The din of the MOOC world continues unabated, vacillating between the MOOC continuing its march toward Valhalla and the MOOC as a dying revolution in need of last rites. The multiple personality disorder of MOOC coverage is most evident in last week’s tech-business articles about MOOC company Udaicty. Upstart Business Journal last week wondered aloud if the MOOC was dying, asking the question whether Sebastian Thrun could save the MOOC. Here, we learn that Thrun recently left Google to focus full-time on Udacity (similar to the FastCompany report from 11/13 on him leaving Stanford to focus full-time on Udacity), as potentially a last-ditch effort to save the MOOC. This is echoed in a TechCrunch blog from earlier in September entitled The MOOC Revolution that Wasn’t. Yet on the same day Upstart ran their open question, both EdSurge and Venture Beat heralded a recent $35M investment in Udacity from venture capital firms such as tech-based Drive Capital. The tenor of these articles, it should be said, lacks the same globalize and democratize education ballyhoo from articles in 2012 and 2013. That said, none of these articles have given up on the MOOC as an instrument of educational change.
The way [Agarwal] sees it, effective uses of the MOOC model are only beginning to take shape. Enrollment in edX courses has doubled over last year, and he believes we’re on the verge of an era he calls MOOC 2.0. “We’ve been growing as others are throwing in the towel,” he says of edX.
There is lot to take issue with in this quote, and the article in whole. What MOOC providers are throwing in the towel? Certainly not Udacity, Coursera, edX or Canvas. Also, Agarwal’s use of MOOC 2.0 is symptomatic of the ahistorical nature of most EdTech Mavericks; it marks at least the sixth time someone has used MOOC 2.0 to talk about the future, and fails to note that Cathy Sandeen of the American Council on Education invoked MOOC 3.0…15 months ago. Continue reading →
One of the earliest problems with the MOOC phenomenon was discord: on one side there were distance/online education scholars devoted to digital learning as a transformative opportunity, on the other AI and Machine Learning mavens (whose models focused on the Tech side of EdTech) who were largely unaware of existing methods and progress and saw EdTech as a mechanism of convenience/ease/economy. MOOC was a term borne of experimentation and cutting-edge theory, a background it lost once MOOC became synonymous with LMS-based content streams.
One year ago, focused on the disparity between the freedom of the original MOOC and the limitations of the Frankenstein’s Monster MOOC built of venture capital and buttressed institutions, I made a call for scholars to step back from fighting for the MOOC monicker.
Love @RMoeJo‘s notion that we lost the term MOOC, not to mention his research and theoretics around the idea grounds the term #opened13
Today, I am announcing a course I will lead in collaboration with Canvas network and a slew of writers, educators and scholars, scheduled to launch in January 2015. It’s a course about establishing tangible and repeatable creative writing practices (#cwmooc), built around the development and drafting of the written word. It will look very little like the MOOCs of Udacity/Coursera/edX. But it is a MOOC. And I am not shying away from calling it such.
The Hechinger Report has a recent article out about the potential of software in the realm of robograders. The title, Robo-readers aren’t as good as human readers — they’re better, is sensationalistic and sacrifices the tenor of the article’s argument for a round of quick clicks. But the premise of the article is worth testing out — a research study borne of instructional technology use at the New Jersey Institute of Technology showed that robo-readers could be put to good use to help students see problems in their writing, in part because students are more willing to engage their writing over the computer rather than with a human teacher. The researchers then make efforts to determine why this is so (you can gamify writing via the software, students look at human instructors as punitive and the computer as nonjudgmental, computer feedback can be more individualized than human labor). Like…
The hullabaloo regarding #MassiveLearning is a unique example in the MOOC phenomenon — a three-week course on the Coursera platform offered via the University of Zurich’s Paul-Olivier Dehaye which abruptly halted in Week 2, with all course resources deleted and no sign of Dr. Dehaye (save a list of cryptic tweets). The confusion in the course led to blogs and social media conversation, coupled with a lack of answers from involved parties (Dr. Dehaye, University of Zurich, Coursera) or educational media resulted in a flurry of social media activity on July 7. Was this similar to the Fundamentals of Online Education MOOC that cancelled in Spring 2013? Was this an experiment conducted by Dr. Dehaye on his course? Was this a high-profile AWOL professor situation?
On July 8, the situation seemed solved…the MOOC mystery (Scooby Doo references were plentiful in social media conversation on July 7) the result of a pedagogical experiment to gain a greater participation from users gone wrong. Coursera says it had no idea this was going to happen, comments backed up from the official words from the University of Zurich. Dr. Dehaye has yet to comment, leaving his tweets and academic history as ample ground for conspiracy discussion (nod to Kate Bowles for the research). Jonathan Rees has already written a response to this from the perspective of the student, questioning the quality control of a MOOC provider such as Coursera in terms of the trope that MOOCs provide the best professors to the world.
I do not believe the blame easily lies with Coursera here; this does not seem to me an example of Coursera overreaching for clicks and users. This is an embarrassment for Coursera, but blame seems an inappropriate reaction. However, I am interested in the avoidance of blame in a society where people seem out to find a point person to blame. Continue reading →
After nearly two years of intense study, scholarship and research, my dissertation The Evolution & Impact of the Massive Open Online Course has been published to ProQuest (though I am sharing it via Scribd, as ProQuest is not always the easiest for open access). The project, undertaken at the dawn of the meteoric rise of the Year of the MOOC, attempts to pinpoint the MOOC as a phenomenon and said phenomenon within how society views/ed education in 2014. This included a substantial literature review that utilized critical theory to offer an alternative to the dominant narrative of educational progress: analysis as well as critique of the dominant narrative of education’s history and historical purpose, a focus on the role of artificial intelligence in the shaping of education systems, and critiques of status quo systems and arguments from the perspective of historically marginalized voices.
The findings in the Delphi study can be viewed in a multitude of fashions; I chose two specifically: the Likert scale answers to the prompts provided the expert panel, and critical analysis of expert answers looking at the issues behind the answers provided. From the view of the Likert the results were mixed: there was consensus on 4 of 12 prompts (faith in learning analytics, distance/online education not void of expertise, MOOCs are not the great solution for democratizing education, MOOCs could allow for tier-based educational opportunities), and a great deal of resistance on many of the remaining eight. There was surprise in how consensus was achieved; I was not only surprised that experts agreed in the first round about the potential of big data, but was also surprised it took two rounds to agree that the field of distance and online education was a space with expertise. Continue reading →
At face value, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 8 Things You Should Know About MOOCs, a data draw from the recent edX release of data, reads more like 8 Things You Already Know About MOOCs: MOOCs are populated by highly educated individuals, most registrants do not interact, registration is highly Western. Such tepid information makes the article feel like click-bait; anyone following MOOCs over the last 2.5 years could point to prior evidence of these facts the Chronicle article presents as novel.
What I found most interesting was the graphic relating to the gender distribution fact: over 3/4 of edX students are male. Again, this is not novel information; the Penn survey in 2013 noted this, data further elucidated by New Scientist magazine. But the Chronicle presents the graphic by first showing gender breakdowns across American college campuses, where 57% of students are female.
screen capture from Chronicle of Higher Education
It is a pretty stark difference to see a nearly 3 to 2 female to male majority on campus shift to 3 to 1 male to female in the world of MOOCs. One could argue that fewer women than men participating in MOOCs is not necessarily shocking; there are many articles on record showing the STEM field to be male-dominated (some sensational, others more tempered), so this data could be read to support a largely accepted happenstance. However, MOOC research (and EdTech research in general) is almost always instrumental by design, a form of A/B testing that abstracts the system from the environment and fails to account for political, cultural or social elements. Continue reading →
The Business School, Disrupted article in Sunday’s New York Times goes well out of its way to avoid labeling HBX (the pre-MBA online program preparing for roll-out through Harvard Business School) as a MOOC. Rather, the article places HBX in contrast to the MOOC, and presents the MOOC in terms of Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation. According to those quoted in the article (Dean Nitin Noriha, Professor Michael Porter, Professor Jay Lorsch, etc.), the instrumental qualities of a MOOC do not pertain to the HBX model: there is a cost to enroll ($1,500), the format is not lecture-based, and the program actively discourages lurkers or vacationers in an effort to secure heavily active participants. In short, HBX defines itself by pointing out its differences from the MOOC model; to paraphrase Baldrick from BBC’s Blackadder, it is a dog because it is not a cat.
The article is a fascinating touchstone of online education-as-phenomenon for reasons outside the MOOC instrument; Geoff Shullenberger discusses much of Clayton Christensen’s article presence over at his blog. For me, the real power of the article is not in what makes HBX different instrumentally from a MOOC, but how the language of online education as proliferated through MOOC discourse has created a space for brazen discussion of education as branding and consumer-profit relationships. The language of online education in 2014 (as presented in Useem’s article) not only fails to address the thoughts of research and scholarship in online education prior to Sebastian Thrun’s MOOC, but bolsters a worldview of online education in a manner antithetical to the earliest beliefs and hopes for what inexpensive telecommunication could do to revolutionize the way we learn and communicate. The world of MOOCs, HBX and Disruptive Innovation look little like the ideals of transformational learning from the perspective of the learner. From this perspective, HBX might act in a different manner than the MOOCs cited in the NYTimes article, but its purpose and view of why online education exists only solidifies the MOOC perspective. Continue reading →