Professional development online is a real possibility, and the opportunities continue to grow. I’ve shared information in the past about video training and webinars. The time has come to talk about MOOCs! No, let’s not merely talk. Massive Open Online Courses are large in nature, so they deserve a big shout-out.
I’m excited to be part of the ELT Festival on WizIQ. The second MOOC has just started, and all 24 presenters will be focusing on ELT Techniques: Listening and Pronunciation. Participants are enrolling by the hundreds for this FREE professional development opportunity. Classes will take place through December 13. It’s not too late to register.
The mastermind behind it all is Jason R. Levine, or “Jase” to all who know him – and there are many around the world who do. Jase has not only organized the MOOC, he is the heart of it, supplying the energy and contagious enthusiasm that an event of this scale needs.
Jase wears many hats. He has fifteen years of experience in ELT as a teacher, teacher trainer, and published materials writer. He is chair-elect of the TESOL Interest Section Video and Digital Media and works as an English Specialist for the U.S. Department of State. He is the creator of ColloLearn, an approach to English language learning based on the songs he writes and performs as Fluency MC. Jase is salso Ambassador and Knowledge Entertainer at WizIQ.com,where he launched the MOOC ELT Techniques.
Jase took time out of his busy schedule this week to answer some of my questions about his work online. Enjoy and benefit from his responses!
[The thoughts and opinions expressed in the interview are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pearson.]
1. What made you decide to organize a MOOC?
Mainly it was the energy and enthusiasm for exchanging ideas that I was seeing in social media, particularly on Facebook and Twitter. English language teachers from all over the world were helping one another, creating, curating and sharing materials and learning tremendous amounts in social spaces online. The time seemed right to move these exchanges to a virtual classroom platform where we could maintain the same relaxed social vibe but take things to the next level professionally. Working on ELT Techniques has been fantastic.
2. How do MOOCs meet the needs of today’s teachers?
MOOCs meet our needs in numerous ways, though I should qualify that to say that I believe Connectivist MOOCs (c-MOOCs) are the ones that truly do. cMOOCs promote learning through human interaction; their success depends on the extent to which participants network, share, and collaborate.
When MOOCs truly engage teachers, we benefit enormously from working from home or on the road, connecting around the clock, working at our own pace, attending classes given by a variety of presenters, discovering and connecting with like-minded peers and mentors from around the globe, offering and receiving feedback on assignments from these peers and mentors, and-last but certainly not least-doing all of this without paying a fee.
3. Some say online learning isn’t as engaging or effective as face-to-face learning. What’s your response?
Frankly, I believe it’s no different from comparing effective face-to-face learning with ineffective face-to-face learning. The bottom line is how passionate and inspiring the teacher is, how motivated your classmates are, and how engaged you are with the materials and activities. There are dull classes in both physical and virtual classrooms. Here’s the wonderful part: engaging MOOCs and other forms of online learning will prevail over the tedious ones-and these courses everyone in the world with an internet connection can have access to. In contrast, if you have a dull class with an uninspiring teacher in a physical school, you’re stuck.
We must also bear in mind that the majority of English teachers in the world-whether for financial reasons, time limitations, or geographical location-do not have the opportunity to avail themselves of professional development in the traditional sense. For these teachers, comparing quality face-to-face training with quality online training is irrelevant.
4. How did your own online activity begin? How much of your professional work is done online?
It began with posting videos of my songs and classes on YouTube. Then one day a teacher in Morocco, Ikram Lyamlahy, messaged me to say that she’d posted one of my videos in her Facebook group and other Moroccan teachers were there commenting on it. At that point, I’d never heard of a Facebook group, let alone one where teachers would be sharing ideas about someone’s content. I was blown away! Once I saw that Facebook could be a forum for the best sort of social online learning, I never looked back.
On the other hand, I dragged my feet getting into an online classroom. I imagined it would be difficult or impossible to connect emotionally with students. What would we do without the safety and intimacy of a physical space? Two years ago, Sylvia Guinan invited me to one of her classes in WizIQ as a guest teacher. The class started and instantly began filling up with students from Egypt, India, Italy, Thailand, the U.S., Brazil, and a dozen other countries. From the moment we began greeting one another, I felt the realness of it and knew that this was the future of learning. That very same day I taught a group in a physical classroom; as soon as I closed the door, I felt claustrophobic.
These days, besides the MOOC for English teachers we’re running, I’m designing a MOOC for English learners and preparing to relaunch “The Weekly English Workout,” my speaking skills program co-produced by Dr. Nellie Deutsch.
5. What advice do you have for teachers who want to be more professionally active outside the classroom? How does one get started teaching or creating content online?
I would say to first hook up with the many folks in social media who are creating, curating, and sharing content and services. Post your creations in places where you’re networking with other teachers and solicit their feedback. In terms of teaching online, please get in touch and I’ll help you get started!