It is increasingly clear that the future of learning, K-12 and post-secondary, will entail a significant online dimension; I’m especially drawn to the concepts of “networked learning,” “connectivism” and “blended learning,” as regular readers surely have noticed the past few months.

At the same time, I am well aware I have a lot to learn about effective practices in online learning of whatever kind, and I need to step up my learning and practice of networked, connected learning.

Accordingly, this month I have stepped into (in various capacities) no fewer than five FREE  online learning experiences, four of them MOOCs of one kind or another.   For each of these five there is some expectation that I reflect and share my thoughts on my blog, so this post is in part a preview (and a warning) to regular readers of what may be coming soon to this site.

What is a MOOC?  I know some readers will ask this, though fewer today than would have four or five months ago, as the term has vaulted forwards and upwards into our consciousness this summer and fall with all the publicity nationally about Coursera and EdX.    To quote Wikipedia,

massive open online course (MOOC) is a type of online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web. MOOCs are a recent development in the area of distance education, and a progression of the kind of open education ideals suggested by open educational resources.

Though the design of and participation in a MOOC may be similar to college or university courses, MOOCs typically do not offer credits awarded to paying students at schools. However, assessment of learning may be done for certification.

Taking on five different programs this fall is a lot, and perhaps too much, (I reserve the right to drop-out of one or more, though the very act of posting this post increases the odds I will persevere) but I happen to have some time on my hands, and I really want to work toward strengthening my understanding about our fast-changing world of education.   As it happens, and perhaps I ought to mix it up a bit, all five are in a sense meta-MOOCs: they are all online and in various ways digitally enhanced learning courses about digitally enhanced learning (though the last, the fifth, isn’t really a MOOC.)

All five of them are open to you too, readers: join me!

The Five:

1.  The Current and Future State of Higher Education (CFHE12).  This MOOC, organized in part by Stephen Downes, the Canadian scholar, famed newsletter writer, and co-creator of connectivism, is explained as follow:

University leaders are struggling to make sense of how internationalization, the current economic conditions, and new technologies will impact their systems. Educators are uncertain of the impact of open educational resources, alternative accreditation models, de-professionalization of academic positions, and increased grant competitiveness. What is role of the academy in increasing national economic competitiveness while preserving the “vital combat for lucidity” that defines an open democratic society?

I’m enrolled not because of an interest in higher ed but because I want a better view to the changing world of education, and those in higher ed are, at least some of them in some ways, ahead of the curve of K-12, and trends in post-secondary surely will be coming to K-12 soon.  This works in reverse, too:  on a discussion forum for this course, there were interesting points made about the pressures coming to bear on higher ed providers by incoming students who have become accustomed to the flipped classroom, the use of Khan Academy and other online delivery of course content, and hence are demanding their college professors come into line with their expectations.   But for my purposes, I’m seeking to draw from this forecasting of higher ed insights about the future of K-12 learning.

2.  Designing a New Learning Environment.   This is a MOOC from Stanford and its Associate Dean of Education, Paul Kim.  It is explained here:

What constitutes learning in the 21st century? Should reading, watching, memorizing facts, and then taking exams be the only way to learn? Or could technology (used effectively) make learning more interactive, collaborative, and constructive? Could learning be more engaging and fun?

We construct, access, visualize, and share information and knowledge in very different ways than we did decades ago. The amount and types of information created, shared, and critiqued every day is growing exponentially, and many skills required in today’s working environment are not taught in formal school systems.

In this more complex and highly-connected world, we need new training and competency development—we need to design a new learning environment.   The ultimate goal of this project-based course is to promote systematic design thinking that will cause a paradigm shift in the learning environments of today and tomorrow.