my life in MOOCland
Machinations beyond my control kept me from participating in any substantive manner with the content for week 2. I did find myself in Udacity checking out a computer science MOOC, but that is heading off topic. Let's address one MOOC at at time, shall we? In this week of CFHE12, our attention turns to the topic of Entrepreneurship and commercial activity in education (Oct 22-28).
The first reading I tackled looked like the most recent content, based on the URLs. It was a September 18, 2012 Chronicle of Higher Education article called the The Evolution of Ed Tech in Silicon Valley by Kevin Carey (http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2012/09/18/the-evolution-of-ed-tech-in-silicon-valley). Contrary to the author's own take, the take home message for me is that Silicon Valley has dabbled in education in the past and is doing it again, without any real understanding of education in general and distance education in particular, and seem intent on making the same arrogant mistakes again and again.
I've now come to the end of my very first week attending my very first MOOC. I already have a lot of impressions from my experiences, both good and bad, but I feel it is still too early to jump to any real firm conclusions. That said, even though I am a veteran of online education - both as a student and as a technologist - I have generally felt a bit challenged trying to acclimate. I am very happy that DesireToLearn is the platform of choice for the course, since UMUC is also about to adopt it, However I am finding myself a bit frustrated with some of the features and limitations. Again, some of my impressions I am sure are premature and being driven by user error, but I believe I am also noting some real difficiencies compared to our current LMS, WebTycho. For example, it is quite easy in WebTycho to view an entire conference as a single thread and then search the thread for terms and see them in a fully contextual manner. This appears not to be possible with DesireToLearn to replicate this sort of data harvest. It of course, can search for terms within a conference, but does not open and display the text, only the subject lines of the threads containing the term. I have found WebTycho's capability quite invaluable in reviewing my colleagues' thoughts on a particular term in a single thread. In any event, I am fairly sure this sort of function would quickly begin to fail when reviewing hundreds of threads ( I certainly will never complete reading all the posts in the Introduction conconference!) But enough on the interface, for now though.
What may have been for me even more disruptive was the newness of the model itself for me. I am used to the traditional model of my MDE course, which offers more closely controlled activities, such as group projects assigned by the instructor, and that old fashioned notion of grades, etc. I am still having trouble visualizing how I will actually proceed and what I will derive from the course other than the experiences of my own self directed activities. I know that is to a degree essentially the point, and I know the course designers are aware of this anxiety, which they try to alleviate by noting that if I feel guilty about not doing certain things I am "doing it wrong" and just take I need. I am afraid it is not as assuring as I would hope. I am still feeling like I am struggling to vet and absorb massive amounts of data coming from many sources at once. An embarrassment of riches which is frankly interfering with my critical thinking and reflections on the subject itself. The mode is so far inhibiting the sort of focus I am usually able to achieve in a traditional online course.
In the meantime, I must admit that even though I am being inundated with information, much of it is quite valuable, in particular for me since I am also currently researching MOOCs for my MDE capstone course.
One area of particular interest to me is how UMUC might benefit from MOOCs. and it was really exciting to actually find my current instructor lending her knowledge on the subject.
Stella Porto (2012, October 12) notes that "...if you look at MOOCs from a business model perspective it could play out as the creation of a new influx of students. Larger schools which serve adults, with open admissions, suffer from lack of readiness. You could provide better readiness through MOOCs, or just accepting transfer credits from such courses. In that sense, such courses would play an important role in creating new channels for students to actually enter formal higher ed"
This concept of MOOCs potentially offering new pools of students via credit transer is of particular interest to me, since it appears that UMUC is well positioned for this. On the other hand, as has been mentioned by Sir John Daniels, it also opens up the opportunity for "accreditation mill rackets".
Daniel, J. (2012, September 24). Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility[Blog post]. Retrieved from
I am hoping that Google Sites is going to serve as a viable blog platform for this course. This first entry is a test of that as well as a few quick notes on the course thus far. I am already really appreciating the daily "newsletter" quite a bit. It helps keep me focused on the suggested readings and activities and keeps me "attached" to the class in a very good way.
Initial content include a video intro by George Siemens, who noted that Coursera and similar MOOCs use a more guided approach, whereas this sort of MOOC is about growth of knowledge… knowledge as an emergent process through interactions and sharing artifacts, resources and ideas.
The DesireToLearn learning curve also begins today, as I begin to acclimate to the platform. This is quite fortuitous as this is apparently going to be our own LMS platform in the near future, so the course gives me a leg up here as well!
I think this bit of instructions was quite informative regarding how the instructors themselves see the course and its function:
"CFHE12 is designed to be flexible. You can dive in periodically or follow the course consistently. You decide what's important for you. We don't offer quizzes or any type of certificate of completion. This is a space for you to connect with peers, explore complex challenges in education, and gain a deeper understanding of the role that universities will play in the ongoing development of society and the knowledge economy. If you find yourself feeling guilty about not doing certain things in CFHE12, then we humbly suggest that you're "doing it wrong". Take what you want and need. Leave the rest."
I like this sentiment alot! It is just what I need to take this course while finishing my research on MOOCs for my masters program research paper.
Another great thing I found this week was Stephen Downe's response to Tony Bates' blog post about the Sir John Daniel article:
Stephen Downes says:
> I will be interested though (as will the author) in your responses to the paper.
Aside from (incorrectly) calling me wistful, the paper doesn’t deal with cMOOCs very much at all, and much of what it says about them is misleading.
- “which are known as cMOOCs and xMOOCs” and “which we shall call cMOOCs” – this is my terminology, introduced to draw out the distinction between our MOOCs and the others – the ‘x’ is adapted from MITx and EDx (which in turn probably adapted it from TEDx and Edgex); the ‘c’ stands obviously for ‘connectivist’
- the wikipedia disclaimer was put in place before the second definition was written and does not address the second definition (though it probably should)
- the “aim of the course” was not to “follow Ivan Illich’s injunction” – it was to offer an open forum for the discussion of connectivism. ‘Open’ because that’s how we roll. We’re all pretty sympathetic with Illich but it is a stretch to say we are ‘followers’ – the phrase “furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known” in particular doesn’t represent what we’re up to – quite the opposite, we want people to make their opinions known in their *own* websites, not ours
- “In this spirit ‘all the course content was available through RSS feeds, and learners could participate with their choice of tools: threaded discussions in Moodle, blog posts, Second Life and synchronous online meetings’…” This misrepresents the role played by RSS – we used RSS to aggregate content from different sites across the web – that’s what made it a network (something the xMOOCs still haven’t managed) – Daniel makes it sound as though we made it open by offering some content through RSS – that wasn’t it at all, not even close
- “those who coined the term MOOCs and continue to lead much Web discussion about them draw little attention to this change” – I am perhaps paid little attention, but I think you’ll find frequent discussions of the properties of xMOOCs in my blog and newsletter
- Platforms – the statement “Partly because they are so different, and partly because they exist behind proprietary walls, we shall make only general comments about MOOC platforms” – is quite misleading, at least with respect to cMOOCs. Three major platforms are used for cMOOCs, all of which are free and open source software:
- “whereas universities own and operate multiple Moodle installations, the administrative components of MOOCs (especially if they begin to make extensive use of Learning Analytics (Siemens, 2010)) are too complex for a teaching unit in a university to operate without huge resources.” – surely an odd statement, and I’m not quite sure what the “administrative components” are that he refers to
I think that Daniel is correct to point to the similarity between the current crop of xMOOCs and the elite universities’ previous unsuccessful forays into the world of online learning (does anyone remember Universitas 21 or California Virtual University?) but given that we (the cMOOC people) were around then and that this is what we built instead, it is all more disappointing that Daniel didn’t attempt more than a cursory look at cMOOCs.