Tag Archives: Open


There is no Open in MOOC

Coursera’s announcement to add Specializations to its roster of educational packages comes with a new price in many cases, as noted in Carl Straumsheim’s 1/29 piece at Inside Higher Ed.

To sign up for Michigan State University’s How to Start Your Own Business, for example, budding entrepreneurs have to pay $79 up front for the first of five courses in the Specialization or prepay $474 for the entire program.

When enrolling in a MOOC on Coursera, learners are normally met with a box asking them if they would like to take it free — giving them access to all the course materials but not awarding a certificate upon completion — or pay $49 for an identity-verified course certificate provided upon completion. Learners can first pick the free option but change their minds later, however.

The question the article asks — how does charging for access fit the mission of access to world’s best education — is a variation on a question that’s been asked for 4+ years now, ever since Coursera, Udacity, edX and others became the go-to mainstream voices on EdTech expertise — what makes these providers the world’s best education besides a mission statement and a platform for PR?  David Wiley’s quote from 2013 is the touchstone I remember from that period — MOOC as a concept, to him, was out of the barn and the acronym rather stood for Massively Obfuscated Opportunities for Cash. Continue reading

The Struggle to Define Our Jargon – Excerpts from MOOC Research

Note: I will use this space over the next month to share excerpts from my dissertation The Evolution & Impact of the Massive Open Online Course. The research was a Delphi study bringing together 20 MOOC experts to discuss the MOOC in educational, political, and sociocultural terms (slides from the oral presentation can be seen here). Upon library clearance, the entire document will be available through a Creative Commons license. The following is from Chapter 1, the argument for significance. This excerpt looks at the hype-based MOOC arguments seen in news media, as well as criticisms on the MOOC and its hype.

Disagreement on definitions of education terms. The expert Delphi panel encountered a number of difficulties in finding agreed-upon definitions for education and research terms. Within the three rounds of discussion, terms such as data, open, student, pedagogy, personalization, sufficient and online education were used in divergent ways to describe similar variables or phenomena. Some have argued that such disagreement stems historically from education as a moving profession basing itself within the sociocultural milieu of the time (Harvey, 2005), so definitions outside of an educator’s primary discipline would be more negotiated than those within a field of study. However, in the Delphi study experts had no problems finding agreed-upon definitions for the business and technological terms utilized in the study such as disruptive technology and learning analytics, terms also secondary to primary discipline.

Finding spaces of agreement or disagreement is predicated upon establishing the rules and parameters for a conversation. The Delphi study was designed to create a space for various experts associated with the MOOC phenomenon to freely discuss the social, historical, political and educational impact and future of the MOOC and higher education. This is the traditional method for a Delphi study: experts of a subject have a space to discuss a rising phenomenon amongst other experts, and the panelist design mitigates the levels of expertise so that conversation can begin at a high level (Linstone & Turoff, 2002). The experts chosen for this Delphi study are all influential scholars and practitioners tied to MOOCs, but the varying definitions provided by experts in wrestling with prompts and topics created a space where conversation was dedicated to shoring up vocabulary misconceptions, space that could have been used for further debating the topics. It is possible that the problems with terminology were in fact explorations and negotiations of dominant readings; however, a negotiated view of education as an academic discipline understands the discipline is a field where expertise is often questioned, as evidenced by the prompt #expertise.  Experts debated each other’s interpretations of vocabulary rather than a conception of dominant vocabulary usage.

The success of quasi-educational concepts such as disruptive technology is predicated in part on the widespread understanding and adoption of the term in popular and critical media. The fathers of disruptive technology, Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn, have published numerous books, research articles, blogs, conference proceedings, and media articles on the topic and its impact on a number of societal sectors, most recently education. The result is an economic phenomenon gaining understanding and acceptance within a number of other institutions and societal structures, such as higher education, a space where it is difficult to extrapolate discussion of how the MOOC changes higher education without discussing disruptive technology (Horn & Christensen, 2013). Such baseline definitions of the debate shift the discussion of the future of education from an education-centric perspective to the perspective of agreed-upon terminology, such as the economics of disruptive technology, or the monetization of MOOCs, or the technology of automated learning, terminology favoring a commercial or consumable lens from which to frame higher education. For education to remain a viable lens from which to engage the MOOC debate, the field must agree upon terms as basic as data, open, and student, as well as complex topics such as pedagogy and personalization.

Non-Web Citations:

Harvey, D. (2005).  A brief history of neoliberalism.  New York:  Oxford.
Linstone, H. & Turoff, M. (2002).  The Delphi Method:  Techniques and applications.  Reading, MA:  Addison-Wesley.

MOOCs, Inference & Political Punditry

One US Presidential Election takeaway of note for me was the perception of veracity in the Republican party’s projections.  When I woke up on Tuesday morning and read Nate Silver’s ultimate blog post at fivethirtyeight.com, I relayed to my wife that for President Obama to lose, there would have to be a foundational problem with state as well as national polling, not to mention the metric foundations of demographic data analysis.  A loss for the President would not be based on several mistaken variables, but instead a systemic issue at the foundation of the algorithms and the theory behind them.  Yet 12 hours later, Karl Rove famously melted down on the Fox News set, demanding answers from Fox’s number crunchers (and not receiving the answers he was hoping for).  The obvious question — despite extensive evidence to the contrary, how could Rove be so bamboozled by the election outcome?

Chris Argyris developed a tool for understanding how individuals utilize information and form perceptions in his 1990 Ladder of Inference.   Continue reading

MOOC Revenues: Does MOOC = University of Phoenix?

From a Chronicle of Higher Education article looking at potential ways MOOC-affiliated universities (the article defines MOOC as what scholars would call xMOOC) could benefit financially through the MOOC affiliation, an interesting and snippy comment about MOOCs and the University of Phoenix:

Ms. Koller insists that the courses the company is offering differ fundamentally from those at the University of Phoenix. “Their online effort is really traditional teaching mediated by the computer as opposed to using the tech in a fundamental way,” she argues. “There’s no economies of scale there. What we’re doing is one instructor, 50,000 students. This is the way to bend the cost curves.” Continue reading

What’s the Difference b/t MOOCs and AllLearn?

Read an interesting article today (from 2006) on the demise of AllLearn, an online learning initiative designed by Oxford, Yale and Stanford back during the dot com boom.  The article focuses on AllLearn, though it looks at the end of other similar initiatives during the same time period, seeing AllLearn as a marked failure of non-degreed online learning at that time period.

I wonder how many people on the MOOC bandwagon had not heard of AllLearn.  In the 50+ readings I have encountered (just during my dissertation lit review), only one has made mention of AllLearn, or any similar higher ed online ventures.  With none of the research lit or pop lit on MOOCs discussing the failures of prior attempts by higher education, this seems like a place needing some dissection and research. Until then, a few initial thoughts: Continue reading