MOOCing problem based learning

Let’s blog (perhaps also vlog in the future). There is so much to say and explore, and I thought it would be useful for people to know what we do at the university jobs – and I would keep some track record for myself. I’d also like to congratulate my colleague Mari K. Niemi, who’s a frontrunner as social media political scientist, and was nominated the researcher of the year by the Union where I also belong. 

I’m enrolled on the my first MOOC, which is problem-based learning run by Maastricht University, which has developed and professed this teaching-and-learning method for decades. MOOCS are massive online courses, but most of them are done through traditional teaching methods: lectures by famous people and individual assignments. This is a different one: it stresses collaborative learning. I wanted to really test this MOOC – as a future reference, as I believe there is democratic value on this.

In this course of 2800 registered learners. Those of us who would work actively are organised in teams. Our team has five people, me, two colleagues from Slovenia and one from Brussels, an another one from Australia. We learn about learning, team work and of course course design and teaching. Moreover we learn about this particular technique and its underlying principles. Usually there are tutors in team work but this is

We start from a problem, and formulate research questions for ourselves, then engage in research. There is a lot of brainstorming involved so I do think this method enhances creativity. As I’m bit of a maverick (hence the title of this blog), so I chose questions such as:

  1. Can PBL be used in public administration and policy work?
  2. Or even deliberative democracy?
  3. Are heterogeneous groups better at problem-solving and creativity?

The first two are emerging from my work on local democracy, and participatory planning and deliberative processes, here in Maunula, Helsinki. I hope to write about this more later, but here the starting point is that democracy itself starts from problematization. What is it that we want to tackle, what is the problem in the outlined case is the starting point for brainstorming.

Recognising dilemmas and framing problems whether in policy-making or deliberative processes. Enquiring, what was the problem represented to be, Carol Lee Bacchi has turned problematization into a distinctive method of analysing policy problems. But here – as elsewhere, I think the crucial thing is the ethos and pointers for discussion rather than the exact method to be repeated in different ways. But defining the problem, and being aware of the politics and power related to the problem-articulation is one of the key steps.

The latter question deals with innovation and creativity. As innovation has been hyped so much, recently, I thought in Finland we’d already have some discussion on this. On the other hand Finland is a notoriously homogeneous country – at least judging by the appearances and data of immigration. My hunch is that literature on creativity would say, yes, they are. And I have first hand experience on this – from for example the Bauhaus Kolleg, Dessau 2006/07 (looking forward to the reunion in a year’s time). But seriously, I need literature, if anyone has answers to this – or the other points, please help me this week!

The fourth point to tackle is uncertainty. The colleagues deliberated last Friday, while I was at this conference, and ended up with the notion. Uncertainty is a crucial concept! And considering the way in which societies and working lives have been transforming, it increasingly prevalent. It really offers the basis for our work on WeQ Pedagogy, which is the new pedagogical approach we launched in the Helsinki Challenge team earlier this year. Isn’t dealing with uncertainty yet another 21st century skill to be acquired? So, I wrote to our team: uncertainty is not a problem but a strength of the approach. So we would be tackling with uncertainty rather than (re)solving/overcoming it. What do you think?


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