At the heart of the Open Education Resources movement (and the Open movement in general) is the notion that education is a public good. The progression to such sentiment may be based in a notion that an educated citizenry betters democracy and civic life (folks like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson), or that knowledge and wisdom are non-rivalrous and non-excludable (Econ 101), or that the increase and diffusion of knowledge stimulates societal and cultural growth (James Smithson, John Quincy Adams). Regardless of its germination, the crux of such thought is that the provision of education from an egalitarian lens results in benefit across the population.
At face value the Massive Open Online Course fits this vision: courses are free, prerequisites are encouraged but not enforced, and access to the best professors at the best universities is not bound to geography or economics. And research into the framework of the MOOC points to the opening of university walls, the building of intra- and internet communications and an attempt to promote the increase and diffusion of knowledge for society, whether communal or global. That’s why it’s odd that one of the primary voices in OER, David Wiley, sees the 2013 incarnation of MOOCs as a money grab:
I propose that, whenever you hear the acronym MOOC, you think: “Massively Obfuscated Opportunities for Cash”
How can a MOOC be both a bastion openness and the epitome of closed content? Continue reading →
Bryan Alexander is blogging with frequency again (hooray!), in his exemplary educator style — pose a topic, add information, perhaps include an informed opinion, and rather than end the blog with a definitive period have it linger for further discussion.
He is currently musing on the cost of college, the decline in college enrollments, and the general purpose of college in today’s society. How are the current forces in society, culture and policy shaping the future of the system?
What does this kind of projection tell policymakers? The regional growth formula of “meds and eds” would still work, perhaps. Or that they should simply prepare for greater economic inequality, and assume education no longer reduces class divisions. Continue reading →
Research plays an integral part in the archetype of a college professor. At state and select private universities (often known as Research I schools), a professor’s research record is as important as their teaching and service records, often more so. At mid-major and liberal arts colleges, research may not be as integral but it is still important and relevant. The ability for a professor to conduct topical and relevant research from implementation to publication is considered vital to the growth of the specific discipline as well as academia at large.
This is evident at a conference like the American Educational Research Association’s Annual Meeting, happening right now in San Francisco, where thousands of educators are presenting their research findings to thousands of attendees. The sheer volume of papers and presentations on topical issues across the various strata of education is overwhelming, and AERA has worked diligently to divide their membership mass into divisions and special interest groups so that individuals can find field-specific topics to utilize for their scholarship or to share their scholarship.
I want to ask the question but does it matter? and then cut to the page break, being all provocative and such. That’s not the right question, because it does matter. It matters a lot. But how much of a difference is it truly making? Continue reading →
A common theme in early MOOC criticism was a linking of the MOOC to Gartner’s Hype Cycle.
Certainly, a lot of hype accompanied the MOOC…more hype than for any EdTech innovation in education history, and perhaps more hype than for any learning model (or even agent of change) in higher education history. Spurred by a media narrative focused on a broken educational system, the MOOC was heralded not only as a means of providing cost-efficient education, but doing it through the best universities and professors in the world, for the entire world, in a way that would break down existing conventions of class and privilege. In short, MOOCs could crumble a bloated ivory tower while providing an education of higher-than-existing quality to individuals from around the world, eradicating student debt all the while.
Use of the hype cycle in discussion of MOOCs looked at the learning model as a present artifact that needed attachment to a history. That history could be MIT’s OpenCourseware, Columbia’s Fathom, Yale & Stanford’s AllLearn, the use of television in education (such as Nebraska Educational Telecommunications of the 1960s), the use of radio in education, or even the establishment of correspondence-based schools in the late 19th Century (such as Cornell University’s satellite school of correspondence). None of these innovations proved to be game-changers for higher education; moreover, almost all of the above were deemed failures by the developing institutions.
One of the purposes of research is to establish a foundation of prior knowledge for future experiments to engage and extrapolate before proposing a new design that will further the field. This is important; without an understanding of what came before, research runs the risk of reinventing the wheel, or even (worse yet) coming up with something more rudimentary than the wheel.
In my days of teaching creative writing, it used to be quite the stressor to get smart, motivated teenagers to take notes of their plots and characters. These were students used to doing everything right and being able to beat the system just with what was stored in their heads. I explained that creative writing was not about beating a system, and the more complex a story and a group of characters became, the more important it was to create a system where you could record those complexities so you could return to it as the story developed. Some listened right away and got to work. Some needed trial and error before coming to me so we could devise strategies. Some never listened and became increasingly frustrated. In the end, it was more likely for someone from the first or second group to have a coherent, rich story than someone from the third group.
I think about this as I read more literature on the history of MOOCs as described by the MOOC creators. Continue reading →
If Anant Agarwal can walk around the Harvard/MIT Summit of Higher Education with a cognitive science paper written in 1972, I can herald the work of Soren Nipper and his generational view of distance education. The difference being, Nipper’s work is seminal in the history of distance education, and the piece is both critical of lackadaisical pedagogy as well as cautious of, as he calls it, computer conferencing without accounting for the numerous variables inherent in learning.
There’s lots of good academic reading in this field — Terry Anderson, John Daniel, Tony Bates — but Nipper comes up in all of it.
I want to compare two texts. The first is an op-ed by Richard Galant, a senior editor for CNN, entitled What if Students Learn Faster Without Teachers? The second is a 1987 video by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics entitled A Private Universe (you will need to click the VoD button next to the 1 in Individual Program Descriptions). In his op-ed, Galant uses the ideas of 2013 TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra for a School in the Cloud to question the effectiveness of teachers. In the Harvard-Smithsonian video, we see a bright student struggling with understanding how the Earth experiences different seasons, despite being handed the correct information. One text brazenly questions the role of teachers, while the other solidifies their necessity. And guess which one is getting the airtime?