MOOCs and Negotiation

Responding to an enquiry...

Just one comment. You write, "the curriculum is not truly 'negotiated' in the social environment between students and instructors..."

I have never been a fan of language describing the process as 'negotiation'. There can never in my mind be a true negotiation between student and instructor, because in most educational environments there is too great an imbalance of power between the two. Consider how disputes between instructor and student are resolved - the instructor makes a ruling, and that's that. That is not a negotiation.

In my view of connectivism, there is no negotiation. The student selects the material (if any) they feel is appropriate. This is because the purpose of the course isn't to master some domain of content - indeed, the purpose of the course is nothing in particular. Each student brings with him or her self their own unique objective, and this necessitates their own unique content selection.

What makes a course a 'course' in the connectivist sense isn't the relation between 'student' and 'instructor'. Rather, two factors define a course: duration, and proximity.

In the case of duration, a person (typically but misleadingly called the 'instructor') presents a set of materials, typically lectures, but practically anything at all. This set, called a 'course' of lectures, constitute the 'content' of the course, but may or may not be attended by participants, at their discretion.

In the case of proximity, what makes a person a 'participant' in the course is that they in some way touch the course network. The most typical way to touch the network is to register or sign up (and this is where most course population figures are drawn) but a person may participate in a course even without registering, by interacting with other course participants, for example, by following and/or using a course hashtag.

A connectivist course is therefore a series of events, typically with a start and end date, around which a network of participants forms. What makes the course a 'course' in this sense is that it is an 'attractor' around which participants interact.

The reason why I view a course this way is that I am interested in the knowledge that is produced by such a network. Each participant in the course takes on a distinct perspective, and it is the interaction of these distinct perspectives that creates new, emergent, knowledge. Attempting to control these perspectives - to align them in some way - actually impedes the knowledge-producing process.

So the process regarding the selection of materials is to exert no control. In this way, each participant is an individual and equally important contributor to the course, communicating and sharing, but not negotiating as though to seek some sort of common objective.

Needless to say, I think that this is a methodology that actually works better in the humanities than in the sciences, but has not been widely applied there (probably because nobody funds the humanities,so there's no real money available for experimentation).
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