The University of Pennsylvania invited several hundred education reporters to a seminar on MOOCs. The school expected 15 to 20 enrollees from media outlets, but as of the catering deadline, only four responded. So the group cancelled the event.
This is the premise under which the Chronicle of Higher Education provided the click-bait headline “2014: The Year the Media Stopped Caring About MOOCs?” The article, written by Steve Kolowich, is only a few hundred words and notes that discussion of the MOOC in mainstream media has not waned…meaning the article headline poses a provocative question that the text of the article not only fails to support but rather disputes. Reading the article does not ask the question Is the media craze for the MOOC dying? but rather makes the tepid statement A University did not get enough registrants for a seminar and decided to cancel it, hardly a front-page story. If MOOC interest was truly waning, such a non-story would be relegated to the basement of Chronicle operations, accessible only by those empowering search and a desire to read all things MOOC.
Yet the daily Wired Campus Chronicle email blast showcased Kolowich’s article on April 15: Continue reading →
Yesterday I read Rebecca Hogue’s blog about her experience at #MRI13, Impostor in the Room, and felt compelled to respond…I attended three conferences over the past month, and like Rebecca I am a doctoral student still navigating the journey from novice to expert, so I often feel like an impostor in rooms filled with people who have become pseudo-celebrities in my professional life as I must stand on their shoulders to build my dissertation. At the time I choosing not to as I did not attend the conference and thus did not understand its dynamics. It is odd to be in California and have a Twitter feed full of people determining where they are going to have dinner, sharing anecdotes and inside jokes in the space they often share resources and engage in scholastic conversation. This is the nature of social media, though, and we all utilize it in a different manner.
Fabian Banga has furthered this concern at his blog eter, defining Twitter as both a neoliberal and postmodern social network that encourages isolation rather than community, the focus on follows and followers rather than communication. As Fabian looks at the situation from a level removed from MRI13, I responded to his blog with my thoughts and recent experiences navigating the terrain. I also added a few thoughts on how conferences can do a better job of including the peripheral players and giving them a sense of belonging rather than isolation.
I did not attend #MRI13, but as a student in learning technologies who continues to navigate the journey from novice to expert, I wanted to share my experiences with Twitter in this field, as they differ from those expressed by Fabian.
While I began using Twitter in 2010, it was not until Fall 2012 that I truly engaged the platform. At the time I had begun initial research toward my dissertation, and many of the contemporary scholars were active on Twitter. I followed them. I also began blogging (a lot). For the most part, those I followed did not follow me. I did not take this as a sleight, but more as the expected outcome of joining a new network…the idea of legitimate peripheral participation, zone of proximal development in a social setting, and my place as a novice in their expert space. As I gained comfort with the field, I began responding to select tweets of these scholars. Continue reading →
One of my pet peeves in the MOOC hype is the discussion of best teachers. Whether it’s Thomas Friedman, Bill Gates, Sal Khan, or the fringes of the political spectrum (left and right), rhetoric regarding xMOOCs explicitly states that the structure will allow many people to take class offerings from the best teachers in the world. However, no one has offered a rationale on a) what constitutes a best teacher in the world, and b) how they will end up fronting MOOCs such as those offered by Udacity, Coursera and edX. The rhetoric is as follows: MOOCs are partnering with prestigious universities, step 2, best teachers in the world. This fits a dominant ideology of prestigious universities, but perhaps we should challenge such ideology, because when we do the rhetoric looks more like this:
Equating institutional affiliation with ability is not a reliable indicator of success. Professors at prestigious universities perhaps are the best teachers in the world, or they may be good researchers, or they may be well-known in their field, or they may have a great deal of publishings, or perhaps they once were the best in the world at (teaching, publishing, research, publicity) but their recent scholarship has languished. To anoint a professor as one of the best teachers in the world because of their institutional affiliation is a superficial, research-bereft method of analysis. 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 →
National Novel Writing Month, known colloquially as NaNoWriMo, starts today and runs through the month of November, encouraging participants to write 50,000 words toward a novel. This is the 14th year of NaNoWriMo, and the number of registered participants has grown from 21 “overcaffeinated yahoos” to more than a quarter of a million in 2011. And while media buzz for NaNoWriMo continues to grow, its press popularity dwarfs that of other massive online learning environments, specifically MOOCs. Continue reading →
Just last week I discussed potential problems with having an academic, rigorous reading list in an open access course such as a cMOOC. My main contention was peer-review, empirical research (or the lack thereof) in the cMOOCs, as academic research is most often published in academic journals, journals that exist as a checkpoint to determine quality and sufficient rigor. If cMOOCs cannot take from this lit, the discussion happens around news briefs and blogs, entities that are important but an incomplete part of the balanced breakfast.
The other side of the equation reared its head this week, as Pearson moved to remove copywritten material from an edublogs site (last updated in 2007). The content in question was from a 1974 textbook that was out of print. The web host for edublogs, ServerBeach, responded by shutting down the server and removing access to the nearly 1.5 million edublogs. The professor who put the copywritten material (a 20 question true/false quiz primer) out there intended to only affect a specific class, and the question of fair use is viable in such a situation. However, fear of DMCA (likely spurred by SOPA and PIPA) seems to have resulted in a massive action for the interim.
So, it looks like the future of both open education (#oped12) and higher education (#cfhe12) is going to struggle with such a world, where this blog could show up on a reading list for a cMOOC, but if I were to publish research in the American Educational Research Association, it would not be available for such courses, and publishing it without permission (read: $$$) would result in massive shutdowns affecting many more than my work was ever intended to see.
One tangental hope from this article — I received link to this article through the Twitter feed of Michael Peter Edson, who is in charge of Web & New Media strategy at the Smithsonian (and who I had the pleasure of meeting in March to discuss various educational and museum policy). I often lament the lack of crossover in disciplines — a lot of cool open movement things are happening in museums (though not in museum ed departments, oddly enough), and it would be great to see the energy of such variant disciplines coalesce together. Maybe it will.
The initial problem with writing this dissertation was tracking down the learning theories behind Coursera-like MOOCs. These business models are incredibly new, and their PR focuses on issues of access and affordability rather than theory and pedagogy. Most searchable MOOC research focuses on cMOOCs, the connectivism-inspired MOOCs sired initially Siemens and Downes (which we will explore more heavily in the future, such as DS106).
It’s easy to forget that the MOOC is an extension of distance learning; in some respects, it is a fancier correspondence course. Thus, the theory exists, it’s just hiding in the world of distance education. Terry Anderson and Jon Dron explore the learning pedagogies (and theories) behind the evolution of distance learning, viewing the evolution of the field as in tune with the sociopolitical and sociocultural climates of the world at the time. Continue reading →