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Why I’m Taking a MOOC on Student Affairs

This MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) entitled “Exploring the Student Affairs in Higher Education Profession” may just be the closest experience to being in a formal student affairs course for those who have not taken a course in student affairs and higher education. This is one of the reasons why I chose to enroll in this MOOC. While I have more than a decade of student affairs professional experience in my formal role as IT staff. Through volunteer positions (FYE discussion leader, summer bridge program instructor, org advisor), it is only through self-directed learning that I have been able to learn about some of the fundamental principles/theories and history of student affairs. I’ve always believed that to be an effective student affairs IT professional; I need to have the practical experience and theoretical knowledge to be able to contribute to the mission of my university and the purpose of student affairs, which I understand as creating the environment and providing support towards holistic student development and learning.

There are other reasons why I am in this MOOC, which include the following:

  • A better understanding of MOOC. I need to experience MOOCs firsthand to determine the values and pitfalls of this form of online learning. I read enough articles about the merit and shortcomings of MOOCs, and it’s personally intriguing. As a higher ed professional, online learning (including MOOC) is an area I need to be more knowledgeable about to better prepare myself and my department to provide infrastructure and services to support online learners, instructors, and student service staff. In addition, I am interested in learning theories, computer-mediate communication, and how technologies factor in/impact learning and communication processes.
  • Create connections with other students. Much of my “alternative professional development” has been through social media, mobile, and e-books, as well as my virtual Professional Learning Network (PLN)  consisting of folks I met through Twitter. These folks share my professional interest in student affairs/higher ed, technology, and leadership. Beyond the resources (videos, documents, web pages, etc.) provided by the course,  I expect that the biggest value I will receive from this MOOC is the new connections and interactions I will have formed during this course is over. I can’t think of any other venue that provides me with a platform to discuss with many aspiring and current student affairs professionals. Tap into their mindsets would be one of the biggest values from this experience.

I completed the first module (out of eight) this evening, and since students can go through the course at their own pace, I hope to complete it in the next few weeks. Given that this is my first MOOC, I am excited about this experience and to be able to learn about student affairs in a topic I am comfortable with.

What’s your experience with MOOCs? What’s your take on it?

MOOC “Meltdown” or a Learning Experience?

Given the debate about the legitimacy of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) as it relates to effective learning, the “failure” of the Coursera course – Fundamentals of Online Education was a hot topic days after it had to be suspended due to technical glitches and some confusion about the design of the class. I was enrolled in the course, my first MOOC course, and so I was disappointed the class could not continue. I was looking forward to the online learning experience with folks from countries such as India, Poland, South Africa and other parts of the U.S.

While critics of MOOC and articles such as this can certainly use this class as an evidence on the shortcoming of MOOC, I think it provides a huge potential for growth on how to proceed with designing and implementing online learning. I say potential because “failure” in itself does not lead to learning, but it does provide opportunities to reflect and improve on the instructional design and technologies. As a matter of fact, I think Coursera and other MOOC designers, after having to deal with criticisms and embarrassments, can point to this course as a positive milestone in the long run.

I was reading a book called Switch recently which talks  about growth mindset. This is the mentality of accepting challenges despite the risk of failure.  On the outside looking in, I can only imagine the infrastructure, resources, and thoughts that make MOOCs happen. Certainly, given the number of students participating in these courses and the sentiments filled with hyperbole from both opponents/supporters of MOOCs, mistakes and criticisms are magnified.  However, personally, some of my biggest growth have come from what I considered at the time they happened as failures. I wrote in this post the value of making mistakes.

I have great respect for companies and instructors who are pushing the boundaries when it comes to exploring new ways of learning. I look at MOOC, not as a substitute for brick-and-mortar higher education institutions, but rather a supplement to accommodate the needs  traditional universities cannot meet. I hope this course will be offered again and Dr. Fatima Wirth be given a second chance to share her expertise.

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