This has been an extraordinary six weeks for my husband and I. In a small cabin in the woods, with a terrible internet connection just a tad above the minimum requirements to run a course on the social media teaching platform, www.WizIQ.com, we were able to pull in more than two dozen of our colleagues and friends to help us present to what is at the moment 846 enrollees recent interdisciplinary research into a variety of exceptional experiences and seemingly paranormal phenomena. Our way was paved financially by the donations of three of those friends and the willingness of Lisette Coly, President of the Parapsychology Foundation, to let us use time she was paying for to organize, facilitate and manage the course.
The experience was extraordinary not only because of the hard work of the speakers and our course team members (and check out Carlos’ blog where the names of all the speakers and members of the course team, and their contributions are honored) but because a core group of learners followed along with us on the journey, attending lectures in real-time and viewing them later, taking quizzes, attending discussion forums on WizIQ and in Second Life, and writing reflections, essays, and endless threads of discussion. Their contribution — from more than 50 countries on the face of the earth — made this journey even better than we could ever have imagined.
We are proud of all our participants because of their willingness to give of themselves for free, and proud of ourselves, as members of the unfortunately ever-growing phalanx of under-employed, financially strapped US citizens who struggle every day to continue to provide service to their family, friends and colleagues. It’s down to WizIQ.com and its affordability and the generosity of its learning networks and support staff, as well as to the folks who helped support our efforts, that this was possible at all. And we just want to thank everybody!
We also felt blessed because some of our past teaching partners, now no longer in our orbit, had rejected to one extent or another the core philosophy of the course we put on: that there are people out there who are very interested in the best research and theory the field of parapsychology has to offer; and that those people are looking for the best references as well as for an open environment to discuss and criticize and otherwise engage with people who have similar and differing experiences and points of view. Unlike the teaching network on WizIQ and all over our field as well, the folks we used to partner with felt strongly that the more watered down the information, the better for the learner, the more control over the learner’s interactions with each other, the better the learning environment and so on. For us that philosophy was too constraining, and the day we finally decided to disconnect and head out on our own turned out to be a very good day. Scary, but a prelude to the best six weeks of our lives.
We’ve learned largely from our teaching networks on WizIQ and in Second Life that what many adult learners want is an environment full of options, where they can pick and choose what they’re ready for, where they can stretch and challenge themselves, and stretch and challenge the experts who present the live classes. We’ve learned that adult learners are fully capable of deciding for themselves what they need, and how they want to learn. We have felt strongly that our jobs as organizers and facilitators is to give the folks who sign up those opportunities by designing flexibility into a course with high quality content. Trusting the new learning networks that formed in our MOOC to use and amplify what’s on offer was a design choice that paid us all back many times over.
The other belief of ours that was reinforced by the experience of the Parapsychology MOOC 2015 was an expected one: that generosity of heart and a commitment to open and affordable learning (speaking of upcoming plans for new courses and conferences) is the way to go. While accreditation and certification is with us in a world focused on proof of knowledge and ability, sometimes the best way to go is to care enough to share, to build opportunities that feed people’s heads without emptying their pockets.
All in all an amazing experience. What’s next in the short term is to continue to support the learners who are working their way through the materials, to plan some affordable fee-based single topic courses on phenomena in the field, and get the edited versions of the substantive talks up on our YouTube Channel, also called Parapsychology Online. Oh, and start getting caught up on our hours for the Parapsychology Foundation and our other part-time editing, writing, translation, and teaching jobs.
A hearty thanks to everybody involved! Look for the complete schedule and direct links to the recordings under the Parapsychology MOOC 2015 tab on this site.