Building Democratic Learning: The limits of Moocs

Fred Garnett writing from the WikiQuals project, mentions how he has been participating in several MOOCs and working on various open projects for several years. He calls the content-driven MOOCs #edspam which refers to the new range of MOOCs that have emerged after the original connectivist MOOCs. He refers to a discussion where commenters have said that the for students following Coursera MOOCs there is limited navigation opportunities. He reflects on the concept of distributed knowledge:

I don’t see that Connectivism MOOCs are creating distributed knowledge either, although they are distributing new practice and asking new questions about learning. The participants seem to be acting more like Wenger’s’ Technology Stewards within evolving Digital Habitats, (who walk at 45 between hierarchies & networks) revealing new ecologies of learning, or at least new Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks. It is this networked learning potential that is really exciting in the hype-world that MOOCs currently exist in. Sadly the MOOC is becoming a box in which institutions are trying to capture this evolving practice so they can sell it; they are trying to build an e-education service delivery model.

He discusses American educational policies and his own experience teaching in the US, reflecting on Open Access Models and Open Scholarship  and links to a slideshare he created of a recent discussion on education and what is emerging alongside market influences and makes suggestions for how to create participatory democratic education.

An invitation to join the Future of Education Mooc

Interrupting the scheduled broadcasting…. to bring you an exciting chance to join in a conversation that is continuing to blossom amongst educators who are passionate about changing education. Is this you?

If you’ve never tried a Mooc before, this is a chance to get a feel, connect and share in meaningful discussions with a range of educators around the world and the developers of the original Moocs. (The original Moocs are the ‘brand’ and the Stanford/Harvard Moocs are like the ‘generics’ ) Your opinions and your students’ opinions are invaluable to these discussions so invite your students along too or ask one of the facilitators for advice about how to do this.


Don’t confuse Technology with College Teaching

Pamela Hieronymi reflects on the recent developments from Harvard and MIT, wondering about the future of education. She looks at the value provided by technologies, remarking that education is not transmission of information or ideas. She looks at use of natural language processing programs and wonders about how students will be discussing important ideas in the future.

It is as though elite educators, upon noticing that we can’t program a computer to discern what is on the mind of an undergraduate, decided to pretend that if we just let those seeking an education talk among themselves (in grammatically felicitous sentences), they will somehow come to express difficult ideas in persuasive arguments and arrive at coherent, important insights about society, politics, and culture. As someone who spends time with students in directed conversations on difficult subjects, I’m sure this method won’t work.

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The Fate of Community Colleges in an Online World

Lauren Landry reports on concerns voiced that if traditional education is going to be replaced then does this mean that community colleges will be chopped first. She does not believe that the xMOOCs will replace community college provision because she believes there are skills that cannot be taught online and learners may not get the support needed

They’re the students who may show up with learning disabilities, or who study when compelled but aren’t checking into the library on foursquare every day. They’re the students who could benefit from additional help, but need the in-person assistance and motivation of a community college staff to push them along and help them succeed.

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After Leadership Crisis Fueled by Distance-Ed Debate, UVa Will Put Free Classes Online

Nick DeSantis reports on recent changes at University of Virginia including a leadership crisis. They are joining a group of 12 other institutions which will put courses online using Coursera.

Ms. Sullvan said in a written statement that she was “pleased” that Virginia was joining the ranks of universities experimenting with Coursera.

“These classes will expand the university’s role in global education while reinforcing our core mission of teaching, research, and public service,” she said. “They will in no way diminish the value of a UVa degree, but rather enhance our brand and allow others to experience the learning environment of [Thomas] Jefferson’s Academical Village.”

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Online Learning: The New Buzz Phrase Waiting for a Definition

Cathy Finn-Derecki has been trying 2 MOOCs, DS106 and Udacity Statistics. She mentions that Udacity is distraction free from other people and windows, but

then the DS106 in me creeps into the picture. I imagine this lecturer as the whole person. I want to do a mashup of the Udacity course, mocking Sebastian Thrun’s accent, turning the statistics lecture into a comedy sketch complete with charts and graphs. The possibilities for using video, audio, writing, and acting are endless. I break out of the checkboxes and lectures and have a chance to explore my alter ego’s needs. If one person can experience such extreme differences in online learning environments, how can we even discuss “online learning” as though it’s a monolithic thing?

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The Scholarly Web

John Elmes refers to a blog post by Professor Martin Weller who feels that the development of a more formal structure for MOOCs is likely. He has been an advocate of open education but has some reservations about MOOCs.

The beauty of forming a MOOC, he says, was that it “allowed you to explore new pedagogy…and subject matter”. He believes the latest models are too conventional.

Professor Weller also worries that, while they are free, they are not open in the sense of being “reusable and openly accessible”.

He is also concerned that if MOOCs were to develop a commercial aspect, it would not be long before “they are engaged in Facebook-type data selling, for instance”.

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Can Free Online Courses Transform the Higher Education Industry?

Knowledge@Wharton provide their take on higher education, MOOCS and change. They report on a participant of the AI Stanford course who got a job in machine learning shortly afterwards. They look back at online education initiatives in recent years and wonder if this is different

Why might Coursera or another of the new enterprises succeed where others have failed? For one, the technology has evolved. Video and audio are crisper. Desktop sharing tools and discussion boards are easier to navigate. There is greater access to Internet libraries. Course developers also have a more nuanced understanding of how people learn online and the best ways to present information in that format. Coursera, for example, slices lectures into digestible 10- or 15-minute segments and provides online quizzes as part of each section. Professors answer questions from students in online forums. This is a vast improvement from previous online education ventures that offered a less dynamic learning model where students watched canned lectures, with no interaction.

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Free online courses at Harvard and MIT

Seniors Aloud proving that there is never a time to stop learning – excited by the new opportunities presented by MOOCs.

For older adults and retirees keen on going back to school again, this news is heaven-sent. With an empty nest at home and time on their hands, this is a wonderful opportunity for them to acquire new knowledge and prevent the brain from getting rusty.

If you think that your age might pose an obstacle to learning, look at Dr Allan Stewart a former dental surgeon from Australia. Last Friday he obtained his fourth degree – Master in Clinical Science (Complementary Medicine) at the ripe old age of 97!!!  He currently holds the world record for being the oldest graduate.

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Will MOOCs Promote Superstar Teaching Over Superstar Research At Princeton And Other Ivy Universities?

Paul Glader suggests that with the current MOOC hype attracting large numbers of students, that there will be a renewed focus on teaching rather than research.

Kevin Carey sees MOOCs setting up a power struggle between the two coasts of knowledge power – the West Coast, Silicon Valley-based tech sector and the DC to Boston corridor of Ivy League and elite colleges. “I’m not sure who will end up running the place,” he says. “Colleges don’t have a monopoly on expertise

Paul also notes critiques of MOOCs that question whether knowledge is democratized through these types of offerings.

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