Democracy requires intellectually armed political activism to succeed. MOOCs (cMOOCs) provide an unprecedented occasion to demonstrate the power of connective learning for democracy, just as much as they demonstrate the democracy of connective learning.
The four letters that make up the MOOC abbreviation are as apt as a stage for political protest as for our education system. The Massive, Open and Online aspects of the MOOC lend themselves well to democratic deliberation. It is the “C” which provokes this post and fuels my hopes of leveraging MOOCs as instruments of democracy.
The C in MOOCs stands for “course”. It is rather loosely and controversially defined, because the MOOC looks nothing like its traditional namesake – the closely bounded, rigidly structured component of a curriculum. Perhaps that it why it requires the first three letters to qualify it. Of course, there was much deconstructive debate about this in 2008, particularly around the notion of the “un-course” which did gain some momentum.
What if democratic debates were structured as MOOCs? So far, most democratic conversations end up as inaccessible and lost footnotes to a blog post or a FaceBook like. Frequently they are tokenised into signature campaigns or opinion polls, as a measure of democratic discourse.
Most of the current instruments suffer from severe deficits. They do nothing to promote connectives of citizens who engage with vast linked networks of “knowledge”. They do not allow sustained, visible conversation. Nor do they allow citizens to build the necessary level of competence to understand the complexities of any issue being discussed. They do not scaffold citizen learners in ways that promotes their own learning. And they certainly do not reflect much more than the immediate, surface reactions in any debate.
MOOCs as political instruments would overcome deficits such as these and promote democracy. They would act as opinion-shapers, citizen-competency builders and massive hubs that collate the huge amount of information being generated today by individuals and the mass media.
The mechanisms of the MOOC will ensure that the networks these MOOCs create will result in credible outputs – something no xMOOC or traditional course can ever dream of achieving, placed as they are in the traditional system of education.
What will these credible outputs be? Firstly, any one passionate or interested in building an independent thought-competence over an issue will instantly be exposed to networks that has diversity of thought, opinion and conversation. Next, these networks will allow smaller networks of people to coalesce based on their thinking and capabilities, leading to cohesive multi-faceted thinking and learning on various aspects of an issue. Thirdly, and most tangibly, these networks with their (ideally) open nature, will not sport specific political agendas, making them a strong force within democracy.
And why stop here? Why not consider MOOCs for health, poverty and many of the ills that surround us today, locally and globally? Thoughts?
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