The hullabaloo regarding #MassiveLearning is a unique example in the MOOC phenomenon — a three-week course on the Coursera platform offered via the University of Zurich’s Paul-Olivier Dehaye which abruptly halted in Week 2, with all course resources deleted and no sign of Dr. Dehaye (save a list of cryptic tweets). The confusion in the course led to blogs and social media conversation, coupled with a lack of answers from involved parties (Dr. Dehaye, University of Zurich, Coursera) or educational media resulted in a flurry of social media activity on July 7. Was this similar to the Fundamentals of Online Education MOOC that cancelled in Spring 2013? Was this an experiment conducted by Dr. Dehaye on his course? Was this a high-profile AWOL professor situation?
On July 8, the situation seemed solved…the MOOC mystery (Scooby Doo references were plentiful in social media conversation on July 7) the result of a pedagogical experiment to gain a greater participation from users gone wrong. Coursera says it had no idea this was going to happen, comments backed up from the official words from the University of Zurich. Dr. Dehaye has yet to comment, leaving his tweets and academic history as ample ground for conspiracy discussion (nod to Kate Bowles for the research). Jonathan Rees has already written a response to this from the perspective of the student, questioning the quality control of a MOOC provider such as Coursera in terms of the trope that MOOCs provide the best professors to the world.
I do not believe the blame easily lies with Coursera here; this does not seem to me an example of Coursera overreaching for clicks and users. This is an embarrassment for Coursera, but blame seems an inappropriate reaction. However, I am interested in the avoidance of blame in a society where people seem out to find a point person to blame. Continue reading