MOOCs and PBL: a happy marriage?
April 16th, 2015
By Daniëlle Verstegen – Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a buzz word in education. Some of us are trend watchers, trying to follow –or better even: lead – the newest trend. Some of us feel an immediate resistance to anything called a trend. I’m probably more in the latter category. After following a couple of MOOCs, however, I have to admit that they are attractive: the range of topics that is available, the complete freedom to choose what interests me at this particular moment, to choose how I work and with whom, the chance to collaborate with others from all over the world… Compare that to our curricula which are still mainly linear, almost completely determined by teachers, and the same for all students. Are we teaching in the 21st Century?
Wait a minute…. We’re in Maastricht. We do Problem-Based Learning (PBL). In small groups, with a lot of talking. That has to be incompatible with MOOCs, right? That’s where I got interested. I believe in the principles of Problem-Based Learning, but not in one best, static, never changing implementation of PBL. The seven-jump is one way of doing PBL, certainly excellent for beginning PBL students, but it is not the only way. As an instructional designer, I’m convinced that we should use a variety of formats, increasing in complexity.
I think that MOOCs might have a place in a PBL-curriculum too, but there is a danger: most MOOCs fall back on old-fashioned instructional designs that focus on information-delivery: an eminent professor giving a videolecture and students listening, just like it used to be a 100-years ago… That’s not innovation. We need to find a way that combines the flexibility of MOOCs with the sound learning principles of PBL: constructive, contextual, collaborative and self-directed learning. That’s what we are trying to do in our first UM MOOC “Problem Based Learning: Principles and Design”. Learning about PBL in PBL format in a MOOC.
So MOOCs and PBL, a happy marriage? As far as I can see now: a marriage with some hefty discussions and an occasional conflict, like any good marriage :)