The Limits of MOOCs
I’ve been participating in MOOCs
and working on various #open #learning strategies and projects, for some time; I actually don’t think MOOCs are now
much about learning at all; they have become content-driven #edspam and work in similar ways to spam, with a very limited ‘completion’ rate. Admittedly the original MOOC vison that Stephen Downes
, George Siemens
& Dave Cormier
had was focussed on developing a model of learning that reflects their interest in distributed knowledge. Hence the ‘self-referential’ quality that some people comment on about their MOOCs; Connectivism
MOOCs were about Connectivism, and explored the use of new digital tools, as their excellent What is a MOOC?
makes clear, which is fair enough – they are articulating their vision. They also write on the value of open courses being in Research, Learning & Engagement
, which ties in with that original vision, and Cormier argues
that you wouldn’t want to Assess within a MOOC either. However newer MOOCs have different agendas.
The key part of a MOOC however is the “Massive Course”
dimension and this year, 2012, has seen the big American Universities take the globalisation of education, and their traditional content-push model of learning, into the MOOC arena and have focussed on growing the MC business; Udacity
etc. Gavin, for example, on the ALT list commented that his experience is that Coursera is content-centric and that you must navigate as they command; of course! Downes et al
should have called their work DOOK – Distributed Open Online Knowledge, if they didn’t want the big boys to steal the baby when they made their bigger splash. MOOC growth now is about US Universities winning the race in the globalised education market, whilst in the UK we are raising fees, and failing to improve the learning experience on offer, even at our widening participation
That isn’t to say that MOOC courses
like any course such as Dominik Lukeš on Inclusion
, don’t offer interesting learning opportunities derived from the passion of the (careful now) instructor or, better, co-creator.
Many contributors on the ALT list (mostly professional educationalists) comment on taking MOOCs out of interest, but this is from people already sold on the value of education who are, perhaps, stepping out of the subject-based limitations that our pedogically-driven education system limits them to. Perhaps they are mystery shoppers, or just off to steal some great ideas. However I don’t see MOOCs transforming education into a participatory learning process or even enabling the co-creation of open scholarship.
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. I am glad to see that Peter Sloep is usefully tracking this evolution with his Scoop.it pages on networked learning
Jenny Mackness, who has run a MOOC #fslt12 with George Roberts
, has written a few interesting blog posts on issues in running MOOCS, such as The Challenge of Openness
. Much as I like Dominik’s passion and his very sensible ideas in ‘How to Moocify’
I think the OpenEducation USA
model is a terrible one. I used to teach in the USA and they have a very different educational model, as do the Canadians, as do the Europeans (despite the Bologna Process which still hasn’t change national learning cultures across the EU). Allowing US educational values to become the determining values of ‘new’ education models just allows them to ‘win’ in the globalisation of the education marketplace race, which American Universities are very serious about in the current ‘disruptive’ age in Higher Education.
Incidentally the ‘Disruptive’ tag
comes from Clayton Christensen
(a Professor at Harvard Business School) who talks about ‘disruptive innovation’ flowing from technology and he uses ideas from the economist Schumpeter
who sees capitalism as re-inventing itself through ‘creative destruction’
. Christensen wants Universities, well the leading American Universities, to re-invent their business model using disruptive technologies
. Business models driving education institutions are such a big issue in the USA right now that the brilliant cartoonist Doonesbury
has been discussing remuneration
and Anya Kamenetz
, who spotted that students lived in Generation Debt, wrote DIY Uni
essentially about gaming the education system. Americans are serious about colonising education globally with MOOCs, Open Course Ware & the rest of the disruptive tech-push toolkit, developing a content-driven service-delivery model of education. They see global market opportunities in education, whilst, in the UK, we only see economic migrants
in the glorious own goal which was the recent punishing of London Met Uni
for enrolling overseas students.
Despite Terry Anderson’s great work on Open Scholarship
and his proposal of developing Open Students, British Universities remain closed places of limited scholarship focussed on reinforcing traditional educational behaviours, which MOOCs and badges (hah!) barely touch. We need to radically change institutional behaviours, as well as educational policy, examining how these might be transformed in the emerging Network Society, but we aren’t even addressing those issues. No wonder Ben Hammersley, in his British Council Lecture An Internet of People
, thinks that the only way we can transition from hierarchical society, built around Universities with their hierarchies of knowledge, into network society, which MOOCs could help with, is by getting rid of the those in power in hierarchical institutions; he’s pretty drastic there.
What has the emerging network society
got to do with MOOCs? Or indeed with any other of the 10 Pedagogic Innovations listed in the OU report Innovating Pedagogy 2012
, which don’t mention Andragogy or Heutagogy
at all; this isn’t a report which has much to say about learning. Well MOOCs, along with much else, are part of a discussion about the future of education, but this only has real meaning if we also
examine the kind of society we want to live in. We certainly need to develop networked solutions for learning in a network society. However subject-based pedagogy, the basis of our entire education system, isn’t capable of doing that. MOOCs started as an examination of learning in a networked world with a belief that a new kind of knowledge was emerging, so it also has an epistemological position, which we really do need to engage with in discussions about society as well. MOOCs originally offered the possibility of designing learning which is NOT pedogically-driven and subject-based. but are now being colonised by the new Open Access model to University courses, which is driven by American University business models. I think the fact that Dave Cormier has moved on to Rhizomatic Learning
(what I call discontinous networks
) reflects this split. Incidentally I think, badges, such as the Mozilla Backpack, are designed to reinforce the limitations of education which the open access model is still about.
Whilst access is critical to democratising education
we in the Learner-Generated Contexts Research Group have a motto about post-web 2.0 learning “From Access to Content to Context
“. Meaning that open access (especially to courses), is not enough to democratise education on its own. Content-creation
(and curation) and then context shaping,
which I think the original CCK08 MOOC
was addressing, also
need to follow. As a group have tried to operationalise this process by showing how to integrate pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy in the PAH Continuum
. Thomas Cochrane has shown how to do use the PAH Continuum in course design
at UNITEC in New Zealand. We indicated how this might impact on education professionals in the Craft of Teaching.
Perhaps we need to develop Open Learning policies
for institutions, and we could start by getting our institutions to adopt this summers 2012 UNESCO Paris OER Declaration
and its 10 principles, and then go on to adopt co-creation
models of learning, such as Co-Creating Open Scholarship
. We need to be actively democratising the learning process in this post-scarcity world of distributed knowledge. Which is something that we are trying out on the WikiQuals project
. Incidentally you may find that the relevant UNESCO pages are down, as they have been for over a month for maintenance (I wonder why), so here is some more information about this hopefully international initiative on the Open Society pages
MOOCs have opened a debate about the future of learning in a network society
, but they don’t represent that future in themselves, even whilst they offer new ways of organising the use of digital tools, and the learning that can flow from that. For me Rhizomes Rule as they do offer the potential of creating new organisational forms for education (see our Architecture of Participation
blog for more on this). Rod Paley of xtlearn
, an Aggregate then Curate social learning tool, is curating links on MOOCs here
as this debate evolves.
If Not MOOC then what?
I recently ran a curated conversation on Education Innovation
at BIS which suggested the following three
ways in which we might innovate education for the 21st Century;
Design learning experiences that offer complexity
; what the Digital Practitioner
work described as creating “artfully constructed student-centred learning experiences
d) develop them for the society
in which we wish to live, for me that is building participatory democratic processes. I did a workshop with Leonard Turton of Summerhill School
earlier this year (at CROS in Romania
) and their core principle is that you can not
build democratic society without learning in democratic schools
; great point! I think we are doing that at degree level with WikiQuals…
City Learning Contexts
; Actually at the FOTE12
(Future of Technology 2102) event yesterday I suggested that what we really needed to be designing are MOCCs – Massively Open Cultural Contexts in which we learn. We tried this in the Ambient Learning City
project called MOSI-ALONG
in Manchester, and came to some conclusions about Social Cities of Tomorrow
called Aggregate then Curate
. The curation of content, such as on, say, xtlearn
, is certainly at least as important as open access to content delivery educational systems.
NB; if you liked this blog post you might like the document ‘Open learning & network democracy
‘ which asks you to think for what kind of society are you building, or designing, learning for.
January 11th 2013
; Please note that I am continuing to update this with links, developing the consistency of the argument about building democratic learning and deepening the points (I think!); more links, stuff on Disruption (see I am Disruptive We are Digital
) DIY-Uni & the USA business model, following interest from the OLDSMOOC Community; and more about the principle From Access to Content to Context.
A comparison of the learning models of the alternative university of CROS & WikiQuals
, and their use of Social Media – paper at ELSE Bucharest