Instructor, Facilitator or Free-For-All: What Will ETMOOC Provide?

An about me paragraph:

My name is Rolin Moe, and I am a doctoral student studying learning technologies through Pepperdine University’s Distance Education in Learning Technologies program.  I enroll in a lot of MOOCs, participate in some, complete few.  My interest is mostly as a researcher, looking at how the technology affords the ballasts of education:  purpose, interaction, assessment.  MOOCs like etmooc are interesting because most work in online education has focused on the first or third in lieu of the second; this is the opposite because the first ballast is only defined in generalities, and the third is debatable.  However, I think highly of one of the conspirators, Alec Couros, who wrote a chapter for a research book about his first experience in the MOOC-like world, a chapter I was rather fond of, and was excited to see how a cMOOC from his perspective would go.  I am in the preliminary phases of my dissertation, which looks at instructional roles throughout distance and online education, so I might not participate in discussion too freely, choosing rather to link to other course takers, as well as share some tangential research I am finding in my studies.

My fears, trepidations, and hopes

I just finished a week of #moocmooc, of which I was not a fan (perhaps I will detail some day).  There is a similarity in design between #etmooc and #moocmooc, not the least of which is the idea that the course is not taught, but rather facilitated.  The first I heard of facilitator as a cMOOC term was from Dr. Couros, and I have seen George Siemens use the term as well, but both were doing work at the same time and I’m not sure who gets credit.  Regardless, there is part of me that feels like facilitator is a disingenuous monicker for the work of the person.  I don’t doubt the efforts of Couros and the others; however, to believe that there is not a delineation of power and expertise in distinctive roles is to pretend such does not exist.  Like bell hooks famously noted during the first conference of Cultural Studies, the set up of the space and environment will speak as much of a message as the message you intend, especially in regards to position and power.  The list of conspirators is long and impressive, a mix of practitioners, scholars, users who all have clout in their fields.  If this is a learning environment, there must be a zone of proximal development, and these people are the experts, some of if not most or all of.  I don’t necessarily think this should be shunned, but if it is to be heralded that we are all in a network and we are all on an equal footing, that footing is on shifting ground if I am one click away from seeing who is in charge.

My son is about to start preschool, and we are looking at all sorts of unique options for him.  We viewed a few Waldorf schools online, watching videos and the like, and I was shocked at how traditional the classrooms were.  I told my wife that I want to find a preschool where the teacher’s desk is not in the front of the room at the chalkboard.  Implicit in that statement is an understanding that relationships dictate learning, and by placing the teacher in that position you have a subject/master dichotomy happening.  #etmooc goes out of its way to remove that subject/master relationship, in ways more successful (in my opinion) than #moocmooc did.  But there are experts, there is digital inequality, there are inside jokes among the twitterverse regulars. I am excited about what #etmooc will provide, and curious as to how the facilitators will facilitate.