Tag Archives: Online Education

Why HBX is Just Another MOOC (or a Food Dehydrator)

The Business School, Disrupted article in Sunday’s New York Times goes well out of its way to avoid labeling HBX (the pre-MBA online program preparing for roll-out through Harvard Business School) as a MOOC.  Rather, the article places HBX in contrast to the MOOC, and presents the MOOC in terms of Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation.  According to those quoted in the article (Dean Nitin Noriha, Professor Michael Porter, Professor Jay Lorsch, etc.), the instrumental qualities of a MOOC do not pertain to the HBX model:  there is a cost to enroll ($1,500), the format is not lecture-based, and the program actively discourages lurkers or vacationers in an effort to secure heavily active participants.  In short, HBX defines itself by pointing out its differences from the MOOC model; to paraphrase Baldrick from BBC’s Blackadder, it is a dog because it is not a cat.

The article is a fascinating touchstone of online education-as-phenomenon for reasons outside the MOOC instrument; Geoff Shullenberger discusses much of Clayton Christensen’s article presence over at his blog.  For me, the real power of the article is not in what makes HBX different instrumentally from a MOOC, but how the language of online education as proliferated through MOOC discourse has created a space for brazen discussion of education as branding and consumer-profit relationships.  The language of online education in 2014 (as presented in Useem’s article) not only fails to address the thoughts of research and scholarship in online education prior to Sebastian Thrun’s MOOC, but bolsters a worldview of online education in a manner antithetical to the earliest beliefs and hopes for what inexpensive telecommunication could do to revolutionize the way we learn and communicate.  The world of MOOCs, HBX and Disruptive Innovation look little like the ideals of transformational learning from the perspective of the learner.  From this perspective, HBX might act in a different manner than the MOOCs cited in the NYTimes article, but its purpose and view of why online education exists only solidifies the MOOC perspective. Continue reading

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2013 in MOOCs – Which Event Best Defined the Quest to Solve Education?

As we say goodbye to 2013, the year after The Year of the MOOC, I remain unable to adequately define the acronym that graces this blog’s header.  This year Oxford Dictionary gave it the old college try, creating a definition more inclusive than exclusive and in doing so adding even more confusion to a rhetorical landscape littered with LOOCs, HOOCs, cMOOCs, xMOOCs, urMOOCs, SPOCs and other -ooc misfit acronyms.  Research and media remained focused on structural descriptions:  MOOC design, its workings, its assessment strategies, its back-end data collection and aggregation.  Developers continued to herald the model as education for everyone and an example of reinventing education, even in the face of research noting the model’s penchant for providing adequate instruction and scaffolding for those who, to channel Derek Zoolander, already read good and do other things good too.  Some look at recent events as the beginning of the end for MOOCs or the inevitable trough of disillusionment a la Gartner Hype Cycle, while others remain bullish on the MOOC and its place as a standard bearer for the future of higher education and educational technology.

I don’t look back on 2013 in search of takeaways. 2013 was a result of 2012, the year of the MOOC, which was a result of 2011, the proliferation of unique experiments in distributed learning.  There is an interconnectedness to it all, and for those who wish to focus on the lack of interconnectedness between the 2008 version of MOOC and the 2011 and beyond MOOC, both models were at heart about offering coursework to large numbers of people online for no charge. Continue reading

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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MOOCs, Public Policy and Historical Ignorance

The due course of education in America is linked to public policy. This has existed on the state and federal level for over 100 years (well over); however, it is only in the last 30+ that there has been a federal department dedicated to education. Too often it seems that people within their own disciplines ignore societal factors and stressors when debating the merits of their discipline. This happens in education, an enterprise subsidized by governmental monies (to a shrinking degree, however). We cannot debate movements in education without looking at politics.

At the same time, politicians and policy hawks need a firm understanding of education if they are going to pitch for a model or debate a movement. Rhetoric and hyperbole only go so far, and ignorance of the theories, pedagogies and history of learning can cause great harm.

My Twitter network shot out an education article published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. Written by Alex Tabbarok, it’s title, Why Online Education Works, foreshadows a lack of historical perspective of both online and education (#cfhe12). The artifact is an important representation of existing thought in the political world, and with that I will dive in:

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What is the Benefit of Online Education?

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias looks at the growth of and support behind online education, citing the new Marginal Revolution University (which deserves its own entry soon; the official site is a banner page with info link; looking around leads to some PR that states the initiative is not a MOOC, but does not define MOOC or set MRU as something different) and the growth of and interest in MOOCs (though Yglesias does not use that monicker, preferring online education through digital technology).

Yglesias then looks at who he considers the winners and losers in a future of online education through digital technology, naming motivated students of low income as the big winners (access without cost barrier), along with conservative politicians who want to keep ed costs down but don’t want to be seen as bailing on education for the masses. The losers, to Yglesias, are student loan companies, and perhaps marginal college students.

This piece is purely an economic or business look at the ramifications of online Ed, but there are inherent assumptions of pedagogy. Yglesias’ thinking here, as I see it, is that learning is a behaviorist notion: education is about passing content along from a gatekeeper to a wanting individual, and said transmission constitutes learning. Motivated kids will do well because they will have access (Yglesias also mentions the potential global impact of MOOCs, though he does not discuss how students in developing nations will gain access to the necessary technology, Costa Rica notwithstanding), and from this perspective marginal kids aren’t getting anything with this new wave of technology.