At his blog, George Siemens looks at MOOC criticism, specifically a growing movement to label the MOOC as a neoliberal initiative, neoliberal standing for…well, standing against the MOOC rather than standing for something. And that’s a lot of the problem with the neoliberal argument…it uses the term to cast against something rather than to be for something, and a definition needs to be more than a roster of things the term is not. Much like in Blackadder III, Baldrick’s definition of Dog as “not a cat” was not sufficient for Samuel Johnson…and neoliberal is not sufficient as a criticism of MOOCs if its use is so expansive and general that it swallows any meaning the term might have. That said, the original use of neoliberal, the scholarly research behind neoliberalism and the specific critique it makes on the sociopolitical direction of higher education is worth noting, and should not be thrown out just because a good number of people misuse the term.
Here is my response to the blog and the numerous comments (btw, this blog is always a prime example of social commentary working). I plan to flesh it out soon.
I’ve been internally debating the use of the term xMOOC to describe the Coursera/Udacity/edX offerings for a while now. This first came about when I started to study neoliberalism, and realize that there was not a true north definition; it was a term that fit the needs of the author, and usually in a way that cast scorn and dispersions on those umbrellaed via it. This is not to say that neoliberalism is not an important concept, but that the concept and the term are not necessarily synonymous.
I talked about something similar with MOOCs in a recent post, noting how MOOC can mean anything to anyone, and inasmuch the term loses any meaning (and I note that the term is so bereft of its original meaning that it didn’t have meaning to begin with, thus it is a simulacrum). There is an opposing force to such an argument, and it is based around the original iteration of the MOOC, the 2008 connectivism version that academics today label a cMOOC. Continue reading
Research plays an integral part in the archetype of a college professor. At state and select private universities (often known as Research I schools), a professor’s research record is as important as their teaching and service records, often more so. At mid-major and liberal arts colleges, research may not be as integral but it is still important and relevant. The ability for a professor to conduct topical and relevant research from implementation to publication is considered vital to the growth of the specific discipline as well as academia at large.
This is evident at a conference like the American Educational Research Association’s Annual Meeting, happening right now in San Francisco, where thousands of educators are presenting their research findings to thousands of attendees. The sheer volume of papers and presentations on topical issues across the various strata of education is overwhelming, and AERA has worked diligently to divide their membership mass into divisions and special interest groups so that individuals can find field-specific topics to utilize for their scholarship or to share their scholarship.
I want to ask the question but does it matter? and then cut to the page break, being all provocative and such. That’s not the right question, because it does matter. It matters a lot. But how much of a difference is it truly making? 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.