Thursday, 4 April 2013

xMOOCs, cMOOCs and what I might get from #octel

MOOC is a popular word buzzing around universities at the moment, and some people are talking about Udacity, Coursera, FutureLearn like they are going to be the be all and end all for higher education. Much of the content for these platforms is video, and there has been some notable one-off successes in terms of class size and retention rates, mainly in the states, backed up with venture capital.

Just to stop here:

the reduction of education to video clips of content concerns me as it seems like stage 1 in justifying the status quo of further elitism in the current system. "Let them eat cake..." or something like that... ('watch it on catchup')

There doesn't appear to be a lot of new pedagogy, for all the fuss, and the lack of a human teacher to help us understand or curate these 'assets' places more value on the 'asset' itself, which may or may not be good, discoverable, understandable, copyrightable, formatted etc.

So, we have these 'clips/ assets' interweaved with discussion forums, which for a long time has been the mainstay of distance teaching, or informal education. So again nothing new here.

So far.

Going back a little. The video heavy/ 'traditional model' MOOC (xMOOCs) have had the first say (Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity), made the first splash, but we must remember the story is at the beginning. I declared my concern above, not to condemn MOOCs totally as a conspiracy to increase HE elitism, but to make clear that arguments need to be made carefully, lest we drift in this direction.

What of all the discussion though? I have already declared my cynicism that 'there is something new' in the pedagogy of MOOCs, and 'normal' people have been learning skills online (autonomously driven, socially supported) through forums and communities since the 90's. The MOOC in this respect is a 'wrapper' around the informal conversations that were happening anyway, and this is where the ocTEL platform comes in. As an aggregator of hashtags across the web, uniting the monolithic communities that have supported each other for nearly a decade, and all out of a WP installation. Now that seems more like something new.

So this is what I hope to get out of ocTEL. More understanding of what the 'discussion' part of MOOC has to offer (cMOOC) and how the content and discussions are best archived and curated for my future reference.

And with some luck and a bit of magic, this will appear on the ocTEL website now!! :-)