As we say goodbye to 2013, the year after The Year of the MOOC, I remain unable to adequately define the acronym that graces this blog’s header. This year Oxford Dictionary gave it the old college try, creating a definition more inclusive than exclusive and in doing so adding even more confusion to a rhetorical landscape littered with LOOCs, HOOCs, cMOOCs, xMOOCs, urMOOCs, SPOCs and other -ooc misfit acronyms. Research and media remained focused on structural descriptions: MOOC design, its workings, its assessment strategies, its back-end data collection and aggregation. Developers continued to herald the model as education for everyone and an example of reinventing education, even in the face of research noting the model’s penchant for providing adequate instruction and scaffolding for those who, to channel Derek Zoolander, already read good and do other things good too. Some look at recent events as the beginning of the end for MOOCs or the inevitable trough of disillusionment a la Gartner Hype Cycle, while others remain bullish on the MOOC and its place as a standard bearer for the future of higher education and educational technology.
I don’t look back on 2013 in search of takeaways. 2013 was a result of 2012, the year of the MOOC, which was a result of 2011, the proliferation of unique experiments in distributed learning. There is an interconnectedness to it all, and for those who wish to focus on the lack of interconnectedness between the 2008 version of MOOC and the 2011 and beyond MOOC, both models were at heart about offering coursework to large numbers of people online for no charge. Continue reading →
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.
One of the purposes of research is to establish a foundation of prior knowledge for future experiments to engage and extrapolate before proposing a new design that will further the field. This is important; without an understanding of what came before, research runs the risk of reinventing the wheel, or even (worse yet) coming up with something more rudimentary than the wheel.
In my days of teaching creative writing, it used to be quite the stressor to get smart, motivated teenagers to take notes of their plots and characters. These were students used to doing everything right and being able to beat the system just with what was stored in their heads. I explained that creative writing was not about beating a system, and the more complex a story and a group of characters became, the more important it was to create a system where you could record those complexities so you could return to it as the story developed. Some listened right away and got to work. Some needed trial and error before coming to me so we could devise strategies. Some never listened and became increasingly frustrated. In the end, it was more likely for someone from the first or second group to have a coherent, rich story than someone from the third group.
I think about this as I read more literature on the history of MOOCs as described by the MOOC creators. Continue reading →
Back to the theoretical grind, I was alerted to a research article on heutagogy as an alternative to andragogy. If that sentence is full of ambiguous words, it was for me too — both are theories of learning relating to adult education, a field in edu which supposes that adults learn in a manner different from children (which is a lot to suppose, but makes sense at first glance). While MOOC marketing departments have heralded the xMOOC’s ability to let an intrepid 12 year old take a Stanford course in computer programming (and, as a field, we need to see how Code Academy fits into the MOOC archetype), the history behind MOOCs comes either from traditional higher education (xMOOC) or distance education designed for higher education (cMOOC). Because traditional higher ed is seeing an upward shift in median age of student (and distance ed has always seen an older student population than in traditional ed), the theory the MOOC movement built on (or will build upon) needs to account for an adult population. Not surprisingly, little of the little MOOC research flows down this path. That leaves it to us to research, code and crunch. Getting into the work by Lisa Marie Blaschke… Continue reading →
One of my great frustrations in researching the MOOC movement is the extended lack of ancestry or theory provided by seminal thinkers, pundits or researchers. From reading existing lit, one would assume when God and Adam were creating the animals out of dust, they created the MOOC too.
Big Media, Little Media is a 1977 book from a collection on “People and Communication,” this entry written by Wilbur Schramm. Its purpose is to evaluate the use of various media (radio, film, picture, multimedia) in various modes of education (formal, informal, classroom, distance). It provides an excellent historical account of the use of various media throughout the documented history of education, and its vision of the future is ominous considering the book is 35 years old. Continue reading →
Read an interesting article today (from 2006) on the demise of AllLearn, an online learning initiative designed by Oxford, Yale and Stanford back during the dot com boom. The article focuses on AllLearn, though it looks at the end of other similar initiatives during the same time period, seeing AllLearn as a marked failure of non-degreed online learning at that time period.
I wonder how many people on the MOOC bandwagon had not heard of AllLearn. In the 50+ readings I have encountered (just during my dissertation lit review), only one has made mention of AllLearn, or any similar higher ed online ventures. With none of the research lit or pop lit on MOOCs discussing the failures of prior attempts by higher education, this seems like a place needing some dissection and research. Until then, a few initial thoughts: Continue reading →
In Siemens & McGreal cMOOC Open Education course (##Oped12), there is a link to a history of open education timeline that provides some fodder for education theorists. The common thread here is a necessity for computer-based technology. Certainly, without digital communication tools that allow what we today would call the remixing of content, creating work towards an open goal would prove difficult. But not impossible. Continue reading →