Learning is created, not communicated

I signed up for the MOOC ‘Problem-based learning: principles and design’ offered by Maastricht University – it’s starting October 5th. I hope I will complete this MOOC. I’m a serial MOOC drop-out because none have inspired me so far. MOOCs are working for some people – whereas when I commit to participate in a learning event, I tend to look for something different.

Like the majority of online learning/e-learning, MOOCs often offer nothing more than a series of videos and readings. There might be a few discussion forums to share stuff, but the focus is really on the content participants need to work through. People might say “it’s what you make of it, just start a discussion and see what happens”, but it doesn’t work that way. I tend to be a good ‘participant’ yet in all MOOCs I have started so far, there just wasn’t the framework to achieve any depth. So why bother?

I got some great content out of MOOCs, don’t get me wrong, but that’s information. I only stick with being in a learning space (virtual or other) when I feel I’m building knowledge. I don’t need to be in a learning space to find information. There are more efficient ways to do that.

Learning isn’t a spectator sport. Learning activities are not an add-on. They are at the core of the process. Watching videos and reading will help you in the knowledge-building process, but in the end you need to be able to DO something (better). Not only after the training, but during the training as well.

And when I say learning activities, I don’t mean cheeky ‘content-trying-to-be-an-activity’ like quizzes, but real work – like solving problems.

Problem-based learning is a strategy that involves the presentation of a complex real-life problem to learners. The problem is structured in such a way that there isn’t a specific correct answer or predetermined outcome. Learners work in teams to solve the problem. Diverse perspectives and past experiences mean people will have different takes on how to do this and that’s where the real learning happens – it takes research, negotiation, convincing others… all active learning strategies. The content (which the learning designers may choose to provide) is being ‘pulled’ into this process by the learners, instead of ‘pushed’ by the designers. Learners are in the driver’s seat and ask themselves: “What do I need to know to solve this problem?”

This form of learning prepares the participants much better to application in the workplace. Because of its real-life relevance, it is also more motivating and engaging.

I apply problem-based learning principles in our eWorkshops designs. I also train the facilitators in my e-facilitation workshop tailored to this model (e-facilitating problem-based learning is very different to e-tutoring). So my hopes are high for this problem-based MOOC about problem-based learning. I’ll keep you in the loop! (or join me… let me know if you do so we can solve problems together 🙂

Are you designing training or professional development?
How to become a better asynchronous e-facilitator


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