The MOOC as a network broker

Inspiration for blog posts can happen at the strangest, and most inopportune times, and this happened to me on Thursday last week, the penultimate day of preparation for the opening of Flinders Connect and a time when my mind was flying around the many last-minute jobs we still had to knock off. The inspiration didn’t so much hit me, it was more delivered in person as I was coming back with a quick bite of lunch, courtesy of Prof Colin Carati, the Director of the Flinders Uni Centre for Educational ICT. After exchanging pleasantries about the opening of Flinders Connect, Colin mentioned the blog post I wrote a couple of weeks back which in summary posited that the next big challenge for Universities could be how best to connect their students to large, open networks as a means to improve employability (based on research from the Booth School of Business).

Colin’s thought to me was a strikingly simple one – what if the real value of a MOOC is to act as a broker for students into these large, open networks?

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Seven life lessons I’ve learned from riding mountain bikes

Perhaps its a symptom of getting older, but I see far more connections between seemingly unrelated things these days. If it was twenty years ago and I was still embroiled in my pitiful attempt at a PhD in maths then I’d have probably called them homomorphisms. Mappings of concepts from one part of life on to another completely unrelated one on the assumption that the underlying rules of each system are more or less consistent.

In Layman’s terms – I draw a lot of parallels between things.

Of course I’m not the only one, as a very quick autocomplete check on Google will attest to…

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The most recent ones that has been striking me, possibly because I’ve been doing a lot more of both recently, are the parallels between riding off-road bikes and making life decisions. 

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On conferences

I admitted before the start of this week’s SSCC conference that I really had no idea what to expect. Since bidding au revoir to the edtech community earlier this year I’ve been on a steep learning curve in the world of student services, and this would be the first opportunity for me to meet with a couple of hundred peers working in this area. Like Barnaby Joyce wandering into a live radio interview I made naive comment about my wide-eyed wonder of what the conference would be like into the Twittersphere and received this gem back from Mark Smithers:

  
I am glad people like Mark exist. For every kool-aid drinking happy-clapper like me, there needs to be an equal and opposite force, in all their curmudgeonly glory. It promotes critical thought for those who are willing to reflect on it. It stops us all from blindly believing the hype.

In this case, it spawned a blog post, because as the conference draws to a close, I can see he was absolutely right. Now at this point I’ll also say that the presentations within the conference were, for me, excellent. I could write another whole blog post on the content, but for those already working in university student services it might not be anything new. For me however, the sessions alone made it worth coming. But this post isn’t about the content, it is about the networking.

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