Tag Archives: No Child Left Behind

The SJSU/Udacity MOOC Hiatus – A Crisis of Rhetoric

San Jose State University has pressed the pause button on its MOOC partnership with provider Udacity, and Internet response to the hold has largely viewed the development as a setback for MOOCs, one that might signal the end of the hype cycle and the beginning of the end of the model. This comes a month after Coursera announced plans to provide universities with pre-deisgned MOOC content for instructor & student use, a move which resulted in an Internet burial of the MOOC phenomenon, although Coursera was unaware of its death and since said “demise” the start-up has secured $43 million in venture capital.

Negative outcomes for MOOCs have received a great deal of press in recent months, often coupled with a dose of irony. The Coursera course “Fundamentals of Online Education” was shelved by Georgia Tech and instructor Fatima Wirth because the infrastructure could not support the manner in which the course viewed fundamental online learning. And now the SJSU remedial coursework, designed by Udacity in two weeks, will be tabled in an effort to increase the quality of education, an unsurprising result considering the decades of research into remedial studies and difficulties in developing models with the level of success Udacity expected.

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.

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The MOOC Paradox – Expecting External Motivation to Produce Internal Motivation

Reading John Gatto’s pioneering work Dumbing Us Down, and took to musing on one of the paragraphs, this one from Dan Greenberg, founder of Sudbury Valley School, who wanted to look at what students need from modern education in a modern economic, social and political landscape:

Children must grow up in an environment that stresses self-motivation and self-assessment.  Schools that focus on external motivating factors, such as rewards and punishments for meeting goals set by others, are denying children the tools they need most to survive.

As noted in my previous post looking at Thomas Friedman’s thoughts on MOOCs, there is a disconnect between the idea that education needs to produce a strong workforce and the idea that education needs to produce creative, critical and divergent thinkers who can tackle multi-faceted problems facing society and the world at large.  Writers such as Gatto (2002), Stephen Ball (2003), and P. Taylor Webb (2009) see the contemporary political and curricular landscape of education as a system of rewards and disciplines, from the national level and No Child Left Behind all the way down to the individual classroom providing stickers or detentions.  Such an environment, based on standardized assessment of content remembered, facilitates a workforce to provide a good or service rather than to tackle complexity.  Even more general-minded individuals such as Sir Ken Robinson (2009) see a problem with a school system designed to produce scalable assessable results rather than critical, creative and divergent outcomes based on the context of the content.   Continue reading