Five short years to MOOC corruption

Man, I’m sick of MOOCs. According to the New York Times it’s the year of the MOOC, and they even have the temerity to call Coursera, Udacity and edX the “big three MOOC providers“, so now the Huffington Post is peddling that line too. The Washington Post, Time “Magazine”, Forbes are all watching those big awful MOOCs.    The Chronicle of Higher Education eagerly reports the latest MOOC news, like colleges offering Coursera courses for credit.

I’m a historian, so I’m accustomed to people forgetting history. But how far back was 2008, for gosh sake, when David Wiley (2007 really), Alec Couros, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Dave Cormier started all this? How could we forget the roots of the whole MOOC thing in five measly years?

My annoyance is showing. This morning in response to a Facebook query I wrote:

None of the people who invented the MOOC were doing it for profit – they were exploring new pedagogies. Now commercial and proto-commercial entities have not only adopted the idea (which is fine) but are seen as representing what a MOOC is. The entire argument is now based around these new commercial beasts, most of which use a pedagogy that is similar to an early 20th century correspondence course – read, test, repeat.

Those of us who teach those plain ole online classes are appalled. We have been working tirelessly to make the web the home of new pedagogies. The big obstacle has (until now) been learning management systems (Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle), since they not only guide pedagogy for inexperienced instructors but keep all the learning in a closed silo. Now we’ve got these horrid new super-trendy models (we are already talking about offering “MOOC”s at our college – it will save money to have one teacher “teach” thousands of students, I’m sure).

In four short years we’ve completely lost touch with the reason, the purpose for MOOCs – the opportunity to exploit the opportunities of the web, to form learning communities, to blow apart top-down teaching models, and to create something meaningful and valuable to participants. The massive part wasn’t just the number of students, it was the number of opportunities for people to learn what they wanted to learn. And the process was still in the baby stages, with most MOOCs still focusing (regardless of topic) on what it meant to be doing a MOOC.

Now, just when MOOCs were branching out into academic disciplines, they get corralled into this nasty, mass-produced, crowd-mongering model.

I could just spit.

8 comments to Five short years to MOOC corruption

  • Great post Lisa! In many ways it feels like a great chance for change in education has been co-opted not so much by the evil empire of new MOOC providers but by the way media creates attention and shallowness of discourse. MOOCs may just be to complex for mass consumption media, even Huffington Post–though they at least deserve a scolding and might actually listen.

    We fight simplification every day in our department. The latest is flipping classrooms. We’ve been ordered to flip our online content and beyond how silly it sounds the underlying problem is who holds the power to close discussion and force “change”. I doubt if there will ever be a substantive discussion on education at our institution because we always drowning in stupid busyness trying to keep up with “popular demand.”

    So why not back to the open range and we can all declare cease fire on phony MOOCs and their pointless commentary? This doesn’t mean we leave without slamming the door though:-)

  • Dan

    I agree, great post. MOOCs, Flipped Classroom, the topics du juor that too many people who have not been working to improve learning with technology see as the silver bullet.

    My thought, the attention EdX, Coursera are getting are indicative of one of the core problems of higher ed. People equate excellence in higher ed with Harvard, Stanford etc. i.e. If they are offering these course they must be the solution. Harvard and Stanford represent excellence in research, not in learning. Outside of their specialized continueing ed divisions they have no experinece in online education. Thus they offer up an early 20th century pedagogy.

    I think the potential of the concept is awesome, but i am also fed up with the annointment. And think about it this way, these providers brag about a million users. A million users is actually pretty anemic by massive use online standards.

  • Scott Johnson

    Took the Connectivism course through the University of Manitoba a couple of years back. Taught by George Siemens himself and built on a modified MOOC model similar to the Pedagogy First course. It worked fine as University course and the only difference was the modest $400 or so tuition. I learned a lot and “passed” with some strong suggestions from Prof SiemenTook the Connectivism course through the University of Manitoba a couple of years back. Taught by George Siemens himself and built on a modified MOOC model similar to Pedagogy First course. It worked fine as University course and the only difference was the modest $400 or so tuition. I learned a lot and “passed” with some strong suggestions from Prof Siemens to apply myself more to the course material. So these courses can be done at moderate cost (not free) and support a valuable learning experience.

    Wonder if it would be better to change tactics and pretend that the bastard MOOCs don’t exist and speak of our experiences in the originals? They can ignore the history of my learning past, we can ignore their stuff. Since many of us don’t live in the media environment Harvard wants us to accept as discourse why even acknowledge them? On the other hand, ignoring the Vietnam War didn’t help end it…
    s to apply myself more to the course material. So these courses can be done at moderate cost (not free) and support a valuable learning experience.

    Wonder if it would be better to change tactics and pretend that the bastard MOOCs don’t exist and speak of our experiences in the originals? They can ignore the history of my learning past, we can ignore their stuff. Since many of us don’t live in the media environment Harvard wants us to accept as discourse why even acknowledge them? On the other hand, ignoring the Vietnam War didn’t help end it…

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  • Brian Fromme

    I’ve just recently started my learning path into MOOCs and figured out a few weeks ago that the magic will be in the methods, not the tools. Thanks so much for crafting this post, as it affirms what I pieced together. I look forward to learning more from the pioneers.

  • [...] Lane writes in this post about what she sees as the purpose of MOOCs the opportunity to exploit the opportunities of the [...]