Learning Loneliness : xMOOCs fun, M.Ed musings, and French Lit Loneliness…

I remember trying to create a space online with my classmates to informally discuss some French lit texts we were reading and just have fun with content between weekly two-hour seminars during my MA in French lit. Nobody really seemed interested. I formed a group on Google groups (because some people said no to Facebook as a space) and people said they could not find the group, which is hard to believe (click on the link I sent perhaps?). It was so different from what goes on in education communities and and informal discussions in xMOOC, rhizome or others. When I hear people say that they would not want to learn online because they would miss interpersonal interaction, my response is one of confusion. Two hours of interaction in a weekly seminar is very little compared ongoing informal and ungraded discussion online, which can complement the two hours in person at the weekly seminar (literally everyday and all the time, if you want that much). I suppose it is a culture of learning or preference. I felt like the only way to talk French literature was with friends, actual friends, not just classmates, because I rarely saw the classmates apart from the two hours at the seminar… So in F2F graduate learning, there was really minimal interaction with actual live persons or classmates in my department, whereas online there is constant online interaction and dialogue in communities of interest. I suppose some people just don’t like being online all the time and that is valid. I just wish there had been a way to continue the discussion from the seminar or explore the text on our own terms, without the professor (or even WITH the professor), and also in a safe, relaxed way without being evaluated. I remember our professor had encouraged my idea to continue the conversation elsewhere. It just seemed so foreign in my department… I did establish a Google group for the FREN 101 group I was teaching and a minority of students used it to help each other and ask questions to each other or to me. I think it helped, or could help, those who made use of it as a resource. I guess institutional learning really sets up a culture of closed, formal spaces in LMS, and it is a paradigm shift to break down this unnecessary barrier and take initiative as learners to learn outside of that closed environment (even if it serves one’s advancement within the institution as a student earning a degree). It seems obvious to me that there are opportunities outside, even if they are complimentary to the formal degrees sought in institutions, to just work through the material. Maybe cultures of learning are actually learned through modelling in formal systems, so the idea of subverting this is difficult to perceive as beneficial.  It if does not directly advance one’s efforts to earn a degree or credit, perhaps it is thought to be a waste of time.  In that case, perhaps we can contrast the objectives of actual learning with earning credentials.  Of course, credentials are required in the economy and professional worlds of today, and many are learning in formal institutions as a realistic way to navigate this economy and job market for obtaining a career, access to professions, subsistence, etc.  Despite these barriers of accessing credentials through closed, expensive, formal systems, those participating in formal systems can make efforts at subversion on their own terms.  I wish I had found takers in my French lit department…!  In the meantime, I am enjoying online discourse about education in xMOOCs and other communities as well as rich feminist discussions in social media spaces.

This thought is in response to this blog, which I came across in the Google group for #NRC01PL.

“There is no doubt that teacher-to-student interaction is non-existent in all but a few xMOOCs, and student-to-student interaction (via shared forums, for example) is one of the weakest elements of my online learning experience so far. But nothing prevents students from going beyond these existing tools and creating their own intimate communities (by taking classes in a group, for example, or building their own small online communities of committed classmates) to fill these gaps.”



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