MOOCs need to be permeable.
Right now, MOOCs mostly seem to mimic the 1:many model of the lecture hall. This is still old-school where knowledge is seen as a commodity to be passed on from one person (the instructor) to the next (the student.) This model does not need permeability as the only substantial exchange of ideas is around assessment: can you prove you have a good grasp of the knowledge passed on to you. My hope, however, is that we can use MOOCs as a platform for (socially) constructing knowledge, for crowd sourcing problem-finding as well as problem-solving. (The Designing New Learning Environments MOOC I am enrolled in through Standford is reaching for that, though it is hampered by clunky networking tools.) Having several thousand students in a MOOC focussing on problem-solving is great; having those students and their networks is even better.
Some of my DNLE classmates in and I were discussing some of the shortcomings of the platform. The content is good but the communication and idea-sharing tools are clunky, especially compared to social networking services (SNS) available outside the MOOC–Twitter and Google Plus, for example. And that’s inside the MOOC. It’s impossible to share directly with the world outside our MOOC.
Yet, the distinction between inside and outside learning environments is disappearing. In the course of my work as a school director I connect daily with people outside my campus. In my classroom teaching my students and I connect with people outside our classroom. At a conference I can’t imagine going without the backchannel. My life’s boundaries are becoming permeable. And I like the variety and richness that provides.