What is a Teacher? How does learning occur? How is learning confirmed?
Certainly, an individual can learn independently from a variety of sources. In the case of formal learning experiences with defined objectives and expectations of learning assessment, however, a person – specifically a content expert – serving in the role of teacher is critical, no? This is because the teacher acts as a link between the foundation for the learner and the learning. They organize the content and devise activities for learning that align with the assessments. They watch for stragglers and pull them back into the group. We might get there without them, but it would certainly be a long and arduous process (if we did). It would be like planning a trip without a map. In less formal experiences, I think the role of teacher can be occupied by a variety of resources; but in that broader context, the learning can afford to loosen in structure.
So, what is and what is not a teacher in a MOOC or massive open online course? We have been hearing a lot about MOOCs lately, but they seem to vary in their design and I am not sure that every MOOC follows a connectivist approach. I am familiar with the similar learning processes from #eduMOOC2011, #Change11, and #CMC11, for instance, but I am not sure how the Udacity or MITx courses – which seem to resemble a more formal learning experience – compare.
Those in which I have participated are similar in that there is a basic schedule of weekly topics with supplemental resources provided. Generally, live presentations/discussions are held weekly and recorded for later viewing. Participant discussion takes place in groups, in blog posts, on facebook pages, and more. In these MOOCs, learning is a result of the organization of the design – from interaction with the resources provided; from interaction with the presenter(s); from personal reflection on blogs and in other discussions; and from interaction with other participants. The resources are organized, but the level of participation – and of learning – is solely determined by each learner. To me, the teachers in this design are the organizers, the presenters, the authors of the content, and the participants. In this case, I am more likely to ask what is not a teacher…
In a MOOC, would we be better off asking what IS NOT a teacher?