Week 5 of English Composition 1

Before news about Composition I, some MOOC reading round-up:

  • As Nick Carbone pointed out on the WPA-L mailing list, it seems like journalists taking and reporting on MOOCs has become all the rage as of late. Just goes to show you that contemporary journalism gets everything interesting from blogs like this one. From the Larry Gordon of the LA Times comes “Hitting the MOOCs instead of the books” about his experience in a “Principles of Public Health” course from UC Irvine, and in the New York Times A.J. Jacobs’ “Two Cheers for Web U.!”  I think I like the NYTimes piece a bit better because of its humor and snark (favorite line: “The professor is, in most cases, out of students’ reach, only slightly more accessible than the pope or Thomas Pynchon.”), but both pieces are ultimately pretty fluffy written by good writers who haven’t thought a whole about education since they were in college.
  • “MOOC Mania: Debunking the hype around massive open online courses” by Audrey Watters on The Digital Shift blog is a solid essay about MOOC stuff, though I have to say it sounds like something I’ve read already.
  • “They mean to win Wimbledon!” is a post by Jonathan Rees that circles around an obscure Monty Python sketch to make the point about MOOCs being this invasive species trying to take over higher education. Interesting enough reading, but….
  • …. the main reason I’m linking to it is because it discusses this essay from Inside HigherEd, “EdX Rejected.” In what is clearly at odds with the race into the MOOC business by so-called elite institutions, Amherst College said thanks but no thanks to edX’s invitation to join their consortium.  It’s a good read that speaks highly of both Amherst’s administration and faculty.  My favorite responses quoted in the piece are from Adam Sitze, who is a law professor.  There’s this:

Sitze, though, compared edX and MOOCs to a litany of failed dotcoms, including other education ventures with similar ambitions. He said MOOCs may very well be today’s MySpace – a decent-looking idea doomed to fail.

“What makes us think, educationally, that MOOCs are the form of online learning that we should be experimenting with? On what basis? On what grounds?,” Sitze said. “2012 was the year of the MOOCs. 2013 will be the year of buyer’s regret.”

and this:

Faculty also worried about edX and its broader effect on higher education, particularly edX’s plans to grade some student writing using only computer programs.

“They came in and they said, ‘Here’s a machine grader that can grade just as perceptively as you, but by the way, even though it can replace your labor, it’s not going to take your job,’ ” Sitze said. “I found that funny and I think other people may have realized at that point that there was not a good fit.”

Amherst is an unusual institution even among elite institutions, teaching all of its courses in seminars and never with multiple-choice exams. Still, I think it’s an interesting development.

Anyway, on to English Composition 1:

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An idea for a CCCCs panel: How about the teachers amongst us who have been MOOC students?

I might have an idea for a proposal for the annual Conference of College Composition and Communication, which will be happening in 2014 in Indianapolis March 19-22.  The theme in the call for proposals (this is a PDF) is “Open | Source(s), Access, Futures,” and it’s right up my alley in a number of different ways. But one of the bulleted prompt/questions is:

How can composition and communication help shift conversations about MOOCs and other kinds of online courses and mobile learning away from market driven fantasies and into pedagogy in the service of a critically engaged democracy?

On the one hand, I am a little leery of proposing something “MOOC-centric” because I think I’ve done enough MOOC writing between this blog and some other things coming out/in the pipeline. And I am sure there will be lots of other panels with titles like “MOOCing Around With the Future:  Open Source(s), Open Access(es).”  On the other hand, MOOCs really are an important topic right now and lord knows I’ve been doing enough writing and thinking about it to have something to say at this conference. And I know I’m not alone on that.

So how about a panel of CCCCs-like people (professors, grad students, non-tenure-track folks of various stripes, etc.) who are in the field in some general sense as a teacher (writing or otherwise) who have taken a MOOC or two as a student and are reporting back on that to this group? I think this might be useful and interesting because I continue to see a lot of articles written from the perspective of people who have (or will) teach in a MOOC environment and a lot of articles written by people who are really just speculating on what MOOCs might be like, but I still haven’t seen that many pieces from students., even when those students aren’t really “students” but more like curious participants.

I’m imagining something more roundtable-like:  that is, rather than 15-20 minute presentations from three people, I think the ideal format for this would be a half-dozen folks offering five to seven minute opening thoughts and then a discussion.

Anyone out there interested in something like this or some other MOOC-like idea?

Week 4 of Duke Composition I

This is the last week of classes here at EMU this winter (what everyone else calls spring) semester, and I am in a kind of calm before the storm, so to speak, so I thought I’d spend a little time sorta/kinda getting caught up in English Composition I: Achieving Expertise. Just a few observations/notes, more or less in order:

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English Composition I Week 2 and 3

April is always the cruelest month in academia because it’s near (or, at EMU, is) the end of the semester, which means there are all kinds of last meetings, end of the school year celebrations and recognitions, planning for spring/summer teaching, etc., etc. So I’ve fallen behind in the English Composition I MOOC, though I did manage to throw together write an essay for peer review. Here’s an update on some of what’s been going on in the class, at least for me. It rambles on quite a bit in part because this post (and other posts, of course) are as much notes for future MOOC writing as they are anything else.

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