The C stands for Conference – MOOC

In thinking about what a MOOC is, and as I continue to think about how it can be applied to language learning, there is a major distinction between two types of MOOCs: Courses and Conferences. The upcoming Change 11 MOOC seems to be of the latter kind.

Massive Open Online Conference

A description of the last conference I went to:

There were a lot of experts from around the world, sharing their current research and the work that they’ve been doing, talking to us from their perspective about what they thought was changing and important in the field. I always read a lot of journals and articles for my work and study, but it was nice to be able to meet some of these experts and talk to them directly. They can talk back. There were a lot of presentations at the conference, but I didn’t feel that I had to see all of them; I was able to pick and choose based on which ones matched my areas of interest and what I wanted to get out of the conference, and even based on my own schedule restrictions. It was nice, too, to connect with all of the people participating in the conference, most of whom were well educated and experienced in the field.

Most of the paragraph above is taken directly from the Change MOOC introduction video, describing the flavor of this MOOC.

This innovative style of conference has some unique key features, however. The reduction in physical distance opens up access for people who might not be able to afford the time or money to attend such an in-person conference. In a recent post, George Siemens wonders who MOOCs are for. As he suggests, it’s difficult to target any one group narrowly for a MOOC, but this type of access can give many more people involved in the field the ability to keep their knowledge not only current, but cutting edge and innovative. Language and Technology access are still barricades for many, but access is certainly opened wider in MOOC form.

The length of the conference isn’t a single day or a weekend long, it stretches over months. The benefit of this is that people can digest information longer, blending conference content into their daily routines and own occupations. One untapped aspect of the MOOC’s control over Time is the ability to plan more than one topic during the same week. This has the potential to give participants more options in choosing topics that relate to themselves and their own work. Careful planning could result is suggested courses of action for participants depending on if they are more interested in Mobile Technology, Distance Learning Theory, or Scholarship Issues, for examples. I really like this idea for a Language MOOC, it would work very well.

As often stated, the outputs of a MOOC are an important aspect of the conference. In-person conferences probably provide more starting points and contact making that lead to productive processes, where as MOOCs, because they reduce distance and stretch time, afford such production from within, either partially or fully. The accessibility of these outputs is also built into the structure very nicely.

Massive Open Online Course

Beginners in any field often strike us…as lost or confused, and it also why they are often more difficult opponents in debate than trained experts, since experience provides us with a rapid but predictable organizing mechanism for what we learn.

Of course, this can be either a good or bad thing, it all comes back to how the structure relates to the topic for a course or conference. This doesn’t eliminate the distinction, however. In the upcoming Change 11 MOOC, it would be a bit strange to see a weekly topic titled The Basics of Behaviorism or What are ‘Blogs? Similarly, It would be strange to see an English Language Learning MOOC full of participants who grew up as English speakers and only know the one language. As far as I know, most of the MOOCs have been of the Conference style. I’m sure there have been MOOCourses done, as I’ve seen this point raised somewhere before. A Language Learning MOOC would have to be a MOOCourse.

One of the main qualities of the Course style would be the educator/facilitator roles. It would require more direction by facilitators and an acceptance that there is different values on certain knowledge that those experienced in the field have compared with those having little experience. It is absolutely not a one-way street, but maybe one of those highways that have Red Xs and Green Os above the lanes, so that traffic flow of the entire highway can shift balance with change in circumstance.

To me this seems like maybe the major difference, as there are certainly a lot of very similar things about the two MOOCs, allowing a useful share of the name. When you think about it, conferences and courses are comparable in many ways. How important is this idea of control in a MOOC? With massive amounts of people it might not even be a matter of importance, but practicality that limits the amount of guidance in a MOOC. At what point would a more structured, hands-on LMOOC not be able to be a MOOC anymore? A lot of the benefits of distributed knowledge and distributed output would be the same. To what extent is my current course at AU not a MOOC? I still need to figure a way through this idea of guidance and leadership for language learning MOOC style.


10 thoughts on “The C stands for Conference – MOOC

  1. Pingback: The C stands for Conference #MOOC #change11 | Connectivism |

  2. Pingback: The C stands for Conference #MOOC #change11 | Change11 |

  3. Pingback: The C stands for Conference #MOOC #change11 « juandon. Innovación y conocimiento

  4. Pingback: The C stands for Conference #MOOC #change11 | E-Learning-Inclusivo |

  5. Hi Glen,

    Your post had a lot of resonance with what I was just considering a moment before I encountered a link to it. I was thinking about how an open online ‘event’ could be arrange within an institution, and then I thought back to the recent ALT-C conference in Leeds, UK at which I asked a question about the carbon footprint of the conference. I usually ‘attend’ conferences remotely, for various reasons as I did with ALT-C again this year. The idea of a MOOC where C stands for Conference makes a lot of sense, and breaks away from the traditional model of academic/educational conferences. Bringing in the idea of a much longer conference event with less impact on attendees time due to travel, etc. makes a great deal of sense to me personally, and reduces cost and potentially environmental impact. There is more time to think and digest, interact and participate which I would postulate leads to greater learning and understanding on an ongoing basis.

    Your post has really got me thinking about some things I want to set up. Thanks for the inspiration, and apologies if my ramble makes little sense.



    • Thanks for the comment, Mark. It seems like conferences more and more are going online with content or access, I guess the idea of an all-out online one like the MOOC and in-person ones will simply meet up at some point in the middle. There’s nothing really stopping a MOOC from having an in-person gathering up at the end, or some point(s) along the way. Perhaps, the spectrum of synchronous and asynchronous can start being applied here.

      I’d be interested to hear what ideas you got thinking; link them if they get going.


  6. I suspect that there have been quite a number of in-person gatherings of MOOC participants at various points throughout almost every MOOCs lifespan.

    In my work with (organizing and presenting) and participating in education conferences, a lot of that “meeting in the middle” is already happening. Movement in that direction is also encapsulated in some of the ideas (and efforts at creating) “unconferences” and the like, where the topics are less discrete, the presentations meant to be conversations, and there is a real effort to provide for the social spaces (online and off) for what many of us feel the most important parts of conferences are– the hallway conversations, the bar debates, and the connections individuals make through the days and nights of an event.

    For me, a primary difference between a MOOC and course, even an open one, is that relative (or complete) lack of defined learning outcomes and formal assessments. Which is one of the things that makes it uncomfortable for institutions!


      • I *hope* conferences keep going this direction, so it seems relevant to me! My experience is that some conferences are more amenable to these kinds of changes than others, in part because some are more seriously about development and learning (Open Education, say) and others are really about junkets for the same old participants saying the same old things (WCET, say). But I think if a conference is serious about being of real value to its participants, then it should become more MOOC like!


  7. Pingback: Reflecting on MOOCs and Retention « A Point of Contact

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s