Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meetups + MOOCs: Promoting Active Learning and Communities of Practice

Ramón Talavera Franco
edX Boston Community meetups promote active learning and communities of practice since 2014. edX is a Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provider founded as a non-profit organization by MIT and Harvard. MOOCs are online university-level courses distributed free of charge through edX platform. Due to MOOCs asynchronous attribute students’ participation is limited to online discussion forums. However, the need to connect students face-to-face encouraged edX to use meetup.com to create local discussion groups where students share experiences and learn from each other.

Since MOOC users interests vary, edX administrators are experimenting with different meetup formats that cover those interests. The first format consists in MOOC study groups. Attendants are invited to participate in study groups integrated according to a MOOC subject-matter (computer science, nutrition, biology, entrepreneurship, etc.). Participants join their corresponding MOOC study group and start a conversation by introducing themselves or by exchanging concerns about the MOOC taken. One benefit of these study groups is the possibility to engage in active learning by discussing the topic and learning from the experience of others.

The second meetup format consists of edX speakers who explain what edX is about. For people like me who is interested not only in learning different subject-matter through MOOCs, but also to learn about the corporations behind the distribution and development of MOOCs, edX speakers provide great source of information. However, I hope that edX speaker meetups do not replace edX study groups. Why? Because MOOC students don’t have face-to-face interaction. Therefore, edX students need to find a place where they can find that interaction and talk about the topics that they are learning, find support from other students who share their same learning experience, and build communities of practice that take their learning experience beyond the computer.

As a recommendation, edX could experiment with other meetups solutions such as the one in Düsseldorf, Germany. In this meetup, local experts and guest speakers engage in brainstorming sessions to improve entrepreneurship in Düsseldorf. As a result, Düsseldorf MOOC participants developed a pitch clinic for entrepreneurship and for local start-ups to explore solutions for entrepreneurship from a Düsseldorf perspective. This is a good example on how active learning and communities of practice can intensify the desire to work for a community by increasing the sense of belonging. edX could explore this idea and adjust it to its own resources and local necessities.

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