Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

Archive for May 2013

The Misunderstood MOOC

with 12 comments

MOOCow Mourns Misunderstood MOOCs
(Image based on ‘la vaca de los sinvaca‘ by José Bogado)

MOOCow Mooc Cow
@Gordon_L Let me onto your blog! mooc!
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Gordon_L Gordon
@MOOCow  Of course MOOCow – good to see you again!

MOOCow: Thanks G – Sigh!
G: You don’t sound as happy as you did the last time you were here MOOCow. What’s up?
MC: Oh – just the usual celebrity appearances for keynotes and blogs and I enjoyed tweeting for Surprise Endings but as for MOOCs – I just can’t believe how stupid you are!
G: MOOCow! I earned a Coursera certificate on a philosophy MOOC – I can’t be stupid!
MC: I don’t mean you – I mean the whole stupid human race! Here you are on this planet, in real trouble with every imaginable problem under the sun and then down come MOOCs like manna from heaven and then what do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO ?
G: Um – steady on MOOCow. Of course there’s controversy about MOOCs but there’s progress too – leave them alone long enough and they’ll develop their own culture!
MC: Oh yeah? – like yoghurt?

G: MOOCs are very new. It’s understandable that some people are less than enthusiastic – professors are worried about their jobs.
MC: It’s not understandable at all – it’s IRRELEVANT! You can educate the world now for a song and a sixpence and what happens instead? Overpaid academics in their plush ivory towers squeal on about face-to-face teaching while thousands of people cram into clunky forums expected to teach themselves from YouTube videos given by rock-star professors. And would you believe it? The biggest problem with MOOCs is how to make money from them!
G: Ahh! – in the early days learners interacted freely with each other in connectivist MOOCs using their own blogs and social media for discussion – sharing resources. Topics were explored together and connections made …..
MC: Well and good but I’m not the first to say that MOOCs are just vehicles for education. Even George Siemens says “MOOCs are really a platform.” I say that MOOCs are Massive, Open and Online and you’re supposed to learn something – end of story. Even you know they’re not really courses. A MOOC really is Something Else – quite different and you ought to be finding out exactly what. Some old git keeps saying that putting trad courses into MOOCs was like making the first railway carriages resemble stage coaches so as not to terrify the passengers!
G: That was me – I thought it was apt.
MC: Not if things stay like that! OK then, so what do YOU think makes for good MOOCs?
G: Er .. the pedagogy maybe … educational technology?
MC: Wrong again! Come on – what was outstanding about some of these MOOCs you were in, whether you interacted, lurked or just sneakily downloaded all the videos and went away?
G: Hmm … a philosophy lecturer, very active in the forums, responding expertly to questions, sharing resources – even quelling trolls with diplomacy and constant good humour!
MC: And that MOOC on ‘The Modern and the Postmodern‘ you hardly did any work for?
G: Prof Roth’s videos were excellent – tremendous enthusiasm there. He even admits to learning something himself in ‘My Modern Experience Teaching a MOOC‘ – just like they say happens to facilitators in cMOOCs!

MC: There you are! Pedagogy or Ed Tech’s NOT the thing. It’s PEOPLE that make MOOCs good. And bad too – I’ve seen snarky facilitators rubbing up learners the wrong way in MOOCs – including in your beloved cMOOCs. I’ve seen MOOCs with incompetent organisers peter out only after a few days. I’ve seen disgruntled rock-star professors crash MOOCs! And it’s not just facilitators and organisers. Learners have no idea what to expect from a MOOC.
G: They did in the classic cMOOCs – some initial chaos and confusion maybe but people knew what to expect.
MC: And who were these learners?
G: Mainly educators of all types.
MC: Hardly your typical learner – eh? For every one of these early cMOOCers you’ve now got scores of ordinary learners fooled into these xMOOC things. They think they’re trad courses on the cheap with bells and whistles complete with serious credentialing. They’re so conditioned by exam-ridden education systems they spend more time arguing about assessment than learning anything!
G: But credentialing is important!
MC: Don’t muddy the waters! Learning and credentialing are separate issues – just see what Bonnie Stewart says in Inside Higher Ed – her young assistant, Dave Cormier also says interesting things about assessment. I say a MOOC is a MOOC as long as it’s for learning but there’s nothing stopping you bolting on anything else if you must – credentialing, sponsored textbooks, promotional doughnuts ….

G: You’ve got to admit there’s some clever people out there making predictions about MOOCs.
MC: Too clever by half – “You can take people to the water but you can’t make ’em think!” is what we cows say about people.
G: Don’t be so cynical. It’s not easy to make predictions based on learning theory but some authorities do say that ….
MC: LEARNING THEORY? PREDICTIONS? AUTHORITIES? – my hoof! Did any of your authorities predict the Internet? They were even dubious about Twitter and Facebook when they came along but now social media’s running through their theories like thick gravy. Get real G! You’ve got big ears, some people have big feet and some happen to have big cognitive powers. Sure, listen to what they say – it’s best when they fall out with each other and start swearing – just see that Audrey Watters! You can learn a lot that way but you don’t need to take anyone’s advice. “Think for yourself” is another saying we cows have.
G: Um … I think that was Immanuel Kant.
MC: Look G, global education’s a global problem and MOOCs are in their infancy – don’t leave them to the corporate mercies of one fading superpower. What does it mean when one bright 11-year-old from Lahore excels on a physics MOOC?
G: Well …
MC: It means there’s plenty more bright youngsters where that one came from. Get ’em into physics or any of that STEM stuff you use to solve problems. Even getting people to think critically before they start writing crap in YouTube comments is worthwhile. Learn how to design and run your own MOOCs and how to tailor them for people with different learning objectives and perspectives. Learn how to beat instructivist conditioning. Use Open Educational Resources if you can but if you can’t then pay for new stuff. Get decent facilitators who know how to hold a learner’s hand when it’s needed. Pay them if you have to – though I’ve seen bright sparks in MOOCs as learners who’d be happy to help out as facilitators next tine round. As for rock-star professors, celebrity brings its own rewards (as I well know!) and maybe they can sell their books but pay ’em well too so they make time to mix with the learners. You’ll also need to invest in better video technology so they can make their awesome videos and you need to buy some more ….
G: Hey MOOCow – STOP! Where’s all this money coming from?
MC: Don’t ask me – I’m just a humble MOOC Cow. Do your own thinking for a change! I’m late for another keynote – byee!
G: Humble? ……. Come back MOOCow !

MOOCow Mooc Cow
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Written by Gordon Lockhart

May 19, 2013 at 9:51 am

Posted in Mooc