At the end of January, I started my first MOOC: E-Learning and Digital Cultures, offered by University of Edinburgh through Coursera. One of my goals early on was to compile a list of tools that I’ve used to organize and filter the massive flood of information that’s available to me. With over 7,300 active members, there are TONS and TONS of content being generated on an hourly basis! I was interested, but also humbled, to learn that more than 60% of the “students” actually have graduate degrees, so much of this content is incredibly sophisticated.
How do I keep up with the tweets, blog posts, discussions, etc., both inside and outside Coursera? The short answer is that I don’t. And this evokes a continual feeling of being left behind. It’s impossible to collect and make use of all of the information coming in, and that’s perhaps one of the greatest lessons that the MOOC can teach us: there’s no expectation that all of this content will be reviewed by all of the students. Some bits of information are ephemeral, and I’ll certainly be missing things. And that’s okay.
This is very unlike a university classroom, where missing details could prove disastrous for students. As a learner, I had to adjust my strategy. An early blog post along the way made this transition a little bit easier, with a concession that this was the new norm: you’re not accountable for all of the new content because there’s simply too much of it. Nevertheless, information was still coming in through many different channels, and I needed a very specific set of tools to filter, manage, and categorize the flood of content available to me. I also needed tools that would allow me to contribute and be heard. In addition to the class forums in Coursera, these included Hootsuite (for tracking tweets), Netvibes (for aggregating blogs and RSS content from other class members), and Drupal Gardens (for posting content to my own temporary blog).
For instructors, the lesson is in parity with the lesson for students: the body of knowledge available for texts and curricula never seems to stop growing, and a university classroom is yet another river adding to the flood of information that students must filter, manage, and categorize. Instructors will need new strategies (and maybe new tools) to help students focus attention on the important trends, how they’re related to course material, and how the trends are related to each other.