Having the opportunity to web conference with my learning partner, Martha, was a valuable and enjoyable experience. There is little that I like more than having an interesting, intelligent conversation with a peer. The web conference tool (Skype) offers face to face communication which would not be possible for us otherwise. The activity provided the opportunity to gain more experience using Skype, and to get more comfortable having a conversation using it.
My learning partner, Martha, and I chose to explore the topic of MOOCs as they are currently being explored as alternatives and supplements to traditional university courses. Massive Open Online Courses offer the possibility for continued, advanced learning, allowing any number of learners, from anywhere with an internet connection, the ability to acquire new skills, improve knowledge, and increase employability for free. With innovative companies such as Coursera, Udacity, and edX offering free courses delivered by the best in their fields, MOOCs are making quality education accessible to a brand new audience of learners. Interestingly, edX is using the MOOC platform as a sort of laboratory to test new teaching methods, and challenge the lecture model. By using MOOCs to convey basic information online, class time is no longer used for lecture, and can be freed up for time spent on collaborative projects, and trying out ideas beyond the lecture material. Some instructors are leveraging existing MOOCs to supplement a university or college education by assigning video-lectures from a MOOC as out of class work, and adopting the flipped classroom model.
Being able to discuss this new information, and ask questions about the information that I didn’t understand, with a learning partner, clarified and solidified my learning. The benefit of collaborative learning was also reinforced for me. Learning happens best when there is opportunity to share learning and express points of view. During our web conference, Martha provided an interesting insight regarding the high drop-out rate in MOOCs. I had read some statistics regarding the high drop-out rate, but didn’t think too much about it, until Martha commented that we shouldn’t be too concerned about the high drop-out rate in MOOCs because the courses are free for learners to explore and take as little or as much as they want from them. Her insight made me pause and think, and consider whether or not we should care about the drop-out rate – I haven’t come to my own conclusion yet, however, I am still pondering it, which would not have happened if I had done the assignment on my own or even with a different partner. This was my biggest take-away from our web conference. For more interesting insights, please check out Martha’s blog here.