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.
My research and scholarship revolves around how learning technology (specifically recent explosions in distance and online learning technologies such as Khan Academy, cMOOCs and xMOOCs) affects the teaching profession. There is great scholarship on the difficulties of distance instruction, and a whole host of people writing about educational technology while showing concern to stakeholders existing in academics. There is not a lot of research writing on MOOCs as of yet, and very little on the xMOOC so commonly considered when discussing MOOCs. And there is even less MOOC writing that focuses on instructors, or on the teaching profession, and how MOOCs work with/affect it. Andrew Ng, one of the co-founders of Coursera, has an essay in today’s Inside Higher Education where he looks specifically at the relationship between MOOC and instructor. In reading MOOC literature (and the subsequent comments), I find a great deal of how one interprets the writing depends a great deal on that individual’s prior inferences and assumptions. This is nothing new — perhaps it just seems new and loud in a world of quick publishing — but it bears mention, especially when it is easy to consider any writing to be Fact. There are multiple ways to read a text; I am taken back to Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding and his ideas of dominant, oppositional and resistance readings. In the spirit of this article, I am going to tackle it from the theoretical standpoint of critical pedagogy. Continue reading →
This is a relatively uncontroversial business model that most of our university partners are excited about.
Controversy is in the eye of the viewer, so Ng’s quote may or may not be accurate depending on the onlooker. That said, many in the educational field (here, here and here, to name a few) have openly wondered how MOOCs will make money (in part to provide ROI for the venture capital backing them), so movements toward a revenue stream deserve more than lip service. Continue reading →