If you work in education, and you have not been somewhere incredibly remote for the last six months (how nice for you if you have), you will have picked up that there is something called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and you should probably be paying attention to it. So in this post I try to aggregate the various stories I have seen about MOOCs.
A really useful short video, What is a MOOC, to understand the origins and intentions of MOOCs in which Dave Cormier talks about what a MOOC is:
To paraphrase some of the content Dave Cormier highlights that MOOCs are a way to connect and collaborate and is more than just an online course. Open in this context means that the work/content is accessible, that participation is free and all the work is negotiated in the open. A key outcome of the MOOC is the networks that are created and connections that are made. The course is distributed, which means that the content can be found all over rather than in a central place and there is no one path through the course.
George Siemens also offers some advice on how to participate in an open online course – which gives you some idea of how it is different from other courses or learning experiences (Siemens’ Rather Random Blog, posted 12th September 2011).
JISC Webinar: What is a MOOC? (11th July)
A recent JISC webinar on MOOCS (you can watch the recording like I did) also outlines the difference between recent online course offerings from Higher Education Institutions via platforms like MIT OpenCourseWare, Udacity and Coursera etc and the intital idea of MOOCs, which was pioneered by people like George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier, Alec Couros and others (I apologise for leaving anyone out). Below is the different topics and speakers that took part (link takes you to slides):
In the webinar there were some good discussion and towards the end a participant asked one question that it will be worth keeping in mind : “…Some of the more recent, larger MOOCs, rely on videos of lectures and quizzes. Is this good teaching?”
This point taps into recent critiques of using the web and technologies for content delivery and the limitations of this in terms of learner interaction etc. See for example, Audrey Watters 12th July post on the Hack Education blog, Education Technology as Content Delivery
The MOOC debates (or what is in a MOOC?)
Already back in January 2012 these developments in open online courses were picked up by Alastair Creelman, a distance learning coordinator working in Sweden, and he asked whether 2012 was to be the year of the MOOC?
This was followed up by another blog posting in July outlining the critiques of some courses being referred to as MOOCs called How Open is Open?
Alistair Creelman concludes: “Are all MOOCs really MOOCs? It’s certainly a term that just now accommodates a wide range of models and maybe by the end of this year the MOOC as a concept will have morphed into new terminology. This is hardly surprising since it is all about experimentation and development of new educational models. Defining a moving target is never easy.”
On 18th July, Tanya Roscorla from the Converge magazine attempted to sum up differences and current developments:
“What’s the difference between the two? Connectivist MOOCs are more social and focused on deriving meaning of the learning experience with others, Virginia Commonwealth’s Becker said. And they allow students to participate through blogs, RSS feeds and other decentralized methods, said Downes, a senior researcher for Canada’s National Research Council. By contrast, x MOOCs emphasize content mastery, centralizes courses on one website and uses automated grading tools to support hundreds of thousands of students.” (By Tanya Roscorla, July 18, 2012), Converge, Massive Open Online Courses are here to stay
19th July: Jeffrey R. Young in The Chronicle of Higher Education looked at how the recent start up companies offering courses might be expecting to make money
Inside the Coursera Contract: How an Upstart Company Might Profit From Free Courses
20th July: Jim Groom also posted a review of all the recent MOOC news on his personal blog bavatuesdays, We’ve been MOOCed where he highlights that Coursera is not open education.
20th July: Jeff Haywood talks about the University of Edinburgh’s decision to offer online course through the Coursera consoritum on the JISC blog in the post called No Such Thing as a Free MOOC.
23rd July: The reaction to all these MOOC developments and the excitement/anxiety generated can be seen in a post like Massive MOOC Dropouts: Are We Really OK with that? by Audrey Watters,Hack Education Blog. Lots of interesting questions raised in the comment thread below the post.
29th July: Debating the MOOC backlash: Notes from a primitive screwhead by Dominik Lukeš
31st July: 20 questions (and answers) about MOOCs by Dave Cormier
1st August: MOOCs: neither the death of the university nor a panacea for learning by Jane Den Hollander, Vice Chancellor of Deakin University, Australia
I think the general conclusion is that we will have to wait and see how the new online course ventures fare. Will they disrupt the HE landscape? Will all of them still be called MOOCs? What funding models will work? How will learners respond? How will the role of the academic change?
In the meantime there is a lot of educational developers, academics and people interested in how these courses might impact on HE signing up for classes.
Posted by Kathrine Jensen, @kshjensen
(By the way I am continually updating this post when I see more MOOC news)