Tag Archives: Stephen Downes


Coursera announced this week the addition of a Career Services department for students in the organization.  According to the website, students who opt-in for the program will submit a resume and other information to the site, which will be viewable by selected partner companies.  From Andrew Ng, one of the founders of Coursera:

This is a relatively uncontroversial business model that most of our university partners are excited about.

Controversy is in the eye of the viewer, so Ng’s quote may or may not be accurate depending on the onlooker.  That said, many in the educational field (here, here and here, to name a few) have openly wondered how MOOCs will make money (in part to provide ROI for the venture capital backing them), so movements toward a revenue stream deserve more than lip service. Continue reading

Connectivism: Contemporary Learning Theory, Distance Ed Theory, or Pedagogy with Panache?

I’m still trying to wrap my head around connectivism, the learning theory developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes that in a lot of ways led to the growth of distance education and the development of MOOCs.  At its heart, connectivism is about where content/knowledge/learned stuff exists, and posits that in an interconnected, technologically-robust world, it is as much about how to access the learning opportunity as anything, but inherent to such a model is the notion that technology has systemically changed not only the way knowledge operates, but also the brain itself.   Continue reading

The MOOC Divide – Scholars go urMOOC

The best MOOC primer I have read throughout my research comes from Ken Masters, a medical education professor at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, who in 2011 provided a three-page synopsis of MOOCs for an audience of medical education professors.  It incorporates theory, educational practices, the history of the movement, questions about pedagogy and practices, and considers future outcomes.  The problem is, the MOOCs described here follow the urMOOC learning theories, drawing quotes from George Siemens, Stephen Downes, and Dave Cormier.  In this model, learning is negotiated, the instructor is not the God of Content, and the objectives of the course may look remarkably different at the end due to the organic growth of the semester.  Certainly that was the design of the urMOOC, but are the MOOCs of Coursera and Udacity willing to let objectives change and willing to negotiate knowledge?  The reliance on quizzes and grading would point otherwise, but more research is needed.

The Role of Teachers in Digital Ed

Stephen Downes, who co-created the Connectivism course in 2008 that is widely considered the first MOOC, is a prolific writer.  There are numerous blogs where he shares information and discusses his thoughts on emerging trends, often through a connectivist lens (according to Wikipedia, there is debate as to whether Connectivism is a learning theory; two+ years into my doctoral program, this is the first I heard of connectivism, so I am interested to see its merits!).  The writing gets a lot of attention, and brings spirited debate.

So far, with just a brief introduction into his work, my favorite is a recent response to Tony Bates’ fears of computers replacing teachers.  MOOCs are not the primary focus of Bates’ work, but the larger implications of computed education (which appears here as a spectre of behaviorism) are evident, and Downes provides a passionate response to not only the issues Bates addresses, but the problems with several of Bates’ postulates.