“No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald
It’s always exciting to go to a conference that is in one’s discipline, in one’s area of interest. It is not only a pleasant break from the routine of one’s job, but also an opportunity to catch up with one’s peers, acquaintances and friends that are attending the same conference. Being exposed to new and challenging ideas, engaging with the experts that are presenting their latest work, having a chance to present one’s own work are all great opportunities for professional development and serve as great stimuli for innovative ideas.
The conference I am attending is centring on e-Learning and ways in which new technologies are expanding the horizons of education in the tertiary environment. This is very germane in today’s rapidly evolving world where new technology is expanding and renewing itself on a daily basis. Academics have traditionally been quite conservative, but the pressure is on nowadays and one can be left behind very quickly.
The latest destabilising influence in e-Learning around the world is the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This is a relatively new initiative that was first discussed in 2008 but really wasn’t taken up to any great extent until the last couple of years. 2012 has already been described as the “Year of the MOOC”.
The basic idea behind a MOOC is that it is a fully open course (i.e. anyone can do it) that could be followed online (no face-to-face attendance necessary) and for free (gratis, zilch, nada!). The idea behind the title of this course is important as it derives from the Connectivism theory which (paraphrasing heavily here) says that learning/training in this era will be successful if we learn how to connect and build relevant networks. This idea of connecting to each other to construct knowledge is one of the key dynamics of a MOOC.
Deconstruction of the monopolised tertiary education landscape is underway. Probably in a couple of years the traditional university will have all but died out. The academics living in their ivory towers are a thing of the past – ivory is out in case… Free knowledge is the thing of the future. The “Sage on the Stage” has given way to the “Guide on the Side”. People who are amateurs in a field of learning are deciding to teach a subject that they are passionate about and they are showing dyed in the wool academics a thing or two. Academics must change with the times or they will become extinct. Soon…
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