Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A little more MOOC madness

For now, MOOCs are mostly in higher education. But virtual schools are eyeing the concept for growth possibilities, especially in elective courses. And I’m detecting a ripple of conversation about MOOCs as a means of offering professional development.

Right now the majority of MOOCs are offered for free; I just signed up to take a course through MIT or Georgetown, maybe it was Harvard. I’ll complete the assignments, take the tests, and, if I pass, I’ll get a certificate with my name on it and the name of the sponsoring university. That has some cache. If universities figure out to monetize a MOOC, there could be some interesting movement. And what if those Stanford humanities graduates who become high school teachers are able to do so through a MOOC or through a model like the $7K computer science degree through Georgia Tech? Yes, Georgia Tech. Some of the “what if” scenarios are a little dizzying if we take a few minutes to contemplate the impact of that route of alternative certification.

edSurge published some opinion pieces recently about MOOCs. I was at an event at University of Illinois at Chicago recently and the topic of MOOCs came up at lunch. Some professors were skeptical; a couple were intrigued, even enthusiastic to try.

In his piece "How a MOOC could be a faculty's best friend," Dr. Joshua Kim states "The best thing about a MOOC is not what it does for the learners engaged in the course, or the faculty member teaching the class, but what the MOOC does (or should do) for every course on campus." Dr. Kim believes that MOOCs focus on teaching.

Another opinion piece wonders if MOOCs are truly the future of higher education and if they might end up collapsing the professorate. The author of this piece is Cathy N. Davidson, author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. Davidson writes,
In the present mood of high polemic, hyperbolic promise, and hysterical panic, it is almost impossible to sort out the questions, let alone the answers to these questions, on either a national or international level: Is now the time to reject or embrace massive online learning? Do MOOCs yield improved learning and free and open access to those who have been excluded from higher education—or are they yet another cynical attempt to defund the public and extract profits from tax payers and diminish the value of what virtually all universally claim to be the public good of higher education? 
Because Dr. Davidson is a researcher and an educator, she's offering a course in January 2014. As she continues to examine MOOCs and understand them better, she is blogging about her experience and what she is learning. The MOOC experience itself will be, for her, a means of examining that much more closely the pros and cons, the affects and effects of a MOOC. To that end, she'll be teaching an on-site, face-to-face version of the same course. A truly mixed method research approach.

I think there is much ado about MOOCs, and considerably more to learn and know about MOOCs before we start declaring the sky is falling, before we determine if there is or isn't value, before we pass judgment.

I'm going to be one of the thousands who sign up for Dr. Davidson's course in addition to my other MOOC. I want to be part of this grand experiment, be part of the conversation these students and educators have about the MOOC experience and its value.

Educators have been debunking online education since the mid-90s, declaring that its model is spurious and proclaiming the imminent demise. Given the rise of social media and all things digital, I don't think online learning is going anywhere. The longer we do it, the better we get at it. The more we learn about learning and what we need to be teaching and ways that students CAN learn, not just how student do and should learn, the more likely we are to create models and environments of teaching and learning that are, in fact, relevant, meaningful, purposeful. Provided, of course, we are willing to embrace those changes.

No comments:

Post a Comment