Monthly Archives: July 2013

The SJSU/Udacity MOOC Hiatus – A Crisis of Rhetoric

San Jose State University has pressed the pause button on its MOOC partnership with provider Udacity, and Internet response to the hold has largely viewed the development as a setback for MOOCs, one that might signal the end of the hype cycle and the beginning of the end of the model. This comes a month after Coursera announced plans to provide universities with pre-deisgned MOOC content for instructor & student use, a move which resulted in an Internet burial of the MOOC phenomenon, although Coursera was unaware of its death and since said “demise” the start-up has secured $43 million in venture capital.

Negative outcomes for MOOCs have received a great deal of press in recent months, often coupled with a dose of irony. The Coursera course “Fundamentals of Online Education” was shelved by Georgia Tech and instructor Fatima Wirth because the infrastructure could not support the manner in which the course viewed fundamental online learning. And now the SJSU remedial coursework, designed by Udacity in two weeks, will be tabled in an effort to increase the quality of education, an unsurprising result considering the decades of research into remedial studies and difficulties in developing models with the level of success Udacity expected.

While such hubris was responsible for a number of ends in Greek mythology, the same cannot yet be said for MOOCs. Despite these hiccups, MOOCs continue to grow. If the MOOC is dying, it is not at San Jose State University; even though the Udacity partnership is on hiatus, their work with edX continues, and will expand to 11 other California State University campuses this Fall. Udacity’s work in remedial studies at San Jose State University may not run in the Fall of 2013, but their MS in Computer Science at Georgia Tech University (sponsored by AT&T) continues forward. Coursera continues to build new courses and redevelop prior ones, both from their developing institutions as well as for use outside their inner circle. And such movement does not address offerings through Canvas, Blackboard, or the numerous in-house MOOC projects either proposed or currently in development at universities around the world, projects to potentially be assisted in development through the MOOC Research Initiative.

If the MOOC is in crisis, it is a crisis of rhetoric.

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Is the Neoliberal Criticism of MOOC a Fair One?

At his blog, George Siemens looks at MOOC criticism, specifically a growing movement to label the MOOC as a neoliberal initiative, neoliberal standing for…well, standing against the MOOC rather than standing for something.  And that’s a lot of the problem with the neoliberal argument…it uses the term to cast against something rather than to be for something, and a definition needs to be more than a roster of things the term is not.  Much like in Blackadder III, Baldrick’s definition of Dog as “not a cat” was not sufficient for Samuel Johnson…and neoliberal is not sufficient as a criticism of MOOCs if its use is so expansive and general that it swallows any meaning the term might have.  That said, the original use of neoliberal, the scholarly research behind neoliberalism and the specific critique it makes on the sociopolitical direction of higher education is worth noting, and should not be thrown out just because a good number of people misuse the term.

Here is my response to the blog and the numerous comments (btw, this blog is always a prime example of social commentary working).  I plan to flesh it out soon.

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