Workshop at eMOOCs 2016 in Graz, Austria

View of Graz CC BY-NC Some rights reserved by Bernd Thaller

Our project will be running a hybrid classroom/online workshop at the conference eMOOCs 2016 in Graz, Austria, 22-24 February 2016. We believe that restricted or even closed learning environments (such as webinars) can benefit open learning since they offer a safer and sometimes more intimate arena for discussion than the open forums of a MOOC where thousands of participants are competing for attention. We hope to gather online participants from many countries to join the session with the participants on-site and together we will discuss this issue. We’ll post more details on how to join us closer to the event.

Here is an extract from our conference abstract.

Is there a conflict between open and closed learning spaces? Can closed facilitate openness?
David Röthler,,, Austria
Alastair Creelman, Linnaeus University, Sweden

The issue of openness is central to all discussions on MOOCs and although there are widely differing interpretations of openness in terms of copyright, a key characteristic of all MOOCs is that they are open to all. In this workshop we would like to explore the constraints of openness and whether closed or restricted learning spaces can actually enhance an open course. An often reported factor for MOOC dropouts is the overwhelming nature of the interaction. An open forum for thousands of participants is an extremely noisy and daunting environment for all but the most experienced open learners. Participants range from complete beginners trying an online course for the first time to experienced professors curious to see how their colleagues run a MOOC and in such an environment the inexperienced participants risk drowning in an information overload. In such an open and diverse space it is impossible to create the trust and support needed to foster effective collaboration and the risk is that only the most vocal members will be heard whilst quieter and more unsure participants will simply leave. A further important element is language. Many MOOC participants are not native English speakers and many only have passive skills in English. They are naturally reluctant to engage in complicated discussions with native speakers and many simply are unable to express themselves well enough to explain what they think.

The questions we intend to raise in this workshop are:

  • Which types of closed learning spaces can complement openness?
  • Can we see MOOCs as learning eco-systems with a variety of providers offering more or less restricted spaces (break-out groups, webinars, local language groups, F2F meetings) as well as layers of engagement (signature track, tutoring, examination)?
  • How can MOOCs offer better support for non-native English speakers?
  • Ways to close parts of a MOOC e.g. closed discussion groups, web conference systems, synchronous/asynchronous spaces
  • Local/national learning groups online, on-site as a protected environment e.g. so called MOOCbars
  • Privacy and trust in educational groups – empathy, support, ok to make mistakes



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