Tag Archives: Pedagogy

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.

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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

#OpenEd13 Presentation – We Have Lost the Term “MOOC”

Video of my presentation MOOCseum: Using the Open Movement to Invigorate Local Museums is posted below. Attendees were engaged and responsive, and the numbers were impressive especially considering this was the final presentation slot at the conference.

Attendees were interested in the potential at the confluence point of MOOCs and Museums, and the Q&A session (unfortunately not all caught on camera; I went over my allotted time) captured some of those possibilities (opening up two-way communication at museums beyond a set MOOC date, incorporation into non-art entities, augmented technologies to spur communication and supplemental learning). We discussed art and aesthetics, copyright, institutional inertia, facilitation vs. expertise, and many other ideas floating in the OER ether.

But the Twittersphere showed the most interest one statement, pulled from my theoretical work on MOOCs:

 

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A Lack of Female Authors, Heterogeneous Authors, & Pedagogy

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David Gilmour utilizes his homegrown brand of pedagogy to provide riveting instruction to students. Photo via Brett Gundlock/National Post

Canadian author David Gilmour found himself in an Internet brouhaha this week in regards to an interview he provided for Hazlitt, an online magazine promoted by Random House of Canada.  The interview is about the books adorning his shelves, and…well, it’s best to quote rather than paraphrase:

I’m not interested in teaching books by women…when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys.

Response has been passionate and plentiful, almost entirely upset with Gilmour’s seemingly misogynistic and homogeneous comments.  Interestingly enough, the comment section on the Hazlitt page is almost complete condemnation of Gilmour and his interview (author’s note:  the comments section has since become like most comment sections, a series of trolls and profanity-laced semantic debates, really devaluing the initial responses).  Gilmour has issued an attempt at a mea culpa through the National Post, claiming that he is not a misogynist, though…ah heck, it’s still best to cite rather than paraphrase:

It’s got nothing to do with any nationality, or racism, or heterosexuality. Those were jokes by the way. I mean, I’m the only guy in North America who teaches Truman Capote, and Truman Capote was not what you’d exactly call a real heterosexual guy. So I really don’t know what this is about. And this is a young woman who kind of wanted to make a little name for herself, or something, because when I said “real heterosexual guys” I’m talking about Scott Fitzgerald [and] Scott Fitzgerald was not what you’d call a real guy’s guy, a real heterosexual guy. (emphasis mine)

There are plenty of people handling the privileged white male reading of this whole issue.  I see another layer to this situation regarding Gilmour’s views on education and teaching. Continue reading

Donald Trump, Authorized Educator

The New York Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Trump Entrepreneur Institute (formerly Trump University) for what it calls blatant lies and misleading information on the value of services it provides.  The lawsuit, which calls the initiative a sham (including calling themselves Trump University, showing pictures of certificates, exploring the connections a student can gain through association with the group), seeks $40,000,000 in restitution for individuals who have paid upwards of $35,000 for the opportunity to learn from Mr. Trump in fields such as Real Estate and Business Administration.  According to the lawsuit, the workshops, lectures and mentorships through Trump University do not include Mr. Trump, but the one-on-one mentorship programs and support structures, encouraged as an up-sell during the initial three-day seminars, were largely ignored by Trump Entrepreneur Institute’s team of experts, a team which the deposition says was in no way influenced by Mr. Trump.  This leaves the situation as a blame game, with customers upset about broken promises and photo ops with a Trump cutout, and Trump alluding to the whole thing as a witch hunt propelled by the Obama administration.

While the allegations against Trump cast him in a felonious light and paint him as a charlatan, I am fixated on a foundational aspect of the story – why would anyone think Donald Trump could teach?

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Education, 1972

Missed this a few weeks back, but at Inside Higher Ed author Ry Rivand covered a summit hosted by Harvard and MIT entitled Online Learning and the Future of Residential Education.  While the proceedings were not quotable to the press, Rivand and other journalists had full access to presenters, professors and other dignitaries invited to discuss this future.

My focus as a researcher is on how massive learning technologies affect instruction and the instructor; contemporary learning theory puts a great deal of importance on creating a learning environment (that could turn into a community), experiencing learning through authentic hands-on projects, and contextualizing information.  xMOOCs, as they have been sold, herald pedagogy but present a learning system of short videos and interactive quizzes, which original MOOC visionary George Siemens labels a return to 1960s educational theory and pedagogy*.

*If you didn’t click that link, do it.  Siemens has a fantastic idea on how MOOCs could utilize gaming theory from World of Warcraft or Call of Duty in establishing grouping for projects, the sort of thing that education professor and community learning researcher Linda Polin sees as an authentic use of gamification in learning.

Anyone thinking Siemens’ quote is overly critical or cynical should view Rivand’s direct quote of Anant Agarwal, the director of MOOC provider EdX:

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Scaffolding & MOOCs

I came across a great blog by Mark Sample, a literature and new media professor at George Mason University, looking at scaffolding, MOOCs, and MOOC pedagogy.  I thought Dr. Sample’s argument was spot-on about the problems of attaching training wheels to coursework, but had trouble with his association with that as scaffolding, which I look at from Vygotsky or Bandura as an integral part of the student-teacher relationship, and is one of if not the most important function of a teacher.  I might not be Laura Riding as far as definitions and ambiguity are concerned, but I feel like in order to have discussions about a topic we all need to define like terms before looking at points of contention.  I responded to Dr. Sample’s blog, but thought the write-up summarized the difference between classic and contemporary instruction fairly well, so am putting it here too. Continue reading