Thursday, September 15, 2011

Uncomfortable, unfamiliar and in public

Joining a MOOC  is exciting but nerve wracking too because it's unfamiliar and public. Adult learners learn in the privacy of their own space and time but in an on-line setting it feels public even if no one or only a few read what you write. People who read this blog are still strangers with whom I have not had an opportunity to build trust or to size up. In a classroom there are loads of visual clues you can cue in to to get information - these are non-existent on-line.

As I write too I'm aware that I'm unsure of the appropriate form of address. Is it 'you' 'we' or 'they'? The grammar of on-line communication is something you learn as you go too.I'm trying to do two things simultaneously - write to record my own perceptions in a way that makes sense to me but do it in a very public forum. Its an unfamiliar juxtaposition, especially for someone like me who considers herself an experienced writer.

I don't have a problem with learning as I go. It suits me fine. But it takes a bit of courage to be prepared to fail in public or make yourself look silly in public because you don't know the most basic things. When you are starting on a PhD this fear might be more intense - you feel like a fraud and are unsure of what you do know, what you should know and what you don't know. I'm thinking about this experience in relation to doctoral study because my colleagues and I are thinking about trialling on-line learning for doctoral candidates as a way of offering support and assisting their candidature. Part of the reason for diving into this course is to get a first hand experience of going on-line and learning on-line: Lesson No. 1 - it won't suit everyone.

People in the MOOC who are experienced bloggers, Facebook users and Twitterers will enter into it with more confidence than those of us putting our toe in the water for the first time. This is not my first blog ever but it is only about my third of fourth ever. I have Twittered a bit lately but not very actively.

On the other hand, at this point, the experience of being in a MOOC seems to parallel the experience of doctoral study. I watched Dave Cormier's YouTube video on Knowledge in a MOOC and if you substitute the word 'thesis' for MOOC it seems a pretty useful description of the doctoral process, that beginning candidates might find helpful to orient themselves and get an insight as to what they're in for.

With on-line learning, perhaps all learning, you have a steep learning curve. You learn a lot, fast and then forget what it was ever like not to know the ropes. That's why I want to keep a record of this. Because we try as fast as we can to get away from that feeling of bumbling around not knowing and a lot of academics never ever want that feeling again, yet that is, for a lot of the time, what it feels like to learn and in particular what it feels like to start doing a PhD.

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