One of my pet peeves in the MOOC hype is the discussion of best teachers. Whether it’s Thomas Friedman, Bill Gates, Sal Khan, or the fringes of the political spectrum (left and right), rhetoric regarding xMOOCs explicitly states that the structure will allow many people to take class offerings from the best teachers in the world. However, no one has offered a rationale on a) what constitutes a best teacher in the world, and b) how they will end up fronting MOOCs such as those offered by Udacity, Coursera and edX. The rhetoric is as follows: MOOCs are partnering with prestigious universities, step 2, best teachers in the world. This fits a dominant ideology of prestigious universities, but perhaps we should challenge such ideology, because when we do the rhetoric looks more like this:
Equating institutional affiliation with ability is not a reliable indicator of success. Professors at prestigious universities perhaps are the best teachers in the world, or they may be good researchers, or they may be well-known in their field, or they may have a great deal of publishings, or perhaps they once were the best in the world at (teaching, publishing, research, publicity) but their recent scholarship has languished. To anoint a professor as one of the best teachers in the world because of their institutional affiliation is a superficial, research-bereft method of analysis. Continue reading →
I’m noticing three areas of MOOC info. The first is PR from the makers: EdX, Coursera, Udacity and the like are pinging their information out there (most recently Coursera’s announcement of 17 new associated universities, including liberal arts university Wesleyean), so whether it comes from the source or is directed through a blog, it’s still news on the nuts and bolts development of this learning method. The second comes from the literature: what is the theory behind MOOC learning, where is its history, and where is it headed. This requires digging, as the MOOC makers are not focusing their time or speech on learning theory, pedagogy, methodology, etc. The third is punditry: a mix of research and news, it involves people discussing their thoughts on news of the day, tying it (to varying levels of rigor and success) to literature. The third section is what explodes daily across the Internet, and it’s also the place I am putting the least focus (opinions are easy, but how are they shaped, where do they come from, and what are the implications…such goes into research).
At this point, I use Twitter extensively as a learning network amongst peers and experts in the field, basically marking anything within the realm of MOOC or Distance Learning as a favorite, and going back later to see what was there. Continue reading →