I have a post in mind about what is good about the MOOC thing as far as I can tell and I think I’m going to be proposing something with Bill HD and some others about MOOCs for ATTW. But first, I want to post all the MOOC links I’ve got open in browser windows right now; so in no particular order:
From CHE, “In Colleges’ Rush to Try MOOC’s, Faculty Are Not Always in the Conversation.” A lot of conflation between online teaching and MOOCs here (wait, it’s not the same thing? really?), a lot of enthusiasm from administrators, not much from faculty. A quote:
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is an example of a campus that moved swiftly. As soon as Phyllis M. Wise, the university’s chancellor, heard about Coursera from other administrators who had signed on, she wanted to follow suit. She asked the executive committee of the university’s Academic Senate for a recommendation on whether to work toward a Coursera deal, and a faculty task force quickly issued a report giving a green light for such a partnership.
The task force devised a list of questions about how a Coursera partnership would work, said Nicholas C. Burbules, a former chair of the Academic Senate and a professor of educational-policy studies. For example, how would potential revenues from Coursera be divided within the university, and how would faculty members be compensated for teaching Coursera courses?
“I don’t think anyone knows exactly where this is going,” Mr. Burbules said. “We’re on a very fast train right now, and we’re jumping on board and seeing where it ends up.”
From CHE, “Publishers See Online Mega-Courses as Opportunity to Sell Textbooks.” You get the idea from the headline. First off, this is at odds with the corporate MOOC movement’s public declarations of offering a free education for the world: textbooks are expensive. Second, and this is partly what I want to write more about later, it seems to me that MOOCs could be a replacement for textbooks, or at least a platform for them.
A couple links via Stephen Downes. First, “The Coursera Gift Horse,” from Jonathan Becker’s blog “Educational Insanity.” Basically, he’s saying that there are some problems with Coursera, sure, but why are people complaining about this awesome and free resources? Of course, he’s just started this Social Network Analysis class, the one that Bill is taking too (more on that as I make my way through my links), so let’s see what he thinks in a couple weeks.
Second, “Why We Shouldn’t Talk MOOCs as Meritocracies” by Mike Caulfield. He has a lot of other smart things to say about MOOCs too. Here’s a quote:
The danger of MOOCs (which, by the way, are at the intersection of Wall Street and Silicon Valley, two cultures inordinately obsessed with meritocracy) is that they will return us to seeing a world that sees large levels of failure validating small levels of success. And they will build a breed of student that is the Jamie Dimon or Bill Gross of tomorrow, someone who knows they are chosen, and becomes oblivious to their own privilege, luck, and detachment.
These are the cultures which have destroyed America over the last 30 years – the idea that our job as a society is to look only at the levelness of the playing field, and ignore how the rules consistently favor the team in power.
If we begin talking about MOOCs as meritocracies, we are doubling down on the flawed ideology that got us into this mess.
Sorta hard to be a movement that’s supposed to empower those who are disenfranchised from higher education and to be a movement of elites at the same time, isn’t it?
Third, there’s mooc.ca, which is “a place to host MOOC news and information,” for all your MOOC-y overload needs.
And last from Downes (for now) is this handy little graphic:
In the nutshell, this is for me the problem of Coursera and other models that are are trying to replicate/replace the way education works. For education to work, you’ve got to have some version of the diagram on the left. Education requires an instructor who coordinates what’s going to happen in a given experience (that is, creates the “syllabus” for a “class”), is the expert to whom students turn for a definitive answer (and in my view, this is true in educational settings that are “student-centered” and/or where knowledge is more epistemic, contextual, or contested), and is the person who determines if the student has learned what they were supposed to learn to get credit (assessing, grading, credentialing, etc.) On the other hand, the “many to many” and scalable diagram on the right depicts learning, which can happen in lots of situations, including a MOOC.
From Inside Higher Ed comes “Marketing to the MOOC Masses,” which is about that textbook thing again. A quote:
Elsevier, the academic publishing giant, announced on Tuesday that it will offer a free version of one of its textbooks this fall to students who register for Circuits & Electronics, a massive open online course (MOOC) being offered by edX.
The publisher actually made available a free version of the textbook during the first iteration of that course last fall, with little fanfare. The results are in: Rather than prompting scores of traditional students in similar courses to pass on purchasing the textbook in favor of registering for the MOOC and freeloading, Elsevier found that providing a “static” digital version of the text for free to MOOC students actually galvanized sales elsewhere.
“The version that is online on edX is a static version — a PNG file, which is not downloadable, not manipulable and doesn’t have all the flexibility that a true full e-book does,” said Dan O’Connell, a publicist for Elsevier. “So we found that actually it isn’t cutting into, and in fact it seems to be elevating, sales.”
Many many moons ago, when I was working on a textbook and the editing people were asking me what I thought would be innovative, I suggested to make a version of it available online for free and so they could recognize the “value added” of the actual book. They thought that was pretty funny.
Also from IHE, “Gates, MOOCs, and Remediation.” Given the drop-out rate on MOOCs (which is all part of that meritocracy argument), I’d say this is not the role of MOOCs. But there is apparently some grant money tied to it, so I don’t know, maybe it’s worth checking out.
The local “paper,” annarbor.com ran “Hundreds of thousands flock to free University of Michigan classes offered on web-based Coursera platform.” I have a comment in the discussion that people liked.
And last but far FAR from least comes news that my friend and colleague Bill Hart-Davidson is going to be blogging about the Coursera MOOC he’s enrolled in, “Social Network Analysis.” Here’s his first entry; he’s apparently already getting into trouble.