Learners Are People, Not Isolated Test-Taking Brains: Why MOOCs Both Work and Fail

Susan D. Blum, Extreme Tech, Mar 17, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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Those readers who know my history know that I began online with MUDs a type on MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game). I saw in them what Nick Yee saw: "achievement, social, and immersion factors." Fast-forward some twenty years and here I am working on MOOCs, which for me are based on many of the same principles as MUDs. So, when MOOC critics like Susan D. Blum cite Yee, I know where they're coming from. "Aside from the financial gains promised by a college diploma, the aspect of residential colleges that is especially compelling for many students is not the academic side of college but the same goals as Yee saw."

It's the community students benefit from, because they are immersed in the conversation, practices, beliefs and values of their discipline, whether it be the Iron Ring ceremony or the Mummers Ball. MOOCs have to be more than just online videos and the occasional discussion forum. "Those learners are people, fully engaged with multiple dimensions of their life: social, physical, pleasure-appreciating, playful." What makes MOOCs different, at least the way e do them, is first, there is a much wider range of community available to choose from, and second, participation , with all its social dimensions, is available to all people, not just the very rich who can afford to attend Blum's Notre Dame University. Image: NY Times

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