My reactions to the critique of MOOCs (and by extension connectivism) presented by Brennan and the rebuttal offered by Downes is mixed.
Brennan discusses a possible gap in Connectivist thinking, and its expression in cMOOCs with respect to the experience of ‘technology novices’ and unconfident learners in cMOOC environments.
He argues that it is the ‘task of educators to help learners cope with these kinds of situations. You can’t make them learn, but you can certainly make it easier for them to learn’. According to Brennan, this is done by by nurturing the sense of a competent self and he discusses various ways in which this can be done. What he does say, is that with Connectivist learning…these mechanisms don’t really work, but that you do need teachers one way or another. He presents as well, that to learn in a cMOOC you need to connect and to connect in a cMOOC you need to learn.
Interestingly, Downes notes that in connectivism they recognize that the teacher plays a much smaller role in ‘shaping the story’ than is usually supposed, and much of what the teacher does to ‘shape the story’ actually defeats the ultimate purpose. Downes’ attitude is that the objective of an educational system is to help people do want they want to do, for themselves, rather than a mechanism that gets people to do what we want them to do, for us.
I support the connectivist pedagogy in this regard as I am believe education, or at least higher education, should be more in line with enabling learners to learn what they want to achieve the careers they way. I feel curriculum design can have a flexibility to it that you can choose pieces of the courses that fit your interests (to a certain degree with practical boundaries) to focus your learning on. This requires a certain maturity in understanding that you have to ensure your learning is beneficial and not necessarily whimsical.
This is not something I have experience yet, in my teaching, as I am not teaching at this time. In my role as a Marketing Manger, or online communicator, I have experienced that you have various tools/messages to communicate with people which can be compared to learning. For people to receive your message…essentially, they are learning what you are communicating.
I feel there are some connectivist possibilities underlying my teaching future (online marketing education in post secondary) in that although I will look to ensure connection with my students and guide them through their learning, I feel that if they come to depend on me as an education as the main source of their reassurance and encouragement, they will be ill-prepared. Rather, as in this course, I would look to help them build their Personal Learning Networks to help them go forward.