I do. Or do I?

Whilst I’m in the final few months of my doctorate and spending my days and nights drafting and restarting my thesis, one thing still really bothers me. 

For the entirely of my doctorate I’ve had a love hate relationship with the term engagement, largely because the literature refers to it but never truly defines it. Ah ha! I hear you cry, you should do that and then become wildly famous and cited like those Cormier and Siemens blokes we all read about!

But here’s the catch, to whom am I defining it for? 

In that lies the crux of my problem. Institutions would like engagement defined by course completions and certificate purchases, but the socialist in me thinks what about the learner? Shouldn’t engagement be defined by them? 

When someone gets engaged in a relationship the societal expectation is that they will get married, some do it quickly, some take years, some never get married and just stay engaged. Have either failed at being engaged? No. 

So why do we place the same societal expectations on learning MOOCs? I was thinking about this last night/this morning on the gravy train home from a gig where I bought my first vinyl. Now, I’m engaged with the music, I was brought up on vinyl, but I’ve yet to by the record player to listen to it. Have I failed as a fan in the band’s eyes? Probably not. (I already know they love me, it’s written on the album sleeve.) Will I see them live again? Absolutely. Will I get round to buying a record player one day soon? Most definitely. Will I treasure and keep my vinyl in the meantime. You bet.

The problem with MOOCs is (and I hark back to an earlier blog post on this) is that traditional for-qualification expectations are placed on MOOCs because they are ‘courses’. But the majority of the reasons for registering on MOOCs are different to university qualifications so why do we keep beating ourselves up about this? 

We speak of personalised and student centred learning but we define what it is they are aiming for, how and when they will do it, and what success will look like for them at the end.

So I question to myself if this is right, if strategies should be based on what we want rather than what the learners want, and I continue to plough though endless papers in the hope of forming that answer that is academically robust beyond this blog post.

Until then I’ll still be, doctor in waiting