Self-Directed Learning: The Core of Successful MOOC Participation
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have gained extreme momentum since they appeared in higher education. Although many universities, vendors, and students have joined the MOOC bandwagon, we remain in the early stages of MOOCs; we’re unsure of their long-term role, and some thought leaders question if MOOCs will successfully disrupt higher education. As MOOCs continue to develop, we must identify challenges learners face as MOOC participants, specifically for learners accustomed to the face-to-face classroom—many of them disengage in MOOCs as the course progresses because online education has shifted the learner’s role into unfamiliar territory: online students are now more accountable for their own learning, time management, and motivation to complete coursework.
Understanding Two Learning Styles
Cognitive style may impact learner’s success in online courses. For students to adapt to a new, more autonomous role in their own leaning, they must identify how they learn. Some students are field-dependent—they need strong support from their instructor; others are field-independent—they are more self-directed in their learning. Each learning style has advantages and disadvantages; however, both are important for learning. For online students to become well-rounded learners, they should identify which style they feel less comfortable using and develop that style to enhance their learning experience.
MOOCs Require Self-Directed Learning
MOOCS are designed for large audiences and lack the level of instructor responsiveness students have become accustomed to in traditional courses. Typically, MOOC instructors do not offer students individual, specific feedback on assignments, like critical analysis papers. For the field-dependent student, the instructor-learner relationship in a MOOC is challenging because instructor feedback plays a vital role in their learning process.
Tips for Teaching or Participating in a MOOC
If you facilitate MOOCs, share these tips at the beginning of the course to communicate to students their role as self-directed learners. If you’re a MOOC student, use these tips to adapt to your role as an autonomous learner:
- Determine priorities of the course.
- Locate topics and resources that interest you—avoid trying to read every resource provided.
- Communicate in manageable groups with other students.
- Find an organizational system or tool track to your notes, links, comments, and other resources.
- Enjoy! Remember, you are doing this MOOC for yourself. Don’t let it become overwhelming.
Have you participated in a MOOC? If so, share your tips and experiences.