Much MOOC-iness: A link round-up

Another busy week around here with school and everything else, and I’ll probably post later this week at least one more time about E-learning and Digital Cultures as that MOOC wraps up.  But for now, I thought I’d post a whole bunch of links I’ve come across this week. In no particular order (other than how they’re open in my browser):

  • “The History of Distance Learning- Inforgraphic” from something called “eLearning Industry.” A pretty selective “history” but a history nonetheless. Among the fun facts is the claim that in 1728, “The first recorded instance of distance learning occurs in Boston, USA, when a ‘Caleb Phillips’ advertises private correspondence courses in short hand in the Boston Gazette.”
  • “New courses from Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley,” which is a blog post from “The Do It Yourself Scholar” about the edX consortium.  I haven’t been paying much attention to edX, but they’ve been focusing heavily in things like computer science, they’re only offering a few courses, and they are a not for profit.
  • I learned about this via Stephen Downes, but this link is to Audrey Watters’ blog Hack Education: “Coursera, the other Stanford MOOC Startup, Officially Launches with More Poetry Classes, Fewer Robo-Graders.” This was actually posted back in April 2012 so I’m not quite sure why Downes is posting it now, other than to point out the irony of what Coursera is not doing well.
  • From CHE comes “How EdX Plans to Earn, and Share, Revenue From Its Free Online Courses.” Even though EdX is a not for profit, it still has to sustain itself, so they need to make some money. Basically, edX (and is that an e or an E?) is going to charge universities for using its platform, which (the article claims) is in these universities’ interests because of the cost of production of these courses and such. That doesn’t make any sense to me because online courses are basically a web site and I think MIT can host its own web sites.  Two other bits from this piece I’ll quote here:

Both edX models offer higher shares to universities than agreements with Coursera do, but only once edX has collected its minimum payment. Coursera offers universities 6 percent to 15 percent of the gross revenue generated by each of their MOOCs on its platform, as well as 20 percent of the profits generated by the “aggregate set of courses provided by the university.”

There is no minimum payment to Coursera—meaning universities are guaranteed a cut of any revenue for their MOOCs on Coursera, even if the company offers a smaller piece of the pie than edX does.


The details of edX’s financial arrangements do not answer the crucial question of how the MOOCs will make money in the first place—and, in edX’s case, whether courses that do make money will make enough that universities will see a cut.

The organization is still “in start-up mode,” said Mr. Agarwal. “We don’t quite know what the key source of revenue will be.”

  • From Inside Higher Ed comes “Twice as Many MOOCs,” which is about both Coursera and edX adding more partners and extending the international reach of MOOCs. Among other things, this article quotes folks from both Coursera and edX that they want these courses to be counted for credit, but even beyond that, the article claims “MOOCs are proving useful” for providing “inverted classroom” experiences (e.g., watch the lectures online, come to class to do stuff) and because “precocious high school students” are using MOOCs to make their college applications stronger. Ah yes, that’s a revenue stream….
  • In a related story, CHE’s “Competing MOOC Providers Expand Into New Territory– and Each Other’s,” which points out there are three universities– Rice, U of Toronto, and a place in Switzerland– that have partnered with both Coursera and edX.
  • “North Korea launches two MOOCs.”  Funny.
  • From Trent Batson comes “Common Misperceptions of MOOCs and Open Learning.” He says he’s trying to take on the NYTimes editorial “The Trouble With Online College,” but I don’t think that’s quite right.  I think Batson is pointing out some of the potential benefits of some of the “open learning” that can come from MOOCs; I think the NYTimes was pointing out that MOOCs (and online teaching generally) are not a solution to the problems of higher “education.” Regardless, this is a good piece I will want to come back to for some upcoming talks because Batson too is reflecting on his experiences as a MOOC student.
  • From the blog iterating toward openness comes “MOOCS and Digital Diploma Mills: Forgetting Our History,” which is basically a lot of still very relevant quotes from David Noble. Another good resource for some of these talks and other things about MOOCs and such. I don’t completely agree with Noble, but I think the basic point that Noble’s critique of online teaching 15 years ago is still relevant.
  • Stephen Downes’ “Beyond the Buzz, Where are MOOCs Really Going?” which is his critique of a Wired magazine article about MOOCs. As Downes’ points out, Wired doesn’t exactly have a stellar record when it comes to predicting the future, as is the case with MSM generally.
  • Finally and also from Stephen Downes, “When MOOCs melt down,” which is about the story behind the story of Richard McKenzie abandoning his MOOC.  Downes is talking about this CHE blog post, “When MOOCs melt down.” The short version is it would appear that McKenzie didn’t exactly quit because of lazy students but rather he was driven out of the MOOC because he was a bad teacher. Downes suggests this shows one of the strengths of Coursera in exposing bad teaching, but I think it is a good example of how Coursera isn’t paying a lot of attention to the quality of their courses.


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