I am part way through a module that forms part of my MA in Online & Distance Education, and am just finishing the first week that has been run as a MOOC. It has been an interesting experience and, when reflecting on it, one metaphor dominates for me. And the metaphor turned into a short story, an allegory, I suppose.
My studies to date have been the equivalent of a series of civilised dinners with a small group of people, gradually getting to know each other. We have been guided by a knowledgeable host through the dishes we were eating and the wines we drank. Conversation was quite serious and at times intense. I am making some friends and learned a lot.
A week ago, I went back to the same house, but the door was opened by a new host (though I’m sure I have seen him before), who ushered me in quickly along with the many people arriving at the same time. The house was full of people, loud music pounded out, and a party was in full swing. In every room, different things were happening. Some contained groups of people conversing intently, or perhaps one person declaiming at length to a group. Others rushed about chatting excitedly with each other, saying how much fun all this was, and some recognised old friends. Others weren’t so happy – complaining about how hard the house had been to find, the party was a bit rubbish really, they had been to one at Coursera that was much better. A few even made a point of saying that they were only looking in and would be off to another party soon. Our hosts circulated, asking us slightly anxiously if we were having a good time and encouraging us to mingle.
And then there were people like me, having a look round and wondering what on earth was going on – I caught glimpses of quite a few of them. The trouble is, I never really was one for large parties (and I suspect many of these others weren’t either). But I did mingle and got into conversation with a couple of people, who turned out to be very nice, helpful people with interesting things to say. But I am still finding it hard to break into the group conversations going on around the house. Never mind, let’s press on into the second week. I’m sure I’ll get into the swing of things, and apparently we have a celebrity special guest arriving soon.
Many people reading this will already be at the party, but if you aren’t, this probably hasn’t made much sense. In that case, feel free to drop in, you aren’t too late. I have heard that most people who attend parties like this leave well before the end but so far I can’t see any signs of it letting up. I can imagine feeling tired by the time I get to the end of the six weeks, but I’ll worry about that then.
Party on, friends.