MOOCS: A Cautionary Note

[Gregory Jay presented this paper as part of C21’s “What’s the Matter with MOOCs?”even on March 12, 2013]

MOOCS:Cautionary Note | Center for 21st Century Studies.


9 thoughts on “MOOCS: A Cautionary Note

  1. So we’ve now been yelled at from the top of the castle wall by another aggrieved professor. Aside from claiming divine right to be ultimate keeper of the holy curriculum the rest is about how us MOOCers have spoiled his lunch.

    I tried when younger to gain attendance to The University but was found unqualified and moved on to other providers of learning who may have actually been superior in their understanding of the importance of education to students over the needs of professors. I don’t recall the big U offering outreach or access to learning for free or even by special permission and this article continues the tradition self-claimed superiority trumping the shared value of education made available according to the learners needs..

    Obviously leaving education in the care these people was a privileged they couldn’t help but fluff with their own feathers. On top of that the need to declare as barbarians those seeking some relief from the dumbness of a society by our own means is simply rude. Where are all the smarties but poaching at us from behind wall rather than stepping out and contributing.

    This essay is about who controls education and who decides where and how it happens. It turns a serious situation into a game of who gets to remain special and untouched by change.

    • I get tired of both (maybe more) extremes taking potshots at one another over this and,especially, of their not listening, reading, trying to communicate across the barricades or look for common ground. Do you really think the edu-business approach is an improvement? Or that most faculty actually teaching don’t care about students or learning?

      For that matter, have you taken the time to read more from and about the author? Commented directly on the original article? Made a constructive suggestion on how to address very real concerns about quality and academic labor issues?

      In general. both pro and con cherry pick, push and post only pieces that support their own perspective or trash the one they disagree with. A mistake, misleading, not balanced coverage or sound pedagogy. I read it all (a task increasingly more difficult to manage) and try to share a broader perspective. It may not work, horses to water, Dorothy Parker’s horticulture and all that, but still beats ranting.

      • I agree that ranting and no more balanced than the person I created in my mind (the tiresome professor) to respond to. It’s poor argumentation on my part but I’m very sensitive to the presumption of universality of educational opportunity when the fact is for most of the population higher education is out of reach. To me the act of supposing there are no barriers is a way of lack of education back onto those who seek it but are deemed “unqualified.” Where in a democratic system does the concept of in-qualification reside?

        The second assumption lies in the current system of education being spotlessly accomplished in reaching everyone. To me that says if I didn’t understand what the professor carefully assembled into a perfectly sensible learning object and therefor am deficient.

        I do understand ranting and creating straw people to ridicule is both a gesture of helplessness and certain to abandon rational discussion and leave potential resolution in the junk heap. So be it.

        Guilty on the count of not reading about the author. Will do that right away. Not guilty on supporting the whole concept of business entering into education. Our college has just had grants withdrawn for virtually all our upgrading and literacy students by the government while industry has stepped in to “hire” us to build training programs for them. That means I spend my day building industrial training courses for young people who will never get past the world of learning for the purpose of increasing income. Where have the educators been up to right now to protest the sale of higher ed to industry? And does their head suddenly pop up to jump on MOOCs that are populated by potential allies?

      • I’m not assuming none are potential allies anymore than I be so gormless as to assume all are. Just because colleges now have no choice but to accept funding from wherever they can does not make it good choice. Necessary =/= good, although believing that makes the medicine go down better. I suspect the corporate fine line was crossed long ago and that unis have been singing themselves lies ever since. Veblen would probably put it even earlier. Part of “head[s] suddenly pop[ing] up to jump on MOOCs” is that the elephant in the room is now too big to ignore.

        We should all read the fine print. Ask questions too, especially about motives and cui bono. Or did you miss the WSJ and Forbes articles recommending education as “strong growth industry” for anyone’s portfolio?

        There is also a quality issue with mass vs artisanal education. The ideal (imnsho) is learning to learn and taking charge of one’s own learning or, at the very least, being a well informed consumer about it. Unfortunately few learners have the tools for it, which also limits what they can get out of MOOCs too. That might be a better starting place.

        It’s not just you: I read mooc rants and uncritical hypes every day from all directions, every one talking or writing AT one another, never to open or continue a dialog. I’m beyond ready for dialog, something more Rogerian than the usual run.

      • PS I ask you the same question I would ask “tiresome professor” (not the most tiresome on the subject, trust me): how many xMOOCs have you taken? Completed?

  2. You have me on the taking of xMOOCs. The number I’ve taken is zero and the closest is the Complexity course. Since taking a university course online where the instructor disabled the discussion area I find it almost impossible to stay focused on content unless it’s reading a book out loud to myself. Courses without an opportunity to talk my way through by discussion board are impossible to stick with. So not knowing about xMOOCs leads me to assume they are lecture capture and not worth the bother.

    To be a complete person (and not just a loud mouth) I have read and commented at 2 blogs you suggested. My sense, is that these are private conversations that I might be intruding into and may avoid commenting on later as I have little to offer.

    Back to xMOOCs, any distribution of education is fine with me but I think the key to being meaningful is for them to exist in an environment of support. By this I mean mentoring services or at least the presence of human companions that I believe is a value of f2f often mentioned that turns learning into the social activity it should be. P2P University is something I’d like to look into that might satisfy this need.

    • That explains a lot… for starters, just about every academic trashing MOOCs in higher education is referring to the x-model, not connectivist. Most get their ideas and opinions 2nd hand from higher ed media and academic blogs. Quite a few (except for those actively involved with them) are clueless about connectivist moocs or understand the difference between them. No wonder the topic makes Stephen cranky, even George gets annoyed.Panic in the streets, especially when adminstart talking about how the model will help control labor costs (and labor).

      Some x’s are more than just lecture capture. There is quite a bit of variation across them, even ones on the same platform. The forums are too big, navigation a problem (but improving), occasionally manners as well. Interestingly, participants who have never heard of the connectivist model are going off on their own and starting smaller groups. Whenever I get the chance, I post subversive links.

      Gordon has good posts comparing them, thinks in terms of an evolving model. Two recent ones from the same university, University of Edinburgh, deliberately included more connectivist elements. That is hopeful.

  3. Should have been clearer that my passion for MOOCs arises from the cMOOC world which I find as a natural outgrowth or extension of the spirit of curiosity that I’d like to think higher ed represents. Also understand most comments against MOOCs are reacting to the threat from xMOOCs replacing traditional courses. And that appears to reveal, as you say, a sad lack of knowledge of educational alternatives or a lazy attention to current events which doesn’t look on someone lecturing me about how superior their ability to judge knowledge is over mine.

    On the other hand, it is sloppy of me to speak without being clear what I’m referring to. To myself, I have to remember to not be drawn into mouthing off over irritations like snooty professor speak. Not that the threat of dumbing down doesn’t affect everyone, including professors, only the action should remain focused on improving education. In part that can come from cMOOCs and maybe especially from the spontaneous spin-off groups forming in the xMOOC communities. Education has been assailable by politicians of no good intent because it has stopped being imagined as something generally attainable and moved over to a marker of class privileged. Within that atmosphere to walk around defending the divine right of faculty to know better is just foolish in terms of gaining support.

    Maybe the people in Edinburgh are more conscious of the cMOOC model and that’s why the courses seem different?

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