This tweet, from the co-founder of Coursera, highlights several troublesome aspects of the MOOC phenomenon and the manner in which we envision online education in an age of technological solutionism (see Morozov).
No one wants education to be void of fun. Practitioners and scholars alike work tirelessly to remove boredom, dullness, lifelessness and listlessness from practice of the discipline, because learning happens best if we avoid boredom, dullness, lifelessness and listlessness and replace them with engagement, activity, critical thinking and debate. And educators hope that, in the end, students find the experience enriching; ergo, enjoyable…and if they wish to call that amalgam fun, that’s okay. But fun is not the immediate emotional correlation educators hope to establish between the learner and the learning.
We’re excited at the potential of Curiosity.com to expand our reach and give students an additional channel for exploring their professional and personal interests among Coursera’s offerings, as well as among those of other available educational resources.
The Curiosity.com platform looks like many of the video-based Internet education offerings of this modern day: Upworthy, TED, even MOOC provider Canvas. They really look the same. It’s as if WordPress has but one education design option and everyone is required to use it. From a design standpoint, learning in 2014 equates to a three-column desktop publishing layout, one click promising an equivalent to Neo’s kung fu lesson in The Matrix.
An amalgam of screenshots from education-centric websites — January 14, 2014.
There is certainly space for research and discussion of the digital layout of education in 2014; Curiosity.com is just one of many start-ups to follow the dominant paradigm that seems beholden to building freedom of choice through content boxes. Stuart Hall would have a field day with why education is delivered in such a fashion. That is for another time, however.
Neither the design of Curiousity.com nor its vision are unique in todays saturated marketplace of content branded as education. What is unique about Curiosity.com is more its holding company, Discovery Communications, and their history in education. Continue reading →
As we say goodbye to 2013, the year after The Year of the MOOC, I remain unable to adequately define the acronym that graces this blog’s header. This year Oxford Dictionary gave it the old college try, creating a definition more inclusive than exclusive and in doing so adding even more confusion to a rhetorical landscape littered with LOOCs, HOOCs, cMOOCs, xMOOCs, urMOOCs, SPOCs and other -ooc misfit acronyms. Research and media remained focused on structural descriptions: MOOC design, its workings, its assessment strategies, its back-end data collection and aggregation. Developers continued to herald the model as education for everyone and an example of reinventing education, even in the face of research noting the model’s penchant for providing adequate instruction and scaffolding for those who, to channel Derek Zoolander, already read good and do other things good too. Some look at recent events as the beginning of the end for MOOCs or the inevitable trough of disillusionment a la Gartner Hype Cycle, while others remain bullish on the MOOC and its place as a standard bearer for the future of higher education and educational technology.
I don’t look back on 2013 in search of takeaways. 2013 was a result of 2012, the year of the MOOC, which was a result of 2011, the proliferation of unique experiments in distributed learning. There is an interconnectedness to it all, and for those who wish to focus on the lack of interconnectedness between the 2008 version of MOOC and the 2011 and beyond MOOC, both models were at heart about offering coursework to large numbers of people online for no charge. Continue reading →
Yesterday I read Rebecca Hogue’s blog about her experience at #MRI13, Impostor in the Room, and felt compelled to respond…I attended three conferences over the past month, and like Rebecca I am a doctoral student still navigating the journey from novice to expert, so I often feel like an impostor in rooms filled with people who have become pseudo-celebrities in my professional life as I must stand on their shoulders to build my dissertation. At the time I choosing not to as I did not attend the conference and thus did not understand its dynamics. It is odd to be in California and have a Twitter feed full of people determining where they are going to have dinner, sharing anecdotes and inside jokes in the space they often share resources and engage in scholastic conversation. This is the nature of social media, though, and we all utilize it in a different manner.
Fabian Banga has furthered this concern at his blog eter, defining Twitter as both a neoliberal and postmodern social network that encourages isolation rather than community, the focus on follows and followers rather than communication. As Fabian looks at the situation from a level removed from MRI13, I responded to his blog with my thoughts and recent experiences navigating the terrain. I also added a few thoughts on how conferences can do a better job of including the peripheral players and giving them a sense of belonging rather than isolation.
I did not attend #MRI13, but as a student in learning technologies who continues to navigate the journey from novice to expert, I wanted to share my experiences with Twitter in this field, as they differ from those expressed by Fabian.
While I began using Twitter in 2010, it was not until Fall 2012 that I truly engaged the platform. At the time I had begun initial research toward my dissertation, and many of the contemporary scholars were active on Twitter. I followed them. I also began blogging (a lot). For the most part, those I followed did not follow me. I did not take this as a sleight, but more as the expected outcome of joining a new network…the idea of legitimate peripheral participation, zone of proximal development in a social setting, and my place as a novice in their expert space. As I gained comfort with the field, I began responding to select tweets of these scholars. Continue reading →
I presented the theory and modeling behind my practical learning model the MOOCseum to an energetic and excited group of museum practitioners at the Museum Computer Network in Montreal on November 23, 2013. Despite three separate issues with linking my computer to the projector (somewhat cursed these past two presentations), I kept on-point with the presentation, and feedback was not only well-received but unique to practical issues, important for me as both a scholar as well as a practitioner.
I recorded the audio of the session; apologies for the first 30 seconds of slide issues, but the audio is a serviceable compendium to the slides.
I presented my dissertation literature review at the Sloan International Conference for Online Learning on Wednesday at 12:45pm at the Swan & Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World. Several technological glitches threw me off-point, and the topic was expansive by design (perhaps too much), but attendees were positive and responsive to the presentation.
Looking back over my literature review (I completed my oral defense in July of this year), I see not only a great deal of change in the field, but also a greater understanding within myself of the field and its tribulations. There is a lot of news and hullabaloo about MOOC platforms, MOOC economics, MOOC battles on campuses, but there is still a significant lack of writing on MOOCs from the dominant ideology from a theoretical perspective. The MOOC as we see it in everyday literature was built by computer scientists interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning. AI and Machine Learning are byproducts of cognitive science, which has a sister learning theory, cognitive theory. Obviously the 1960s and 1970s sent the psychologists and educators down one road where a human mind handled information and grew into education theories such as constructivism, social learning theory and activity theory…while the computer scientists went down another road with expert systems and intelligent agents. But both constitute learning from a certain perspective.
The theoretical voice missing in this MOOC debate is the AI voice. What is the learning theory behind the AI movement that helped usher MOOCs into existence? Who are the seminal authors in the field? Why is learning designed for machines considered applicable to humans? Once all sides have an understanding of these issues we can better engage in dialogue about MOOCs and their role in the future of higher education.
Just over a year ago (a year and two days, to be exact), Clay Shirky wrote Napster, Udacity & the Academy, one of a few “must-read” articles regarding the MOOC phenomenon. Shirky built an argument that MOOCs fit the monicker of Christensen’s theory of disruptive technology, doing so by noting the dominant higher education narrative (made up of Ivy League or Tier 1 Research schools) focuses on a small and misleading fraction of the sea of higher education (regional schools, community colleges, for-profit institutions), allowing him to posit that the theory behind the MOOC is proof that higher education can be disrupted:
The possibility MOOCs hold out isn’t replacement; anything that could replace the traditional college experience would have to work like one, and the institutions best at working like a college are already colleges. The possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled.
Shirky then links this “unbundled education” (possible for those who cannot afford the “ransom note” of a higher education sticker price) to the potential of a MOOC, noting that, like the musical track unbundled from the CD, learning can be set free from the degree.
The argument Shirky presents is compelling, and was a watershed moment in the MOOC debate, a place where a well-respected Internet scholar seemingly sided with a movement that many practitioners viewed as antithetical to learning and the Open movement. As an advocate for Open, Shriky’s argument of a collegiate experience grounded in reality and not lofty Ivy stature saw MOOCs as an opportunity to improve that reality, an opportunity for those whom payment was one of the primary hurdles:
MOOCs expand the audience for education to people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system.
One year and two days ago, this was the advertised potential of the MOOC movement. The heavily advertised potential.