How not to begin a MOOC

by Jeanne Bernish on November 17, 2012

I had good intentions – I just ran out of steam last month when the rubber hit the road on the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by Stanford (see “Reframing Gifted Education Delivery“). With everything being written about online learning I was very excited about the potential to reimagine an online community for high ability students. This seemed like an ideal opportunity to gather some of my colleagues in gifted education and brainstorm ways to improve learning options, particularly for urban and rural kids without ready access to enrichment.
November has been (and continues to be) a particularly busy time both professionally and personally – honestly I just never had the time to sit down and “work” the system. The colleagues I had identified to join in the fun were already too busy to engage and I lacked the skills and/or time to assemble a like-minded team by promoting myself in the online forum process (designed for that purpose.) By the second week of November I realized I couldn’t pull it together and I dropped the course. No harm, no foul? Or does it speak to the intrinsic motivation required for successful free education systems. If there is nothing at stake, no tuition or course credit, then what is to keep us from abandoning the chosen path at the slightest obstacle? For decades education professionals have relied on online learning classes to challenge high ability students in the regular classroom. Yet the success of those programs is often dependent upon the guidance of a teacher, mentor or parent engaged in helping that student stay on track. It is fascinating to follow the evolutionary journey of online learning when educators, mentors and parents realize that even the best and most engaging curriculum requires student supports in order to achieve good outcomes. I am thankful that online learning options have existed for high ability students for the past few decades (Stanford was a leader in that field, too). But I also need to express concern for that quiet, introverted student (or adult) not comfortable with our education systems current reliance on leadership skills to rally troops around a collaborative effort. Not all careers are dependent upon group-speak or collaborative action – so when outcomes are based on the performance of the group as a whole aren’t we selling the quiet singular mind short?

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