When a friend of mine told me about the course and that there were George Siemens and Stephen Downes involved I knew I had to participate. Not just because I appreciate what they write about and the way in which they write and design their courses, but because the theme for this course is of interest to me as part of the academic society in HE in Malta. So I started reading a bit more about the topic and in the meantime I also attended a few seminars that are helping me see through a clearer lens. The first seminar I attended at the University of Malta concerned the Bologna Process and I did submit a comment over the CFHE website. Some valid replies were submitted. The Bologna Process concerns mostly European HE and Academic Institutions and it is also rather controversial. There seems to be a body of academics who are particularly adamant in restricting the “openness” created by this process, whereby it seems that the campuses are undergoing a ‘globalisation’ approach in their diffusion of knowledge. Now in all due fairness, there are those who argue that knowledge at a higher level does not just belong to the ‘elite’ few, or that certain institutions open their doors only to selected candidates. My personal bias in this, and after having read some of the readings suggested for this course, is that access to Education, in particular Higher Education shouldn’t be limited. I believe that if people want to learn, any discipline, in any area of study, and shows a willingness, effort and perseverance in achieving the stipulated goals (goals that are set by the institution as well as by the individual learner) then they should be free to pursue their learning through the courses. And that is why MOOCs do work for me, this is the second MOOC I am following and I have also enrolled in another course (via Coursera). However I have to specify that all this openness, cannot be bartered for the quality of the course that is being delivered. And most often the quality that is delivered to the learner, is most often at the mercy of University administration who do look at the profits vis-a-vis the costs that are incurred.
I would also like to take a look at various HE institutions and make reference to some of the claims that are saying that MOOCs and maybe the online environment will take off the shine from the physical structures, and the traditions of a course. The second seminar which I have attended has also served to shed some light on another aspect of learning that needs to be taken in consideration. There are different approaches towards analysing and at time measuring student engagement at HE. Various institutions in the UK as well as in the US are using National Student Surveys to attempt to determine whether the students are indeed engaged with the content, as well as with the structure, and measured in terms of curricular achievements as well as their participation in structural activities. However my belief is, and this has also been underlined in another article which I was reading by David Brooks, called ‘The Campus Tsunami‘ we cannot separate immediate achievements with those achievements that like a snowball propagate through the dynamics of space and time. When a learner is truly engaged with the learning environment, he/she becomes prepared to take learning a step forward, and rather than simply mark a short term achievement (like a certificate of participation or an ‘A’ grade in an exam) then the learning itself becomes a process critical inquiry. In this case, the learner is empowered to construct his/her own knowledge in a way that can be further used and developed to serve a much higher purpose. And this, as described by Freire, leads to the transformation of learning. And that is what we, as HE insititutions, should aim towards, whether we use MOOCs, whether we all migrate towards the online learning environment, or whether we simply use the physical resources that we have. We need to be able to offer directions that can enable, empower, learners to achieve that transformation that goes beyond consumption of information in this age of information overload.