Tag Archives: media

What the Researchers Got Wrong About Their ‘Sesame Street’ Education Study

Last week, Melissa Kearney of the University of Maryland & Phil Levine of Wellesley College received a great deal of media attention for their in-process paper Early Childhood Education by MOOC:  Lessons from Sesame Street.  Asserting that research on Sesame Street & educational efficacy is lacking and has failed to engage beyond the immediate or short-term results, Kearney & Levine designed an apparatus in an attempt to find a correlation between exposure to Sesame Street and longitudinal outcomes such as high school graduation or post-school labor gains.  While their instrument did show statistically significant outcomes in the immediate and short-term for those with better access to Sesame Street, the instrument failed to note any significance beyond (the researchers note this as inconclusive, though the only inconclusive aspect is whether the failure was on the part of the instrument or if the findings are in fact insignificant).

What does this have to do with MOOCs?  Not a whole lot as per the research.  But the invocation of MOOCs is indicative of an ahistoricism that permeates this work-under-review. Saying Sesame Street is ostensibly the first MOOC shows a fundamental flaw in Kearney & Levine’s historical literature review on the subject, a flaw Audrey Watters notes and critiques in an excellent response to the paper and subsequent media furor.   Continue reading


Defining Edu Terms & MOOC Simulacra

At the heart of the Open Education Resources movement (and the Open movement in general) is the notion that education is a public good.  The progression to such sentiment may be based in a notion that an educated citizenry betters democracy and civic life (folks like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson), or that knowledge and wisdom are non-rivalrous and non-excludable (Econ 101), or that the increase and diffusion of knowledge stimulates societal and cultural growth (James Smithson, John Quincy Adams).  Regardless of its germination, the crux of such thought is that the provision of education from an egalitarian lens results in benefit across the population.

At face value the Massive Open Online Course fits this vision:  courses are free, prerequisites are encouraged but not enforced, and access to the best professors at the best universities is not bound to geography or economics.  And research into the framework of the MOOC points to the opening of university walls, the building of intra- and internet communications and an attempt to promote the increase and diffusion of knowledge for society, whether communal or global.  That’s why it’s worth noting that one of the primary voices in OER, David Wiley, sees the 2013 incarnation of MOOCs as a money grab:

I propose that, whenever you hear the acronym MOOC, you think: “Massively Obfuscated Opportunities for Cash”

How can a MOOC be both a bastion for openness and the epitome of closed content? Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Once Upon a Time There Were Bound Texts: Big Media, Little Media – Part 1

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

History of Open Education – Why is it All CAI?

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