THE COURSE IS YOURS: CONNECTING STUDENTS AND TEACHERS AS CONNECTIVIST LEARNERS WITH OPEN ONLINE COURSES
Open online courses represent one of the most interesting and promising trends in e-learning (Horizon Report 2013). Openly available on the Internet and accessible free of charge, these courses invite an unlimited number of people from all countries and backgrounds to take part – why they are also known as MOOCs (massively open online courses).
Currently the focus of attention in the context of MOOCs seems to be on courses hosted by nominate universities (particularly in the U.S.), which offer high-quality educational content – mostly short educational films or lecture recordings – via supplier platforms like Coursera, edX and Udacity. In addition to this format called xMOOC there exist also approaches that focus especially on the educational potential of social media and networking: Within this format of open online courses the organizers prepare some teaching materials on a website somewhere on the web and organize lectures that can be pursued live as a video conference or recorded. The real added value of the course, however, arises from the contributions and discussions among the participants as well as from the materials the learners collect, comment and organize.
Previously, these so-called cMOOCs that follow the learning paradigm of connectivism (Siemens 2004) were mainly located in the field of informal learning. Faced with the challenges in higher education to prepare students in an optimal way for a future occupation not only by teaching professional expertise, but more than ever also to convey social, methodical and personality-related skills (while considering nonetheless learning and media consumption habits of today's students), there are increasing efforts to test and establish the format of the cMOOCs in the area of formal higher education (see e.g. Bremer 2012).
Within the project “SOOC - Saxon Open Online Course” starting in April 2013 a connectivist open online course is designed and conducted. The special about this course: it not only connects at least five subjects in four disciplines at three different universities in Germany, but also enables a common learning by students and teachers of these universities and disciplines. Another additional feature will be the formative assessment with the e-portfolio-method. In opposite to the traditional assessment methods the learners shall create various artifacts and collect them in several social media tools and platforms like blogs or wikis. The artifact can be commentated and criticized by the other participants and therefore enhance the learning results of the learning group as well as of the single learner.
The contribution introduces the concept of the Saxon Open Online Course (SOOC), addressing in particular the typical challenges of connectivist open online courses in higher education and presents potential solutions as well as first experiences and evaluation results.