Via the internets, I came across this latest Ms. Mentor column in CHE, “Adjunct or Starving Artist?” and while I generally agree with her, I wanted to add my own slightly different answer to the question because I can recall asking it of myself around 23 years ago and because I think Ms. M. has a typically bad attitude about teaching composition.
I’ve been a lot more busy lately than I was anticipating because this is May and it is supposed to be time off or at least “the quieter time” of the summer seasons at EMU. But besides teaching an online version of English 444 with some new elements that are keeping me busy, I’ve been going to a lot of meetings/workshops lately– all day Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of last week, half the day yesterday, half the day today, etc.. I’m moving offices this afternoon and tomorrow. I am slowly but surly working with Charlie Lowe on editing/putting together a collection of essays on MOOCs (more on that coming soon I am sure. ) And then there is all of the stuff in “life” around the gardens and the house, too.
So I have an excuse of sorts as to why I’ve had such a hard time keeping up with Composition I, and I really hit a wall with the third assignment, the “Case Study.” More below, but the short version is the whole course is just becoming more and more of a slog. Continue reading “Composition I goes on and on and on….”
I actually don’t have too much to report about the Duke Composition I class because, well, not much has been going on in it lately– other than me not getting some things done that I should have gotten done. Nothing is really different; there is just more of it. More on this below, but just to get repetitive: it still feels very anonymous and locked in lost time to me. When a class like this is taking place face to face and in a small group, the interaction becomes critical to the whole point of the class. When that’s not there, well, what’s the point?
But first, many MANY MOOC article links and the like, so many I’ll just mostly link here:
- I was going to post this list of links and my latest response to the Duke MOOC earlier this week, but I got distracted and busy with other things. I’m glad I waited now because just the other day from CHE comes “Why Professors at San Jose State Won’t Use a Harvard Professor’s MOOC” by Steve Kolowich. Go read the whole thing– well worth it– but to summarize: faculty in Philosophy at SJSU (which MOOC followers will recall is one of the first universities in the U.S. to very publicly incorporate MOOCs into engineering courses) have refused to teach a philosophy course with an edX MOOC developed by Harvard’s Michael Sandel because the SJSU faculty see MOOCs as a tool to replace them, and they go further to suggest that Sandel and “professors who develop MOOCs are complicit in how public universities might use them.” Sandel wrote this response where he claims to know “very little” about what edX was going to do with his course and where he says he “The last think I want is for my online lectures to be used to undermine faculty colleagues at other institutions.” Three observations/tangents here:
- Alert readers will recognize that Michael Sandel is the guy that Thomas Friedman has a middle-school crush on in this column from March where he once again spouts off crazy stuff about MOOCs and transforming education.
- I’ve been raising the concern about MOOCs from elite institutions having the effect of further marginalizing the likes of SJSU (and EMU) for quite some time.
- You know, I’m not going to say that Sandel is lying in his response where he says he had no idea how edX might try to use his online course materials. But either Sandel is not being entirely truthful or he is not quite as brilliant and broad of a thinker as Friedman and the folks at edX might think.
- “I’m Failing My MOOC” by John Warner, from Inside Higher Ed and also about the same Duke Composition I course. I mostly agree with Warner’s main review: the content of the MOOC is okay to pretty good, but “content by itself is a very limited part of what matters in terms of teaching and learning.”
- “Students Avoid ‘Difficult’ Online Courses, Study Finds” in CHE by Ann Schnobelen. I don’t know if this is really about MOOCs and I don’t know if this is really about the kinds of online courses I teach, but basically, the study (with only 46 students) suggests that students pick classes to take online that they find easy to “teach themselves.” I can see the point and see how it connects with the potential role of MOOCs, but in my experience, most of my students who choose to take classes online because of how it fits into their schedules and lives. The most typical student in my undergrad online courses are women (single or not) with babies or very young children at home.
- “MOOCs and the Quality Question” by Ronald Legon, an Inside Higher Ed piece about the evolving nature of MOOCs. The term “MOOC 2.0” comes up, which strikes me as a tad premature.
- “Of Machine Guns and MOOCs: 21st Century Engineering Disasters” by Pat Lockley at Hybrid Pedagogy. It’s kind of an interesting analogy, but I’m not sure it’s an argument that really holds together for me.
- “The War on the Humanities has Three Fronts (Part 1: The Right Wing),” a post on Karen Michalson’s blog. I think Michalson has a lot of good points here about how things like MOOCs are favored by the right wing (which generally is not that crazy about paying for this pesky “public” education in the first place) and she links to a lot of good stuff. The problem though is she avoids the hard to escape reality that MOOCs in higher ed are getting the most traction in Democrat-thick California.
- “The World is Not Flat” by Ry Rivard is an interesting (albeit long) InsideHigher Ed piece that makes a pretty compelling argument that the American/English-speaking version of MOOCs might not work in all parts of the world and may represent a sort of “intellectual neo-colonialism (PDF).” That link leads to a book/collection of essays published by the Commonwealth of Learning in 2012 called Open Educational Resources and Change in Higher Education: Reflections from Practice. Definitely something worth looking at later: basically, it’s a collection of essays about international trends in Open Educational Resources (OER) and online instruction in higher ed.
- “Before MOOCs, ‘Colleges of the Air'” by Susan Matt and Luke Fernandez and on the CHE blog/site about classes that were offered over the radio back in the 1920s and 30s. Good stuff, and another one of those pieces that suggests to me that there might still be a project in me about technologies of teaching before the computer– especially in “distance ed” and “correspondence” formats. And this quote rings especially true for me: “The problem of what MOOCs add up remains. While some universities have promised to accept them for credit, in the long term, we may find, as proponents of radio did, that the courses play at best a minor role in helping students earn degrees.” Oh, and speaking of which:
- “MOOCs, History, and Context” in Inside Higher Ed where Arthur Levine talks about literally hundreds of years of transformations in higher education to MOOCs in, well, context.
- “Duke Faculty Say No” also by Ry Rivard and Inside HigherEd. Faculty at Duke forced the university to back out of a deal with nine other universities to “create a pool of for-credit online classes for undergraduates,” apparently with an outfit called Semester Online and a deal that has been in the works since 2012. And as a reminder of something I’ve mentioned here before: while Duke seems perfectly willing to support its faculty developing MOOCs that might someday be offered for credit at other institutions by Coursera, they are not willing to accept those credits at their own institution. By the way, Semester Online seems somewhat reasonable to me: “Unlike massive open online courses, or MOOCs, only a few hundred students were expected to enroll in each course – which would feature a mix of recorded lectures and live discussions – but each course would be divided into sections of no more than 20 students led by an instructor, perhaps a graduate student.”
- Finally, there’s this strange “map” of the “Major Players” in the MOOC Universe from CHE:
There are many problems with this, but I’ll just mention two for now. First, Khan Academy is not a MOOC in any way, shape, or form. Not even close. Second, Cathy Davidson is just not that big of a player in the “MOOC-iverse,” and even she says this in this post, which ultimately brings things back to HASTAC.
Okay, after all that (!), a few words about the Duke Composition MOOC: