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EduMOOC on the Loose: An Interview with Ray Schroeder
Thursday, July 28, 2011
There's a gigantic EduMOOC on the loose. Have you seen it? No, I am not talking about the 140 pound mountain lion that traveled from the Black Hills of South Dakota all the way to Connecticut only to be run over by a car. That journey was over 1,500 miles! Earlier in the week, the USA Today reported that "The epic journey was the longest ever recorded for a mountain lion."

In contrast, the epic journey that I am talking about incubated over in my neighboring state of Illinois; also known at the "flatlands," instead of the Black Hills or the Badlands. But, like that mountain lion, it too is becoming quite enormous and a tad bit scary. And it has traveled around the world at a blistering pace. Not sure if scientists are measuring its' droppings like they did the mountain lion, but apparently "all" records are being saved, so who knows...?

What am I talking about? Well, back on June 7th, I got an email from an online learning superstar who always has all the data that I need and more. It was my good buddy Ray Schroeder from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ray asked me to be involved as a panelist in his planned EduMOOC (MOOC = Massive Open Online Course) on "Online Learning Today...and Tomorrow." This is what he said: "I am putting together a MOOC - you know, massive open online course ... no credit, no budget, just to test the "open" water and see what this may be like. The topic is Online Learning Today, and .... Tomorrow."

"Is he crazy?"...I thought. No credits. No budget. And unlimited enrollments. Ok, I reminded myself that this is higher education in 2011. No budgets and masses of people. I know others have tried it...Stephen Downes and George Siemens up der in Oh Canada, for instance, and David Wiley at BYU as well as Tom Reeves at the University of Georgia. Both George and Stephen address issues related to MOOCs in their recent blog posts. George on research issues and Stephen provides a link to a MOOC from Australia on developing a professional e-portfolio.

But I digress. Back to my email exchange with Ray..."Sure" I told him, as long as I do not need to fly anywhere (see 12 reasons why not). Ray assured me that it would be online. And so I will be a panelist in the final week on the future of online learning (August 18th at 2 pm EST).

Since that time, I have been tracking aspects of his EduMOOC each day. Many well known people signed up as participants as well as panelists. The Google Groups discussions are being shared each day. A wiki for the MOOC has been created and maintained by the participants. On June 21, Marc Parry from the Chronicle of Higher Education even wrote an article about it, U. of Illinois at Springfield Offers New 'Massive Open Online Course.' Suffice to say, Ray's EduMOOC on "Online Learning Today...and Tomorrow" has definitely evolved and expanded. And it is linked to my interests in open education and open teaching. So today I have been sending Ray questions about it. There are now 16 of them. I asked if I could publish these in the form of an interview and he said sure. So here goes...

July 28, 2011 Interview with: Ray Schroeder, Professor Emeritus, Director of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service (COLRS), University of Illinois Springfield

Curt Question #1: How many people have signed up? How many attend the weekly sync sessions?

Ray: We are keeping copius analytics on the streams and the Google group, wiki, Moodle, blogs, etc. But, there is too much to analyze on the fly... Two research teams - one led by Siemens/Downes and the other by Mackintosh at OERu in NZ are compiling these for case studies - as will we.

Short answer is a couple hundred live and it likes like more are bringing up the recorded versions. But we cannily count streams connected, in some cases groups or classes seem to be gathering to watch together. Much to study about MOOC.

So far 2,655 registered.

Curt Question #2: How many countries represented among the registered now?

Ray: We have 70 countries represented:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Mauritius, México, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, St. Vincent/the Grenadines, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad/Tobago, Turkey, UAE, Uganda, UK, Ukraine, Venezuela, USA, Vietnam, West Indies.

Curt Question #3: What spurred your decision to create the EduMOOC? Had you been contemplating doing it for long?

Ray: This really grew out of a keynote presentation I made earlier this year at e-Cornucopia at Oakland University. The topic was “The Open Future of Higher Ed.” In preparing for the presentation and in the interactions with those attending, it became clear to me that there is a key role for MOOCs in the future of online learning. I asked my staff if we might do a MOOC to find out more about this emerging approach. They generously agreed to help support this on top of their busy schedules.

Curt Question #4: Did you have any role models? Or mentors?

Ray: Not really. Certainly, I had read about the great work George Siemens and Stephen Downes had done with earlier MOOCs, but I had not attended any previous MOOC. I have high regard for both of them. I appreciated the YouTube videos posted by Dave Cormier. But, I entered with no direct experience with the MOOC. Some have remarked that eduMOOC is different in some ways than others, and I suppose that is why. I’ve taught at the University of Illinois for 40 years. I approached this much as I would a graduate seminar in which I create a framework, and the students take it from there.

Curt Question #5. What are the biggest challenges or hurdles you faced in creating and maintaining the EduMOOC?

Ray: The volume of users is daunting in the first week or so. Getting everyone registered and receiving the listserv is a challenge when there are more than 2,600 in the group. But, once it is running, the participants take over. We continue to populate each week’s webpage with dozens of resource links and conduct the panel discussion with knowledgeable people.

Curt Question #6: What are your observations about the EduMOOC so far?

Ray: eduMOOC has been an eye-opener for me! There are so many engaged in personal learning – mostly individuals, but also whole departments, academic cabinets, college leaders, etc. I like to say that it is “come-as-you-are and take-what-you-want.” So, they participate in the parts that make sense to them. They build networks to help them continue to develop in this field.

Curt Question #7: I am writing a book on online motivation and retention right now. Currently, I am writing a chapter about learner autonomy which includes information about the motivational aspects of choice, control, flexibility, and opportunities. How do you see an EduMOOC addressing any of these-- autonomy, choice, opportunity, control, flexibility, etc.?

Ray: Certainly, this addresses individual choice, access, and flexibility. In the end there is an awesome resource site with a rambling network of interested individuals, blogs, wikis, G+ circles, etc.

Curt Question #8: What makes such an environment (i.e., a MOOC) motivational?

Ray: The motivation mostly comes from the broad range of professional colleagues that are engaged. The enthusiasm, knowledge, interests of the individuals raises all who read/view/hear what they share on the topics.

Curt Question #9: Why might others try it?

Ray: This reaches a large number of people worldwide in a short time with “just-in-time” aspects that are not often found in traditional learning opportunities.

Curt Question #10: What is happening that you did not expect?

Ray: There is more networking. The magnitude of the response. I approach this as a massive graduate seminar – respecting the participants as I would advanced graduate students. So, in the larger sense, I set the framework, brought in some catalysts in the form of panelists such as yourself, seeded it with a couple hundred links to resources and let it go! The participants take it from there.

Curt Question #11: What types of courses does it fit best?

Ray: This would seem to be a great fit for courses and topics where there are new developments, new issues, new topics. Not that there are not new topics in “ancient Greece studies” but that one would be far different than this one.

Curt Question #12: Might it work outside of higher ed….for instance, in the world of K-12 or corporate or military training?

Ray: Yes. This is a natural for professional development/training. Our topic is of that sort – online learning today and tomorrow. A hybrid of for-credit enrollments for those who want the credit, continuing ed credit for the professions, and non-credit for the masses would seem to be a likely future for this.

Curt Question #13: What has been the reaction from your colleagues at the University of Illinois at Springfield and elsewhere around the globe?

Ray: The reaction is very positive. There has been quite a bit of positive press. It seems that most people take this as a natural evolution of presentations – from in-person to online; from small groups to massive online audiences. This is a wonderful way to reach large number of people in a field of study. In this case, it was also a bit of a meta-MOOC – that is the topic was about online learning. So, we were using online tools to conduct the MOOC. Much of the early discussion had a focus on the MOOC itself. Now, there is more of a focus on open resources and open learning opportunities. Most people realize the power of having a large group of people contributing new ideas and perspectives to the discussion.

Curt Question #14: What is next for Ray Schroeder? Any more EduMOOC activities on the horizon?

Ray: Absolutely! We are looking a launching several MOOCs that will be improved by our experiences here. One MOOC may be on the topic of an open textbook we are creating collectively among faculty members at the campuses of the University of Illinois. Combining an open online book with the MOOC should be fun. I have been asked by one of our distinguished scholars who holds the Political Science endowed Chair at UIS, Matthew Holden, to discuss the potential of doing a MOOC in his area of study. I think there are many possibilities for using MOOC to make a difference among a large group of learners worldwide.

Curt Question #15: Can you give me a link to a that video or definition explaining an EduMOOC again?

Ray: Well Wikipedia is just starting a page on MOOC.

Note: According to Wikipedia: "A Massive open online course (MOOC) is a course where the participants are distributed and course materials also are dispersed across the web. This is possible only if the course is open, and works significantly better if the course is large. The course is not a gathering, but rather a way of connecting distributed instructors and learners across a common topic or field of discourse."

But, the best resource, I think is this four-minute video by Dave Cormier

Curt Question #16: What are the main EduMOOC sites for your class Online Learning Today...and Tomorrow?

Ray: The wikispaces site that is pretty popular and was put together by participants. Here are the three main EduMOOC sites.
1. EduMOOC homepage

2. Google Groups discussions

3. Wikispaces site
the wikispaces site that is pretty popular and was put together by participants.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
(end of interview...)

I hope to see some of you there on the 18th! Here is a reminder to that final EduMOOC session (August 18 at 2 pm EST).

Wishing you well in creating your own MOOC and putting it on the loose. I love the concept of open teaching. The world is open, don't ya know. Wide open!

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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 11:02 AM  
  • At 7:46 PM, Blogger RobDarrow said…

    As one of the "Mooc-heads" I would like to commend Ray Schroeder for the organization of this MOOC. It will be interesting to see the results of the analytics mentioned. As a participant, I have a small group of people (probably about 10-20) who are posting in Google groups that I read and then have a group of about 5 who "hang out" in Google Plus every Wed morn.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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