Among other things, a Latour MOOC?

Jeez, the blogging here has slowed down. I’ve been busy enough over at my hobby/community service blog, but the main reason I’ve been so slow in any blogging here I think has been kind swamped with things like the MOOC book collection of essays, an article I wrote about MOOCs that will hopefully be coming out soon, a proposal/roundtable for Computers and Writing, a sabbatical proposal, etc., etc., etc. Nutty busy time.

But I have kind of a stockpile of links about MOOCs and related topics here, so I thought I’d do a little blogging between other writing/grading/paperwork/laundry/etc.

Before the break, I’ve got to start with two upcoming MOOCs that I am certain I’m going to take. The first is one by Bruno Latour called Scientific Humanities. I shit you not. I would embed the video of Latour charmingly introducing the course here, but I can’t so go check it out on the site. The course starts January 20, 2014, runs until March 15, and it will be in English.  It looks like it will mostly be a series of lectures from Latour targeted at more of an “undergraduate” audience, but the syllabus of the course also promises Latour will be commenting on student blogs and “participation in public debates.” Go figure.

By the way, here’s a YouTube video from something called “LifeDailyNews” where the first four or so minutes is about French MOOCs offered through something called “FUN,” which stands for France Université Numérique. It pretty much sums but MOOCs generally– nothing really new, but in French (with a translation):

The other course I’m planning on taking is Cathy Davidson’s “History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education.” Based on this Inside Higher Ed article, it looks like the goal is to mix this Coursera course up with some of the stuff going on with HASTAC and other folks at a bunch of other universities, and it looks like it’s going to be an academic “blockbuster” that will “question the rules” about higher education in broad and sweeping language. Or something like that. Here’s a quote from the Coursera course intro:

Welcome!  This course is designed for anyone concerned with the best ways of learning and thriving in the world we live in now.  It’s for students, teachers, professors, researchers, administrators, policy makers, business leaders, job counselors and recruiters, parents, and lifelong learners around the globe.  The full,  whimsical name of the class is: “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education: Or, How We Can Unlearn Our Old Patterns and Relearn for a Happier, More Productive, Ethical, and Socially-Engaged Future.”  That subtitle is inspired by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen who has said that “all education is vocational” in the sense that it is our job, as educators, to help train people for the vocation of leading better lives.

Are we fulfilling that educational objective, from kindergarten to professional school?  Or are we training students with the methods, philosophy, and metrics designed for the Fordist era of the Model T?  Since 1993, when scientists made the Internet widely available, our lives, our work, our occupations, our culture, and our entertainments have changed tremendously.  Far too little has changed inside our educational institutions, in the US and internationally, to prepare us for the demands, problems, restrictions, obstacles,  responsibilities, and possibilities of living in the world we inhabit outside of school.  This course addresses one key question:  How can we all, together, work to redesign higher education for our future… not for someone else’s past?

Like I said, I’m signing up and I’m curious about this both because of the connection to the history of “alternative” methods for delivering education, because of the connections to technology, and also because it’s a MOOC. But I have to say these two paragraphs sound pretty puffy to me. More links/thoughts after the break.

A lot of these links come from the prolific Stephen Downes, but I want to start after the jump with a piece that I don’t think Downes noticed and also a piece about the MOOC my friends and colleagues at Michigan State ran last summer.  From “the evolllution” (that extra l is on purpose) comes “What We Learned: Running an Eight-Week MOOC” by Jeff Grabill, Kate Fedewa, Kristen Heine, and Jennifer Royston.  They ran a MOOC at MSU last summer called “Thinking Like a Writer.” It’s a short piece but interesting; one of the metaphors they play with here is that it was more like the experience of a museum visit.  “We saw it as an informal learning experience — adult free-choice learning — rather than a formal classroom experience. Therefore, in designing our curriculum, we created activities that supported engaged, inductive learning.”

And btw, Jeff has a piece in the MOOC collection I’m co-editing about this class too– just to tease a bit. And he and his faculty partner in this enterprise, Julie Lindquist, have an interview here from last July about their MOOC.

Next up is more critiques of Coursera et al.: I knew this before, but it’s worth repeating here: from Times Higher Education comes “Mooc creators criticise courses’ lack of creativity.” The subhead is “Original vision lost in scramble for profit and repackaging of old ideas, say pair,” that pair being none other than Stephen Downes and George Siemens.

Oh, and speaking of these two: George Siemens had a great talk at the Open Education conference in Park City, Utah recently. He said he followed Andrew Ng from Coursera as a speaker. Awkward.  Anyway, I haven’t watched Ng’s talk yet, but Siemens is 44 minutes long and with slides, and it’s well-worth the watching– lots and lots of good observations and pretty scathing with Coursera and EdX.

My favorite part: Siemens makes an indirect but unmistakable reference to Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity,” who said (as Audrey Watters talks about in this presentation/post) that “In 50 years, there will be only 10 institutions in the world delivering higher education and Udacity has a shot at being one of them.” Siemens used that as an example of the ridiculous things folks are saying about MOOCs nowadays, and he asked sarcastically “who says that, other than the mayor of Toronto?” Heh. Here’s also a link to the Open Education Conference program that has lots of other related talks.

Oh, and speaking of Coursera:  they are now two years old and they wrote about all that on their blog here. Mostly it’s about numbers that are probably not that meaningful– e.g., more than 100 partner institutions.

In the realm of MSM who know really nothing about higher education, WIRED writes “MOOCs: Too Much Hype, or Not Enough?” Do what you will with that.

Another one of those blogs/writers that posts lots of great stuff all the time is Hack Education/Audrey Watters. Two things to share for now: first, there’s her slides/scripts from this recent Open Education conference for a talk called “The Education Apocalypse.” She’s talking here about the “folklore” of the coming “end of days” in higher education both as someone who is a technology expert and as a folklorist.  Pretty interesting.

By the way, Watters was on a panel at #opened13 with David Kernohan who has a pretty interesting documentary called The Avalanche that Hasn’t Happened about “education reform,” assessment, and the commercial sector. Good stuff and good fodder for people (like me) who think that all of this assessment stuff at all levels of education has gotten way out of hand.

The other Watters piece is from another conference, this one at the University of Mary Washington: “A Future With Only 10 Universities,” which is a talk that plays off of this certainly regrettable and just flat-out wrong prediction by Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun, who said (I don’t know where) “In 50 years, there will be only 10 institution in the world delivering higher education and Udacity has a shot at being one of them.” Hmm. Seems like I know a quote about the postal system and higher education similar to that.

Speaking of Thrun: according to this piece by David Carr in Information Week, “Udacity CEO Says MOOC ‘Magic Formula’ Emerging.” Well, isn’t that nice? It seems to me a piece that is more a feature story about the techno-wiz kid that is Thrun than it is an actual critique/analysis of MOOCs or Thrun’s magic formula.  Oh, and what is the magic? Basically, focusing on “quality” rather than the “quantity” approach of Coursera, and actually using MOOCs in classrooms. A quote:

Thrun’s magic formula is not a fully automated online class featuring prerecorded videos and Web-based assessments. In other words, it’s not a MOOC at all. To get better results, he said, “We changed the equation and put people on the ground.” By adding mentors and a help line, and making phone calls to remind students to do their work, Udacity found it could get more students to do the work, finish the course and pass. Longer term, he has some ideas about using adaptive learning software to eliminate some of this labor, but for now it takes manpower.

You know, like textbooks. BTW, that “eliminate some of this labor” dream is, um, not exactly “innovative” or new.

Finally, I’ve been concentrating on the blogosphere here because that’s mostly what’s been out there about MOOCs, but there are also an increasing number of interesting print (or “print-like”) MOOC things out there. I don’t know if I posted this yet or not, but back in May, Inside Higher Ed came out with a “booklet” called “The MOOC Moment,” which is really more of an anthology of their MOOC articles than a book.  The Journal of Online Learning and Teaching had a special issue about MOOCs back in March— I feel bad that I’m just now getting around to linking to it. And the latest, Beyond the MOOC Hype, which is a 92 page Kindle book by CHE editor/reporter Jeffrey Young. I don’t know if this is a rehashing of what the CHE has put out or something new, but it might be worth checking out.

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