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
Interesting thoughts on the development of MOOCs outside the usual crunch of ed-tech and instructional design folk, this coming from Waldo Krugell, an economics professor at North-West University in South Africa. The post is exploratory, looking at xMOOC not as a democratization tool for education as much as an opportunity to sell the existing face-to-face structure as premium. He compares this to airlines’ handling of first, business and economy class, especially in recent years on the economy side with fares brought in low but other aspects of travel (baggage, meal, pillow, entertainment) sold at a premium; in the first-class area, however, the treatment is rather different. This is an encouraged business model sold along with pragmatism; Krugell (who does not say whether he is personally in favor of or against such a measure) says his inspiration comes from the following quote on travel:
It is not because of the few thousand francs which would have to be spent to put a roof over the third-class carriage or to upholster the third-class seats that some company or other has open carriages with wooden benches … What the company is trying to do is prevent the passengers who can pay the second-class fare from traveling third class; it hits the poor, not because it wants to hurt them, but to frighten the rich … And it is again for the same reason that the companies, having proved almost cruel to the third-class passengers and mean to the second-class ones, become lavish in dealing with first-class customers. Having refused the poor what is necessary, they give the rich what is superfluous.
This quote comes from Jules Dupuit, a civil engineer and economist, writing about the economics of travel in the 1860s.
From the pragmatic, business-oriented mindset that seems to have not only infiltrated academe but gained position and power, revenue-generating models are neither good nor bad, just a necessity. From a neoliberal point of view, any negativity associated with MOOCs should be balanced against the democratization of education possible with such a system. From the critical pedagogical perspective, this is further proof that education has strayed well from its progressive ideals as a place to educate young minds to be critical and active citizens (local, national and global) and rests squarely as a training ground for skill development and leveling up on a trade or craft, the implications far beyond short-term low-promotion employ.