I’ve been thinking about the pace of MOOCs, and then got bent on a track to make the animated GIF from one of my all time epic movies. The later thought was that this actually applies to any course, and of course a course (Wilbur, where are my oats?) has to have a schedule.

But… it is the pace of a MOOC which creates the pressure when one cannot keep up with the rowing. I felt that having really missed the start of moocmooc over the weekend while I was offline at Unplugd12

And if we are not quite the super hero that is Number 41?

Of course, nothing stops me from jumping in late to Moocmooc and from tweets I can see people are doing interesting creative work. so I am not bashing the effort at all. I am the fail point here.

Once again I SUBDNSU (Signed Up BUt Did Not Show Up). You see, as Stephen Downes had pointed out a few weeks ago, in a course where one is not putting down tuition dollars and the process for getting accepted is clicking the button, one really has not much commitment on the table.

I am more wondering about the fixed pace of open courses as being a challenging hurdle for those opting in. It seems almost a set up for the term I think does not truly apply anyhow– dropout.

As the commander increases the pace from battle speed to ramming speed, who else by Charlton Heston in his most buff days could keep up? I’m not even the dude who fell over clutching his heart, I did not even pick up the oars.

And that is my fault, not the MOOCs.

So I wonder, is the one speed driving the boat the nest way? I am not sure, for how else do you get the communal effect if people are not doing the same work at the same time? Yet this is the base model- one pace for everyone in the boat. The pace for most MOOCs seem like a regular drum beat- every week, every week, every week (though the CodeAcademy ones are set more for self-paced).

I would maintain that ds106 is one that can be dipped in and out of or sampled in different order, without that sense of “missing out”– though one could say the main course has the drum beat of the course at University of Mary Washington. Today I was just brainstorming with Jim Groom how we might take the UMW syllabus and generate a generic one that anyone joining at anytime could pick up their own pace (or someone teaching a course could model theirs around). The “work” always ends up being aggregated into the Assignment bank and that can happen at any time

Like I said (or maybe meant to say) — I am just full of questions, not answers.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by khalid Albaih

I will leak that I am toying with a new variant of an open learning experience. This is in the less than half baked category.

If I say I am going to teach a course, it means of course (of course), that I know the content or the material or the topic and bring it to you as participanst.

Let’s say instead, I were to set up a process where I might say, “I do not know how to do ______ (a topic, skill)” who wants to spend ________ (amount of time) learning it with me? So not me as teacher, but a group as learning something in parallel.

The process might be:

  • Define the thing to be learned, what I would be able to demonstrate at the end as my “work”. Yours might be similar, it need not be the same, but similar. That’s up to you
  • Identify people that have skills, experience in the area, or resources to rely on
  • Outline the steps needed to accomplish it, and the needs/materials required
  • Complete the steps
  • Produce a prototype
  • Get feedback and refine
  • Call it done

So the outcome would be both a process and my own product. Now my first thoughts are to something technical- I know one thing I have wanted to do is build a web based creative writing tool that would leverage the content form a twitter account, and I would want it so people could tweet content to that account to be included. The thing to learn would be how to use the twitter API to gather the content, and wrap it into my own kind of site.

Or another thing I have wanted to take on is leraning how to do one of those data fetch/python magic/gephi generation of data visualizations that Tony Hirst does.

Or maybe it is something like learning how to bake a cake.

Is this viable? Sensible? Is it any different from the Roman ship?

Still the pace of these course IMHO bears some consideration.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I think you’ve put your finger on something very important here regarding learners’ needs for variable pacing and start times for MOOCs. I was really excited to discover Camp Magic McGuffin this summer, but because of my move from Kansas to California the timing of the meat of the camp activities turned out to be awful for me. I’d still like to revisit the course, but I won’t be able to devote the time during the fall semester to them that I otherwise might have over the summer vacation. Finding a critical mass of other learners to interact with who can match my timing constraints won’t be nearly as easy now, either.

    I find it interesting that the list of things you want to learn at the end of the post sounds like a Doc Searls-inspired VRM-type call for fellow learners. Perhaps there’s some way to draw together ad hoc groups of learners who have common learning goals and time frames and match them with educators who can provide on-demand guidance/classes when a critical mass of learners is achieved.

  2. Something that I’ve been saying for a while now is that education requires a schedule but learning can’t wait. I think this underscores everything you’ve talked about here.

    If I want to learn about something — break baking, calculus, or maybe tap dancing — I want to know now. I don’t want to wait for X weeks until the course starts and spend 15 or 16 weeks slogging along at the pace established by somebody else. The internet means that any day is a day for learning and the appeal of joining my search for knowledge declines in direct proportion to the degree to which my own quest for knowledge gets short circuited by somebody else’s agenda.

    The scale and scope of what I want to learn has a direct bearing as well.

    If I want to learn about bread baking, I can get what I need in an hour … spend a day or two trying out stuff … and then re-engage with the knowledge domain to enhance my skills or troubleshoot my difficulties.

    Learning how to write novels took a lot longer and involved several steps including re-connecting unused knowledge on grammar, story-telling, and long form fiction to new technologies like podcasting, print-on-demand, ebooks, and the current state of the publishing industry. In this case, it’s less about “learning” as much as it is joining the community of practice — that is, participating in the culture of letters — to observe, participate, and hone over a long period of time.

    The question that I’ve wrestled with as a graduate school teacher myself is how to incorporate this understanding about learning into an educational setting.

    The answer for me was, “Write novels. Education can wait.”

  3. Akan, You lost me for a while as I puzzled over “is the one speed driving the boat the nest way,” but I wandered back on track and picked up your bread crumbs. I love DS 106 precisely because I can wander in and out as I please. The pace of your fifteen week semester is very different than our ten week quarter, so it doesn’t make sense for me to run alongside the kids for the distance. Anyway, I’m not interested in certain skill sets, like animated gifs (yawn) and fan fic (zzzzz). I’m part of community, and I try to earn my keep by contributing to the assignment banks and kicking in money when requested (btw where’s my tee shirt?), but I would dread being in the classroom kicking at that speed.

    I love your idea of learning together, but it’s a very adult idea being had by a lifelong learner. And the guy who thinks he can kearn how to make bread in a day has a major surprise in store unless he thinks putting ingredients in a machine equals artisanal quality bread! I’ve been studying bread-making my whole life and am much humbled by the complexity of flour, water, salt and wild yeast.

    1. Thanks Sandy, your advice is helpful. I’ve not decided if I will really do something like this.

      For Nathan, this is all good for people who know what they want to learn. I’m still not sure how people develop the same self motivation to learn what they dont know they want/need to learn.

    2. Oh, I didn’t say I’d learn how to *master* breadmaking in a day. I said I’d find out enough to get started and then practice over time. Fifty years of breadmaking and I’m still learning, too, but a basic loaf? Yeah. Being willing to experiment and then toss it to start over is a key ingredient 🙂

      And Alan, I think that life tells us what we need to learn and then provides the teachers to learn it. The problem is that the learning doesn’t come with a credential. I got a PhD but it doesn’t come close to acknowledging what I learned in grad school. In the long run, I count those lessons more valuable.

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