At face value, the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 8 Things You Should Know About MOOCs, a data draw from the recent edX release of data, reads more like 8 Things You Already Know About MOOCs: MOOCs are populated by highly educated individuals, most registrants do not interact, registration is highly Western. Such tepid information makes the article feel like click-bait; anyone following MOOCs over the last 2.5 years could point to prior evidence of these facts the Chronicle article presents as novel.
What I found most interesting was the graphic relating to the gender distribution fact: over 3/4 of edX students are male. Again, this is not novel information; the Penn survey in 2013 noted this, data further elucidated by New Scientist magazine. But the Chronicle presents the graphic by first showing gender breakdowns across American college campuses, where 57% of students are female.
screen capture from Chronicle of Higher Education
It is a pretty stark difference to see a nearly 3 to 2 female to male majority on campus shift to 3 to 1 male to female in the world of MOOCs. One could argue that fewer women than men participating in MOOCs is not necessarily shocking; there are many articles on record showing the STEM field to be male-dominated (some sensational, others more tempered), so this data could be read to support a largely accepted happenstance. However, MOOC research (and EdTech research in general) is almost always instrumental by design, a form of A/B testing that abstracts the system from the environment and fails to account for political, cultural or social elements. Continue reading →
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.
I’ve been internally debating the use of the term xMOOC to describe the Coursera/Udacity/edX offerings for a while now. This first came about when I started to study neoliberalism, and realize that there was not a true north definition; it was a term that fit the needs of the author, and usually in a way that cast scorn and dispersions on those umbrellaed via it. This is not to say that neoliberalism is not an important concept, but that the concept and the term are not necessarily synonymous.
I talked about something similar with MOOCs in a recent post, noting how MOOC can mean anything to anyone, and inasmuch the term loses any meaning (and I note that the term is so bereft of its original meaning that it didn’t have meaning to begin with, thus it is a simulacrum). There is an opposing force to such an argument, and it is based around the original iteration of the MOOC, the 2008 connectivism version that academics today label a cMOOC. Continue reading →
The cancellation “temporary suspension” of Coursera’s Fundamentals of Online Education course is a watershed moment in the rapidly growing world of MOOCs. Inside Higher Ed has summarized the problems which befell the course and led to suspension, and a number of course participants have documented their experiences, displeasure and ideas for potential fixes (Debbie Morrison’s experience, chronicled on her blog Online Learning Insights, was the first on the scene, and subsequent artifacts continue to arrive, such as the #foemooc Twitter feed). There are many questions on a structural level, such as why a course with an enrollment of 40K would utilize a service such as Google Documents, which limits docs to 50 simultaneous users. These are the questions most likely to be asked and answered in the dominant narrative…when if Coursera discusses it in the media or on their site (as of publication, Coursera had no notice or explanation of the suspension on their page; rather, the course is listed as upcoming), they will likely focus on the structural shortcomings and their structural fixes. There are other considerations and potential questions to put in the forum as well:
1) The partnership between the California State University system (San Jose State University to be specific) and MOOC provider Udacity allows a credit-based output for MOOC enrollment. This is despite a lack of accreditation for Udacity, a for-profit enterprise producing curricular materials. One could say it is the responsibility of the scholastic institution to assure quality control, and that would be true in conventional academia…but the narrative in society is not about San Jose State University doing great things in their utilization of a resource such as Udacity, but instead about Udacity changing education as we know it, and that change is implied as for the better. Continue reading →
Ed tech author Audrey Watters wrote one heck of a MOOC synopsis for the movement’s 2012 history and future. The look back at 2012 hits a lot of the points this blog has attempted (in more words and with less skill), so it was the look forward that piqued me the most:
But as we see some of the unbundling start to occur, it feels as though there is a re-bundling of sorts. That is because, as Foucault would tell you, it is not simply a matter of “revolutionizing” the university and dismantling its “monopoly” on knowledge transfer and credentialing and then BOOM educational access and liberty and justice for all. Power is far more complex than that. As we unbundle assessment from the university, for example, it gets re-bundled with Pearson. As we unbundle the content from the campus classroom, it gets re-bundled with textbook publishers. With MOOCs, power might shift to the learner; it’s just as likely that power shifts to the venture capitalists.
This is a really important consideration, and I am going to take a few steps back in order to go forward. Continue reading →