I've gone on the record before, as saying that the field of negotiation and dispute resolution, with all our expertise in convening complex meetings, enhancing communication and allowing creativity to emerge, should take more of a stance in The Online Education Wars.  Particularly, given the dawning of the Age of the Mooc.

Putting my money where my mouth is, I'm participating in a course on MOOCs  - a course aimed at decoding/explaining/deconstructing/conceptualizing just what these mass open online course really are. The beauty of the course is that it is it is taking place in MOOC format - hundreds of people engaged in talking and learning about mass courses. A MOOC-MOOC.

I'm most interested in figuring out how these courses can accomodate, even encourage, human interaction of the type that supports learning: Teacher immediacy, student-student interactions, and community forming. In addition, I'm interested in figuring out the motivational processes underlying MOOC participation. What makes one sign up for a MOOC, assuming that the current model of receiving no university credit for them continues to hold? More importantly, perhaps - what makes students persevere and stay engaged in the course? Considering that MOOCs 'enjoy' a dropout rate of about %90, I'd like to go further and ask: How can teachers provide built-in, systematic support that connects to students' motivation and helps them stay the course, pun intended?

Low completion rates are not dictated by the nature of online learning. In our own program at Creighton, nearly all our enrolling students cross the finish line - the masters degree finish line, not only the finish line of an individual course. So, it would seem that MOOC students operate under a different motivational system, which needs to be recognized, legitimized, and addressed by teachers. I have a few initial thoughts, but I'll keep them to myself at this stage - I realize how much there is to learn on this topic! Kudos to Jesse Stommel and  Sean Michael Morris of Hybrid Pedagogyfor initiating and leading this.

More to follow.

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