While I have been unhappy for a year or two about the commercialization and institutionalization of MOOCs, the fact that MOOCs are the latest Big Thing in education is now causing me more trouble than that.
The Program for Online Teaching, a small group of dedicated, volunteer online faculty, offers an open online class in how to teach online. Originally designed for the online (and newly online) faculty at MiraCosta College, it was opened last year to the world, and was very successful. I realize now this was because newbies were at the center, and all the more experienced people were mentors and moderators.
Our goal was to provide a safe yet open place for people new to teaching online (many of whom are new to much of the open web) to learn how to articulate their own pedagogy and translate it into a meaningful online environment for their students. This is in opposition to the idea that all new online profs need is technical training in an LMS. Our dream was to help faculty develop their own online pedagogy and implement it using the tools that work for them.
At the same time as our course was evolving, the Massive Open Online Course movement took off, in its various forms and multiple formats. The original openness and extensive, distributed conversations and networks have become addictive for many, and there are wonderful participants who now go looking for the next MOOC as an outlet for their creativity and ideas.
I have been calling our POT Cert class a SMOOC (a Small-to-Medium) online class, since it isn’t huge. At first this was a light-hearted effort to share what we were doing. But I have used the term now in two paper proposals and a conference presentation. That is, I believe now, unfortunate. In fact, it may have been a horrible mistake.
Jenny Mackness, who researches MOOCs and is a class participant, has gotten to the heart of the matter, talking about the class on her own blog. Her analysis of the difficulties at the beginning of this class have been absolutely on target.
I think we are a task-based SMOOC, but that’s based on my own schema. If others think we are a MOOC, they will (and have) come into the class and overwhelm the people for whom we offer the class. We have already gotten into arguments about the philosophical approach, whether I should be asking more experienced participants to tone it down, whether I am violating the principles of MOOC by insisting on topical posts.
I’ve had it. I hereby disavow the POT Certificate Class as a MOOC. We are just an online class. If you’d like to join us, read the textbook, follow the syllabus, and post accordingly, you are heartily welcome. If you want to use us as a venue for your creative development as a networked individual and eschew the class structure and intention, I’d prefer you not join us in the class and I’ll happily interact with you in my networks (because I am a networked individual also and I love your ideas).
So this class is no longer appropriate for your research on MOOCs, it isn’t called a MOOC, and it doesn’t act like a MOOC. It is an open (but you have to email me first), online (but you have to read the textbook), class (as in set curriculum and syllabus). Its focus is helping people new to online teaching develop their own pedagogy through (limited and guided) immersion in the web environment. You may call it teacher-led if you must (though that hurts since we are facilitators – it is more syllabus-led).
This post will not be tagged potcert, because it’s not appropriate for the class itself. I am happy to continue this distributed conversation anywhere else but in the class (except in Week 19 in March, when we talk about MOOCs).