MOOC and Pony Show

(And that blog title was brought to you by Derek who named my just completed trip the “MOOC and Pony Show.”)

A while ago (maybe two months ago?), I was invited to give a talk about MOOCs at the American Federation of Teachers Higher Education Professional Issues Conference in San Diego. It just goes to show you what happens if you keep blogging about something long enough: pretty soon, people (might) like what you say and (might) think you know what you’re talking about. Sort of.

Anyway, a few highlights and not a lot of details for now because I am woefully behind on planning for ATTW and the CCCCs which will take me back to the Pacific time zone (this time in Las Vegas) in less than 60 hours:

  • Here’s a link to a Google sites version of my talk– the script and the slides. It’s long because it was what they called a “workshop presentation” though it was just me for a 90 minute session.  I also include a bunch of links to the things that I cite here too. Putting it together was a bit of a procrastination writing when I should have been doing other things, but it was also some work that might come in handy later if I keep doing this MOOC scholarship. Anyway, the format was I talked for about half of the time and then we discussed.
  • I have to say I was a little worried about how this was going to go over.  I’m far from a MOOC enthusiast, but given some of the responses from academic labor to MOOCs, I was afraid they were going to be mad I even brought up the topic. One of the things that I quote and cite as more or less a straw man is this piece from Inside Higher Ed “Unthinking Technophilia,” which was written by a group of community college faculty members in the San Diego community college district (and the article was reprinted on the California AFT web site, too). So I was prepared for some pitchforks and torches in the crowd.

But the folks who came to the workshop (I don’t know, somewhere between 50 and 100) were all curious and even enthusiastic about the possibilities of MOOCs. I was surprised, but then again when I asked “how many of you teach online?” and about half raised their hands, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, we heard the “technophilia” rhetoric about the emergence of online courses a little over a decade ago and it turns out the sky didn’t fall then either. And as one of the folks said to me when we were talking about all this after it was done, “Faculty aren’t scared of innovations in pedagogy. They’re interested in that. What they’re worried about is what administrators are going to do with this.” And I share that fear too.

  • I did go to one panel that I thought was pretty interesting about some different ideas for funding higher education in a way that would make it more affordable and robust and such. These folks have a web site that is probably worth checking out– Campaign for the Future of Higher Education. Of course, the main problem (as one of the speakers said) is a lack of political will in this country to take the issue on; I guess I would also add a lack of political priority too.
  • That was pretty much all I did at the conference itself. I didn’t actually know anyone there and while I am supportive of academic labor unions like the one I am in, I’m not really interested in it the way that these people were. I mean, these folks were all union organizers, AFT local presidents, etc.
  • I did do some touristy things in San Diego, though purposefully not the zoo. I like zoos and all, but I just didn’t think it made sense to go there by myself. Instead, I spent a fair amount of time walking around the Gaslamp Quarter (near the conference hotel) and then I rented a car the next day and drove around to various beaches and such. Lovely.

And now on to ATTW and the CCCCs.

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