Creativity and context: teaching creatively online

One of the great challenges for those interested in fostering creativity is the problem of context. This as you’d expect shapes what teachers and students do, and in the fully online course space the contextual issues are a constant struggle between making space for student freedom, autonomy and agency within the boundaries of a course limited by time and resources, where you only ‘see’ students as they present via their online persona.

MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) present a particular challenge. Do they present opportunities for creative change in online learning or reinforcement of traditional ways?  Always keen on the experiential approach to learning, I’ve enrolled in a number of MOOCs, which makes me a serial MOOCist,  MOOCee . . . or some such.

At the moment, MOOCs in the main, from my non-systematic reading, seem to be emerging as traditional online courses. Yes, with a few more students. I don’t think the majority are following George Siemens’ very loosely structured connectivist model. The majority seem to be structured on the traditional higher ed classroom presentation model.

I’m just now completing the Introduction to Philosophy course offered via the University of Edinburgh and Coursera. It’s traditional in that there are video lectures, weekly quizzes, a discussion board, and a final essay.

Signs of creativity? It’s philosophy, so it’s very much about analytical thinking, but creativity comes out in the examples chosen by lecturers to demonstrate points in their talks, and in the passion some of the lecturers show for their subject matter as they stand in front of the video camera, unaccustomed to public speaking in a room filled with one (themselves). There’s creativity in some of the lecturers’ responses to the online discussions. So, traditional, but okay and there are enough boundaries to keep me on track without boxing me in.

From the student point of view is there creativity? Well, it’s all up to you to get whatever you want out of the course. No one else cares. There’s not an overwhelming amount of content in this course so you have plenty of room to think – which is what philosophers want you to do. There’s room for activity  – and where there’s activity and reflection then there’s room for creativity. You can go and research more if you want, but only you care. Goals are very important in MOOC Land – your goals.

I’m keen to see how the Creativity Innovation and Change course stacks up later in the year. Apparently I will be exploring creativity to gain personal insights, solving complex problems and using creativity to drive change. Collaboration will be a big part of this course which it wasn’t for the philosophy one. How much collaboration do we need for creativity?