Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Comparing MOOCs

~ no two alike, about how they evolved and extending the comparison / discussion to large open courses such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare and Stanford’s Massive AI Course, by Michael Atkisson at Ways of Knowing, briefly excerpted with exhortations to click through and read the entire piece + bibliography. Size matters but is not everything, nor, according to some, is it even the most important element, which might (my best guess) be interactive, distributed networks operating according to connectivist principles. I've been told before by mooc-urus that I was wrong so could be again.

What is a MOOC?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are large-scale online courses (in the thousands of participants) where an expert or group of experts from a particular field both 1. create the large draw to the course, and 2. facilitate a multi-week series of interactive lectures and discussion forms on critical issues from that field. Participants are expected to self-organize, to share and discuss the course material, and to create and publish new artifacts that represent their learning. Additionally, MOOC participation is recorded and published openly so that those who come upon it later may follow peripherally.

Where did MOOCs Come From?

This is best answered in the words of David Cormier and George Siemens,
“The term was coined in response to Siemens and Downes’s 2008 “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” course. An initial group of twenty-five participants registered and paid to take the course for credit. The course was then opened up for other learners to participate: course lectures, discussion forums, and weekly online sessions were made available to nonregistered learners. This second group of learners–those in The Open Course who wanted to participate but weren’t interested in course credit–numbered over 2,300. The addition of these learners significantly enhanced the course experience, since additional conversations and readings extended the contributions of the instructors.” (2010, p. 32).
Since 2008, several other MOOCs have developed....

What is a MOOC Experience?

The scale of interaction among MOOC participants is like that of massively multiplayer online games, such as World of Warcraft, but where as in the gaming environment large numbers of people come together online to play, self-organize, develop skill, strategize as a group, and execute strategies, MOOCs, on the other hand, facilitate learning about or the development of a particular knowledge domain at a participation scale ripe for diversity....Other ways to experience a MOOC are to lurk or to follow the course after-the-fact.... there were lots of ways to participate... I thought it was remarkable how much I felt that I was there in the class....felt immersed through my after-the-fact peripheral participation.

Is MIT’s OpenCourseWare a MOOC?

The short answer is no. I again point to Cormier and Siemens:
“In an open course, participants engage at different levels of the educator’s practice, whether that be helping to develop a course or participating in the live action of the course itself. This is distinctly different from the idea of open in the open content movement, where open is used in the sense of being free from the intellectual property stipulations that restrict the use and reuse of content” (2010, p. 32).
Though MIT’s OpenCourseWare is revolutionary, making content publicly available is not enough because it only focuses on the content.... MOOCs seem to differ from Stanford’s classes in these principle ways 

(now read the entire piece online, bookmark it, save the bibliography)


llane said...

We had a long Google Group discussion about this in the EduMOOC, and I disagree precisely because there are so many ways now to connect and turn any major distribution of content into a MOOC with students leading the way.

Why should the instructor(s) provide the social setting for collaboratively examining the materials? Couldn't any student do that? Does everything have to center on the instructor? Is the real accusation here that there is no "instruction" if the prof doesn't set up a forum? I thought the idea was that we don't need a central font of knowledge in a connectivist world.

Also, if "students" do not take control of this, we will have the expansion of companies (I'm thinking Academic Earth, but there will be more) who simply repackage lectures from places like MIT and offer a virtual space for the students to study. We can do that ourselves.

Now, I am partly playing devil's advocate here, because I personally am not at all sure that the instructor shouldn't be central to what we call a course, whether it's a MOOC or something else. But I can certainly see how valuable collaborative experiences could easily be built by others around content.

Vanessa said...

Hi Lisa ~ my apologies but it's been a long day and mental fatigue may be setting in. Perhaps you can clarify a few points.

Who are "we"? I was in EduMOOC too. What was the title of the thread?

What does "this" refer to? The article itself or my comments? Both? Just parts of the article? Which part or parts?

I picked this particular article not because I agreed with every single point but as a resource because it covered a lot of ground fairly clearly and came with a bibliography.

My own guess, "interactive, distributed networks operating according to connectivist principles," references neither instructor/s nor students.

btw I'm the one Vance quoted in Jeff's MOOCast (in reference to Stanford course) as saying that if why don't students just take the initiative and create their own networks

Occupy the MOOC!

llane said...

Hi! Yeah, I'm fuzzy too...I found the thread earlier but was afraid to post it because it seems they're taking it down, but it was the discussion that started with needing to redefine what a MOOC is (

By "this" I meant the big issue of whether certain courses are MOOCs, and how they're defined. I remember the discussion at eduMOOC seemed to "end" with the last Google + webcast (, which must be where Vance quoted you? In which case, my reasoning derives from yours, which is pretty cool!

Vanessa said...

Yes, the gradcast ~ had to go back and double check. Osvaldo (whose background in physics means he's got the math) mentioned taking the Stanford course to study how it worked and observe dynamics.

Related: Students becoming curators and Towards Free Learning Opportunities for All Students Worldwide by Wayne MacIntosh.

I post occasional links at adj-l (Contingent Academic list) about open and self-paced online learning and how they are going to be higher ed game changers ~ teaching moments and reminders to get them thinking about adapting. The effect is about the same as what I imagine emptying a bag of rats into a sorority slumber party would be. No evolutionary biologists in the bunch. I just responded to latest round of "Eek! Rats destroying higher education" by posting the EDT link about global free learning

What's this about the Google group coming down? The other groups set up for moocs were left up. That sounds like another good reason for individuals to create networks and not leave it up to the organizers (or institutions). The Student Retention thread morphed into "What is a MOOC?" past the halfway point (pretty much upon the announcement of the Stanford course.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...