Tag Archives: gartner hype cycle

One Interesting Thing About MOOCs Among the List of 8

At face value, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 8 Things You Should Know About MOOCs, a data draw from the recent edX release of data, reads more like 8 Things You Already Know About MOOCs:  MOOCs are populated by highly educated individuals, most registrants do not interact, registration is highly Western.  Such tepid information makes the article feel like click-bait; anyone following MOOCs over the last 2.5 years could point to prior evidence of these facts the Chronicle article presents as novel.

What I found most interesting was the graphic relating to the gender distribution fact:  over 3/4 of edX students are male.  Again, this is not novel information; the Penn survey in 2013 noted this, data further elucidated by New Scientist magazine.  But the Chronicle presents the graphic by first showing gender breakdowns across American college campuses, where 57% of students are female.

screen capture from Chronicle of Higher Education

screen capture from Chronicle of Higher Education

It is a pretty stark difference to see a nearly 3 to 2 female to male majority on campus shift to 3 to 1 male to female in the world of MOOCs.  One could argue that fewer women than men participating in MOOCs is not necessarily shocking; there are many articles on record showing the STEM field to be male-dominated (some sensational, others more tempered), so this data could be read to support a largely accepted happenstance.  However, MOOC research (and EdTech research in general) is almost always instrumental by design, a form of A/B testing that abstracts the system from the environment and fails to account for political, cultural or social elements. Continue reading

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Gartner’s Hype Cycle as Springboard – MOOC and Public Policy

A common theme in early MOOC criticism was a linking of the MOOC to Gartner’s Hype Cycle.

Certainly, a lot of hype accompanied the MOOC…more hype than for any EdTech innovation in education history, and perhaps more hype than for any learning model (or even agent of change) in higher education history. Spurred by a media narrative focused on a broken educational system, the MOOC was heralded not only as a means of providing cost-efficient education, but doing it through the best universities and professors in the world, for the entire world, in a way that would break down existing conventions of class and privilege. In short, MOOCs could crumble a bloated ivory tower while providing an education of higher-than-existing quality to individuals from around the world, eradicating student debt all the while.

Use of the hype cycle in discussion of MOOCs looked at the learning model as a present artifact that needed attachment to a history. That history could be MIT’s OpenCourseware, Columbia’s Fathom, Yale & Stanford’s AllLearn, the use of television in education (such as Nebraska Educational Telecommunications of the 1960s), the use of radio in education, or even the establishment of correspondence-based schools in the late 19th Century (such as Cornell University’s satellite school of correspondence). None of these innovations proved to be game-changers for higher education; moreover, almost all of the above were deemed failures by the developing institutions.

But the MOOC is ahistorical, borne of an intersection of machine learning, computer science and a TED talk by Sal Khan. It cannot be rated entirely on the history of similar distance education ventures, if at all.

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