MOOCs "Not a Course. It’s a Collaboration"

Terry Elliot, one of the participants in the Making Learning Connected MOOC #CLMOOC that started a couple of weeks ago posted an article today showing some of the people he’s connected with, including me. In the article he included a line saying “This is not a course, it is a collaboration.”

I’ve written articles about MOOCs and their potential for supporting the on-going learning of groups of people trying to solve complex problems, like inner city poverty and related issues. I’ve also been aggregating a library of blog articles about MOOCs.

I’d like to expand on Terry’s thinking with a goal that others will join me in building a network of people who focus on volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs for the way they expand the social networks and learning opportunities for youth living in highly segregated neighborhoods of inner city poverty.

First, let’s learn to use maps to support collective action.

Maps focus our attention on all of the high poverty areas in a geographic region. Using the Interactive Tutor/Mentor Program Locator you can also zoom into specific neighborhoods and add layers of information showing assets (faith groups, business, hospitals, universities) and transportation routes through the neighborhood. These maps can show all the people who might be connected in the type of MOOC Terry describes, who share a self interest and concern for reducing the negative impacts of poverty within the geography they share.

We ought to be able to build maps like the one being built for the #CLMOOC that show all the participants in an effort intended to reduce poverty, improve schools, stop violence, etc.

Second, let’s use maps to show the talent and networks we need to bring in to a community of practice MOOC.

This is a ‘talent map‘ showing skills needed for an organization, or a network, to achieve its mission. This is a ‘network map‘ that illustrates the need to have representation from many sectors. This is another map, showing youth intermediaries in Chicago.

Traditional problem solving and community organizing has relied on face to face and small group meetings. In a big city like Chicago I don’t feel you can ever connect with enough of the people needed to be involved on a one-on-one basis and you can’t keep key people involved in place-based meetings for the years it will take to build and implement strategies that reduce poverty’s impact in every high poverty neighborhood of the Chicago region.

You can do more of this using the Internet and MOOCs that focus on “learning and collaboration”.

The “Who all needs to be included?” question should be answered by an on-going effort to build a library of links to information that already exists to research, funding, existing organizations, ideas, etc. This maps shows the library I’ve been building on line since 1998. Click into the links of this graphic and you’ll go to sections of the library with a variety of links on each topic.

Almost every web site I point to has a staff directory, a “contact us” button and many have Twitter and Facebook links. I’m constantly reaching out to these groups to connect them to me and the conference I host in Chicago every six months. However, I feel on-line communities, organized like the ETMOOC and CLMOOC have the greatest potential for connecting people from a wide range of these organizations with each other.

Participation mapping, like this, using social network analysis tools or GIS maps can also show who is taking part in these MOOCs. Giving recognition to those who are involved might encourage those who are not involved to join in.

We’re in July, starting the 2nd half of 2013. I hope that if you’ve read this you’ll share it with people in universities, philanthropy, media, business and government who might be willing to sponsor this type of community building, not just on a one-time basis, but as part of on-going problem solving.

By November 4, as I host a one day Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference in Chicago a new MOOC focused on poverty, violence, education and workforce development in Chicago and other big cities could be in place. The result of our efforts can be more places where youth and volunteers are building long-term connections that benefit both the young people and the volunteers who are involved.

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, or Linked in, the Tutor/Mentor Connection on Ning, or in one of the Google+ hangouts for these MOOCs.