Back in February 2012, I completed a chapter on a model for open, online course for online faculty professional development for an eBook that never happened. Although some of the material was revised for publication in the The Journal of Educators Online, this chapter originally featured a Wild West analogy I was quite fond of, and I’m sad it was never published.
Consider it published.
An Open, Online Course Model to Prepare Faculty to Teach Online
Almost exactly a year ago, I was engaged in a conversation with my online network about why there wasn’t a good article in Wikipedia on MOOCs. I was particularly disappointed that those who not only offered them but did so with a good background in educational theory were not contributing to the article. I wrote a blog post about the response, which essentially encouraged me to get into Wikipedia and start writing. Others joined. I did what I could in the time I had, and haven’t looked much at it since.
Then today I again went to the article, because I was looking for something on MOOCs to add to the syllabus for the POT Certificate Class for 2012-13, the SMOOC (Small to Medium Open Online Class) that I facilitate, for free. I was horrified to find this:
I am being accused, along with Stephen Downes and George Siemens, whose MOOCs are extensively referenced in the article, of self-promotion and of creating the term MOOC for our own purposes and to link to our own content.
The SMOOC I teach isn’t even in the article. I was focused on the history and cleaning up some of the language. None of my own work, which frankly isn’t widely known anyway, is linked or mentioned in any way.
In the Talk tab, a couple of people point out that the list of MOOCs in the article is outdated, and needs to include the Stanford AI and Coursera MOOCs. Very true! Why did these commenters point that out but not add them to the article? One can criticize or comment, but the number of people helping is rather small if you look at the list of contributors (where I am still, strangely, the one who made the most changes).
I have been an active participant online for years, and ironically it is the current crop of corporate-based MOOCs and the massive expansion of for-profit online “colleges” that has caused me to participate less. But to be accused of self-promotion is ridiculous. I make no money with the SMOOC I facilitate, I work at a public community college in California, and I have no business or commercial aspirations at all. I’m Little Miss Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.
In fact, I see myself as a public servant, and it is an extension of this feeling of responsibility that encourages me to participate in online venues. I thought I was being helpful by editing the Wikipedia article, and I assumed others would come along and do some too.
This is very discouraging. It shouldn’t hurt, I guess, but it does. As a supporter of open education, open community, sharing and public participation, it’s more than disheartening. I am accustomed to the idea that working openly subjects ones work to public criticism. But here a moderate effort at providing some information has been interpreted as self-promotion. It does make me think twice about the extent to which I should spend time contributing to what I thought was a larger sphere of knowledge. I might be thinking more than twice from now on.
Laura Paciorek and I presented at Ed-Media last week and we created a video of the session (hard to see, since it’s recorded from a netbook), a slidecast of Laura’s presentation on Simul-learn setups for synchronous sessions, and a slidecast of my presentation on POT’s Online Teaching Certificate Class, here:
Here’s a transcript of the first nine or so minutes, for anyone interested in starting the class in September.
I was contacted recently by 3C Media, who does the media work for the California Community Colleges at the Chancellor’s Office. They let me know that my presentation for the POT Certificate Class from last February, Control and Freedom in Online Classes, was being converted and uploaded to YouTube. They asked me to help them apply a description, attributions, etc. Two things struck me about this. The first was that I used their Collaborate system for the presentation, and although I have no problem with this presentation being posted in public, I have used their system before for meetings and office hours that I would not want public. I had no idea they even looked at our meetings.
But I find another aspect even more interesting. When I went to fill out their form to help out, the only option for Creative Commons was the BY (Attribution) restriction, with reuse allowed. Or I could use the YouTube Creative Commons license which is, guess what, only Attribution also, reuse allowed.
A little while back, the controversy over the design of Curtis Bonk’s class led to some interesting comments from those involved in Blackboard/Coursesite, including here on my blog. In response to that and to Audrey Watter’s commentary , Jarl Jonas wrote that:
“once the course concludes, we will publish the package as an OER as a Blackboard and Common Cartridge package with a CC-BY license”
The term OER (Open Educational Resource) is used to distinguish it from a course cartridge that you may use only if you force your students to buy a textbook, or one that only works in one LMS.
I am seeing this more and more: CC-BY as proof of openness, a passport to the world of the trendy edupunks and transparency in education. But it’s not that simple.
Basic Attribution (CC-BY) doesn’t do much for open learning, or even sharing. It’s the NC (non-commercial) and SA (share-alike) aspects of Creative Commons licensing that makes for openness. Attribution simply means anyone can use the work so long as they attribute it, as part a Cartridge package or inside a website, but with no obligation to openness at all. They can take the package, close it off in a system, and charge for access to that system.
This is likely a misunderstanding along the lines of knowing the difference between openness as in Open API and openness as in Open Source. Some people think Open API and Open Source are the same when they aren’t. For example, here Pearson OpenClass is referred to as open source, when it’s actually open API. Open API is like Playdoh. We can make things out of it, but we can’t have the secret formula.
So we are confusing my presentation as posted on YouTube, or a free LMS course cartridge of Bonk’s class, with free, open (attributed, non-commercial, shared back) use of our work.
So, CC-BY isn’t good enough. We can’t any longer suppose that our work will not be of financial gain to someone, someday, in a new publishing model. And we must recognize it’s no longer really about content (which many of us post freely on the web).
Much of the content of Yale’s and MIT’s open courses are Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, and they are very specific that you can’t package and resell their stuff . But the companies that used to be creators of software for holding “content” are now hosts of learning platforms and providers of services (witness Blackboard’s aquisition of vendor Moodlerooms). They lose nothing by freely distributing the work of other people. Without a Non-Commercial clause, they can profit from it directly. Without a ShareAilke clause, they need not create and share anything of their own.
And they can use other people’s stuff to sell “community”. Information can be collected on hundreds or thousands of students coming to take a free course. These are future “customers”, and the information gathered may help future customers signing up for services. These companies will handle all that tough technology stuff — you just hand over your content, all CC-BY licensed so they can use it later.
Doesn’t sound like a good deal, or a very open one, to me.
So the presentation’s at Vimeo (where they let you choose CC BY-NC-SA).
I noticed that Dave Cormier is using a single course blog for his ed366 class, with students as authors. Back in November, I was working on this issue with Brandon Davis-Shannon, whether it is better to have students run their own blogs or work on one big blog, and I’m thinking about it again as I plan my History 103 for fall.
I have done one big blog before, but never many student blogs (except for the POT Certificate Class). Dave has done both and notes:
It is interesting to me that engagement would be lost when students run their own blogs, versus posting on one big blog. It brings up questions about where students perceive the course is located, as well as the usual issues about motivation and self-motivation.
In addition, it may be about the changing world of online courses in the past year or so.
The typical online course offered by an institution is one kind, and for this model students translate their classroom thinking to the online class. The thinking is that on-site the class is held in Room 601, and online it’s held in Blackboard (or another LMS) or at a particular URL or website (though that’s more rare).
It’s hard for students to really see a course that’s held “on the web”, or one where their work is based in their own space, and aggregated somehow for all to see. That involves a mental shift much greater than just on-site to online.
That mental shift is encouraged by MOOCs, at least in their Couros/Siemens/Downes/Cormier/Groom model. Self-direction and/or connectivism are engrained in the format of the classes. (I’m gonna call it the CSDCG model, because no one can stop me.)
But there is another pseudo-MOOC model now, subdivided into two categories which sometimes overlap: institutional (think Stanford, MIT) and commercial (think Curtis Bonk’s class in Coursesites). These are beloved by the New York Times and the Chronicle, who are seeking to reframe educational trends. They are becoming the mental-shifting model instead of the original MOOC design.
That may be because they are held in Learning Management Systems or sites that act like LMSs (I’m afraid I have to count WordPress here, because of its use in this context). This model perpetuates the idea that “class is here“. Yes, you can run your own blog, but it’s preferred that you blog “inside the classrom”. It’s just easier for people to get their head around the idea that the class is at the instructor’s website. It fits with their current thinking, but expands it into the world of blogging. It also fits for instructors who need the two things LMSs are best at: enrollment management and grade tracking.
That seems to be the middle ground, and pedagogically it may be better not to push the envelope too much with students (at least if you want them to stay enrolled). Despite my own learning preferences, which are open and aggregated, most students aren’t conceptually ready for this kind of learning, and the cognitive dissonance overcomes their willingness to engage (which, for some, wasn’t that high to start with).
We can argue for years whether their lack of readiness is apathy, behavioral training in K-12, or cultural ennui, but most of us “practitioners” are interested in what works: what keeps them enrolled, encourages engagement, allows some independence, but doesn’t cause panic. Plus there are increasing concerns about asking students to create their own space at third-party sites, which collect and use student information and content in ways we may not consider ethical.
The WordPress Multi-User site, or the LMS that’s open to all, or the main blog where all blog within it but can have their content exported to save (which is what Dave is doing) may then be the preferred models for balancing these issues with those of exploration and innovation. They are being chosen because they take into account concerns of pedagogy and comfort, not because they can handle 1,000 students and use their content and personal information for other ends, but because they work.
NB: The only obvious exception to this balanced model is Jim Groom’s (plus) ds106, with its student-run blogs aggregated to a main WP site, and where clearly something magical happens. And possibly my own POT Certificate Class, where I have no idea why it (sort of) works, but I dare not apply it to a standard college class.
I’m leaving Curt Bonk’s open online class “Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success”, which started this week. It’s a class about retaining, motivating and engaging online students, and I’m leaving because I’m not motivated and not engaged.
It’s not because of Dr. Bonk – his work is very interesting.
It’s the classroom. I wanted to attend to see the new CourseSites from Blackboard, which is being touted as Bb’s “open” LMS. Maybe it would be innovative! A new LMS. I’m always very interested in learning management systems, and what they can do.
Well, it’s the same old Blackboard, with more white space, nicer fonts and some cool icons.
First assignment included two 44-page pdf files that were expensive to print and difficult to read online since they were double-spaced. Oh.
Well, OK. I went over to the discussion to introduce myself, and oh dear. Same threaded discussion – very 1999. With each iteration of Bb, I find it harder to believe they’ve done nothing with forums. Each person had started their own “thread” to introduce themselves, necessitating opening each one at a time or collecting those on the page.
Only those on the page can be collected. There are 30 pages of introductions.
A sense of chore, of overwhelming ennui, engulfed me. I saw that you can also blog instead. That’s good! I can blog as I go, on my own blog! And everyone will read it, and there will be comments, and I can comment on theirs! Oh….
I’m not going to blog inside a closed system, even if it’s open at the moment. Yes, I could add a link to my own blog to the wiki, but that’s not exactly integrated into the course. Pretty evident, then, that the main discussion would be in those horrible forums.
It’s only for a month. No, I can’t. I don’t use Bb anymore for exactly this reason. I will be happy to read Bonk’s works, on my own, and blog about them. I’ll miss the community. No, I won’t. I can’t miss this many people.
I’m spoiled. I blame George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Alec Couros. I blame Jim Groom. I’m used to aggregated blogs, embedded media, distributed conversation. I think of these things as being what open, online classes are all about. I blame my own class at Pedagogy First!.
You’ll say I didn’t give it a chance. You’ll say I’m being too picky. You’ll say…well, I don’t know what you’ll say, since I won’t be in the class.