Donald Trump Invented the MOOC

I wrote a MOOC history in 2014.  I also wrote about Donald Trump and MOOCs in 2013.  Prior to my blog, no one had linked MOOCs and Trump, and my link was tangential.  Honestly, the only way I could further imagine a link from Trump to MOOCs is if he promoted my history.

This history is beautiful.  I know words; this history has the best words. People read this history, and they love it.  I hear from people who read it, everyone who read it said, ‘That’s a good history.’ They look over it and everyone is impressed at how much beautiful history there is.  My researchers have looked at it and they love it.  The Canadians, the distance education people, the educationals…big supporters.

Looking at the upload numbers, it’s doing well with everyone.  It wins with cMOOCs.  It wins with xMOOCs.  It wins with people who mix up online learning and MOOCs.  We love people who mix up online learning and MOOCs. And it’s taking off.  It’s a movement.  Have you seen the downloads? We’re going to publish it Open, and we’re going to make the publishing companies pay for it! Remember that. #makeonlinelearninghistorygreatagain

Was I, the MOOC history guy, wrong?  You see, even if my wisdom was different, even if my history was innovative, even if I was the one who could connect cMOOC and xMOOC while understanding the inherent fallacy of the xMOOC, I was still working from a false premise.  I was still working from 2008, from George Siemens and Stephen Downes and a place called Manitoba.  And so despite being the only person to link Donald Trump to the MOOC movement, I could not see beyond my academic navel-gazing. And I was naive about the movement that was unfolding, the history that was already there.  Even last week when I wrote about Trump and education again, I still could not get there, too many facts were clouding the reality.

Serendipitously, Mike Caulfield published a blog post that forced me to confront a reality I was not willing to believe, a spine-tingling, bone-chilling reality, a reality that had myself and millions of others Googling “how to move to Canada and live with the distance learning pedagogues.”  Quoting Mr. Caulfield, “So here’s what I want to tell you about the online portion of Trump University: It probably puts your university’s online courses to shame. It certainly makes a mockery of what Silicon Valley darlings Coursera and Udacity call courses.

Across the next 2000+ words and through a myriad of screen captures and image juxtaposition, Mike Caulfield dismantles the supposed novelty innovation of the MOOC sector by showing Trump University’s materials and the pedagogy behind the course contents and delivery.  It’s a long read but it is worth the entire thing because it lays waste to some of the excuses around MOOCs-as-online-education.

The result is clear — Donald Trump did MOOCs first, four years before Siemens and seven years before Thrun.

“Hold on there,” you may be saying, “Trump University a MOOC?”  Yes — because when we compare the MOOC movement side by side with Trump University, the facts identify a “Simpsons Did It” moment with The Donald — “Trump Did It.”

It makes sense to provide Donald Trump with the mantle of World’s First MOOC (and Donald Trump as MOOC inventor is more plausible than the cavalcade of MOOC 2.0, MOOC 3.0, MOOC 4.0, LOOC, BOOC, DOCC and all the rest).  The MOOC is not a learning model, or a teaching innovation, or a higher education tsunami.  It is a marketing ploy and catchall for buzz and hype. At best, MOOC is indicative of a phenomenon in how society values education, and at worst it is a call to arms for a libertarian overthrow of a social superstructure in the name of technological solutionism.  It sells democratization and globalization and job skills and cost savings in the same way Donald Trump sells steaks or vodka or golf clubs or border walls, and like Trump the MOOCs fail to deliver on their promises when held to scrutiny.

Donald Trump has promised to bring back Trump University, which could be tag-lined with Make Free Seminars with an Upsell to Paid Three-Day Seminars with an Opportunity to Pay for a Mentorship Program Where the Mentor will Largely be an Absent Partner but Hey the Free Seminar Included a Chance to Pose for a Selfie with a Cardboard Cut-Out of The Donald Great Again.  But thinking it through, how is Trump’s hype promise all too different from Coursera’s Take the World’s best Courses, Online promise?

At the very least, it would be enjoyable to see Trumpisms replace technolingo in the educational media and trades.

We’re losing to edX. We’re losing to Udacity.  We’re losing to Coursera.  Coursera — they just took Rutgers.  Rutgers is building an Analyzing the Universe course in Coursera.  And these providers, they devalue the learning credit.  They have tracks and specializations and certificates and badges.  We’re not winning.  We need to win again.


Note: I was hesitant to write a blog post that might be viewed as supporting Donald Trump, someone I find fascinating as a direct object of media studies and horrifying as a potential policymaker and leader of the free world.  So let me be clear, this is not in any way supporting Donald Trump.

Image amended by Adam Croom

2 thoughts on “Donald Trump Invented the MOOC

  1. Pingback: Actually, Donald Grump Invented the MOOC

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