  • Duration seems to be key as well

Again the importance of family that engages with the news.  And this brought up an insight about the news:

  • news should link human interest to global problems

Individual Transformation -> Community Change

Starting to download a bunch more literature on the concept of community empowerment.  Thinking about on Evan et al paper from SSSP, I wonder when does individual transformation lead to community change?  What are the mechanism that turn individual interests into community goals.  This brings in some of the reading I was doing on individual motivation which talks about linking individual interests to collective ones.  This is also supported by political theorists like Rousseau.

Each of the youth I’ve interviewed thus far have been able to envision an issue that they care about and envision making change.  The two youth at DERC, talked about the space as helping them appreciate diverse people more and building strong bonds to others.  What does the literature say about that?  In the case of the one youth at FBP who had a more advanced sense of engagement, he had a family history of community service, was connected to the park prior to being a worker, and had spent more years involved in the neighborhood.

I think with the FBP group, the major lesson learned is that the organization provided a positive work environment.  I’m not convinced that they created a stronger sense of change or possibility of change than any other type of work environment.  They did create a greater awareness of park conservation and brought new skills to the group (i.e. using tools, working with others, identifying plants).  The team building activities created a a positive work environment.

So the challenge now is to figure out how the social justice organization youth come to understand their roles, etc.

SSSP Annual Meeting, Identity Movements, and Political Education

Attending the SSSP annual meeting last week was really useful.   I got some help ideas on how to present and structure my own research presentations (i.e. focus on theory and design, connect the two).  I still need to go through the various notes from the conference and pull them into a more cohesive memo.  Perhaps that is what I will do later this week.  There were several literatures referenced that I think would be useful moving forward with my dissertation.  Specifically:

  • community empowerment (reference Krista et a paper in community org and prob session)
  • political education
  • worker education
  • community efficacy
  • life stories of social change folks
  • women’s movement and consciousness raising
  • identity movements (black power, chicano, LBGT)

In many ways youth organizing is very similar to other identity movements where groups or individuals have found themselves without power or voice.  While age is the defining characteristic, this group does not have political power.  So this is more similar to the fight against slavery and the abolitionists.  In some ways this is a different sort of paper here.

What seems to be a key thing to thing about is how personal transformation can lead to political change.  I really need to read the Beyond Resistance book and make more time for reading about some of these things more clearly.

It also occurred to me that there may be additional insights to youth political engagement by looking at the worker education movement and efforts for popular education especially around political education.  I should work now to bring these literatures into my work.

Politics of the Interpersonal

I’m transcribing the interview with JA that I conducted back in December as part of my dissertation research.  As she talks about her service learning class’s work with a middle schoolers at a pilot school, she brings up the concept of “politics of the interpersonal.”  The idea that folks may not become political activists in the traditional sense, but rather a consciousness about power and the cultivating of empathy and empowerment can lead individuals to transform their relationships with other.  So why individuals may not join political campaigns or large social movements, they may treat their children, family members and co-workers differently.  This idea of micro changes combined with macro efforts can have large effects.

In the interview she talks about positive youth development not really addressing the larger social or systemic forces.  At the same time, social justice approaches may not bring in the individual aspects either.  For her, the idea of community youth development seems to combine these micro and marco levels and are guided by social action.

In many ways, this is what the work Peter is engaged in is about.  By working on the processes of individual and group interaction we can change how individuals think and engage in research, their community and the world.  So it seems to me, I should bring these more subtle aspects into my interviews and perspectives.  This makes me think I should read a bit more into the literatures of “social action,” “group dynamics,” and “human development.”  I may find some new ideas to add here that could be useful to thinking about these dynamics.

It also occurred to me that I could use some of the processes and tools from Peter’s workshops for use with TCS project.  “Future Ideal,” “Daily Writing,” “Dialogue Process,” “Story Circles,” and other elements might help here.  I should familiarize myself with more of these tools via the book Peter is working on about research and engagement processes –

Local governments engaging citizens

Just finished reading Lee Worden’s rundown of the Woods Hole workshop and interestingly I dreamt last night of a group using workshop processes for engagement.  I also had a conversation with Walter last night that triggered the dilemma faced by many local governments and their inability to engaged the public.  What is it about these environments that make this so difficult?  Thinking on the collaborative knowledge workshop I wonder if it has something to do with unequal power arrangements or perhaps it is about lacking the models and capacity for engagement.  There is also the tricky problem of managing conflict or finding oneself in position of competing publics around directions and ideas.  This sort of problem can create political risks for those in local government.  I wonder if this is part of the problem.

The other part of the problem may a solution-oriented mindset the precludes individuals from seeking out new information or engaging with others as a means to seek out new information.  The pressure to perform and realize concrete products may also be at the crux of this issue.  I should talk to Rebecca M. A bit more and see what her thinking on this is.  This seems like the root of a new research project.  What are the strategies that local governments use to engage citizens in decision making process?  To what extend are these process truly participatory and to what extent do citizens feel engaged?  I could start by dong a comparison of all MA municipalities and look at some sort of activity that they all engage in.  Rebecca looked at economic development policies, but what are other policies?  I could focus on arts or creative economy policies?  I could look at local cultural councils or fire departments or police departments or some other municipal government office.  I already have a sense of the forms of municipal government and have some basic data as a result of the PILOT project.

What are the most likely ways in which municipal governments will want to engaged the community in decisions.  Planning and development seems like the most likely area, but then again I’d need to do some more research here and think about the kind of variation I’d be looking for.  This would be research project number three and I’d definitely need to start with some literature to see what is out there.