For Learning or Credit?

While working this week, I had CBC Radio One on in the background and I was thrilled to hear George Siemens being interviewed on Ontario Today (recording here) about MOOCs.

As a participant in the #Change11 MOOC  (see the schedule here), I was very interested to hear what George had to say.  It is difficult to get your message out in a radio talk show, but the questions from the public suggest a lot of confusion around the purpose of education.

Are schools where you go to get accreditation (credits) or where you go to learn, or both?

It takes me back to some writing I did while pondering this statement from one of my “at-risk” students: “I didn’t take this course to learn something, I took it to get a credit” and here: “Credit for Learning“.

While MOOCs are wonderful for learning (accessible, opt in, opt out, collaborate, go off on tangents, free access), they fall apart when it comes to getting a credit for them (who assesses, is there cheating, how does anyone get paid?), unless we think about some new structures to accommodate both (learn all you want through the MOOC, then pay for the assessment and accreditation when you are ready?)

Do we need a similar strategy in secondary schools where we are constantly battling the misfit between what we know works best for learning (for example, feedback without grades and collaboration) and what the universities demand for entrance (high marks, awards, competition)?  How do we encourage students to explore areas (such as the arts) when their focus is to get extremely high marks (as you can in math and science) to get into particular post-secondary programs?

As we rethink what schools need to look like, we need to work at clarifying the purpose of public education.

In the meantime, I am hoping (fingers crossed) that there will be a #Change12 MOOC because for me, it’s all about learning.

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