This is the first of a series of four closing posts in which I draw together the threads of my experience as a MOOC participant and my reading and thinking as a DEGC student.
The M in MOOC is for Massive. This refers to the scale of participation – MOOCs attract large numbers of registrations, though this does not always translate into completions. Catropa 2013 gives an interesting example with the breakdown of figures from one course:
In the course Bioelectricity, Fall 2012 at Duke University, 12,725 students enrolled, but only 7,761 ever watched a video, 3,658 attempted a quiz, 345 attempted the final exam, and 313 passed, earning a certificate.
12,725 with 313 passing students is a 2.46% completion rate -this is very low for a conventional course but 313 still seems a high completion rate for an optional course.
The course I studied did not feel that ‘massive’ as a participant – I comment on this in Week 2 – no longer a newbie. I was surprised in the Feedback video on assignment 1 to discover there were 3500 participants. An email I received, 4 days before the course ended (it was actually extended a week) offered:
Special congratulations to the 149 learners who have already met the requirements to earn a certificate
So of 3500 registered students, 149 passing students gives a 4.26% completion rate.
MOOCs are generally thought of as having a global audience, but there can also be a local cohort aspect. Salmon et al (2015) had not anticipated institutional collaboration as part of their Carpe Diem MOOC outcomes, but they found that at the host institution, Swinburne University of Technology, 101 staff members took part creating a ‘buzz’ across the institution. They also found that groups from other institutions were taking part as a professional development exercise. This would be an interesting option to consider in my own workplace.
Massive can also be thought of in terms of distance – MOOCs can be accessed across the world and I reflected on this in the post Where in the world?. I also thought about the institution I was studying with in Where am I studying?. I reflected on working with students in a global cohort in Week 1 activities and assignments, when I realised that the national project I’d chosen for my case study submission was probably not that interesting to the global cohort. Now you can go and ‘try’ courses from Universities all over the world including many very prestigious Institutions. Would taking part in a MOOC give me an insight into their offerings? How ‘typical’ would a MOOC be compared to on-campus teaching? It’s an opportunity to experience different cultures without travelling or is it just homogenizing education? I consider this more in O is also for Online.
The first O in MOOC is for Open and in this post I’ll be looking at what this ‘openness’ means and relating it back to my MOOC experience.
Open is a simple term with different meanings in different contexts and this can cause confusion. Cronin (2015) gave a very good overview of this in her keynote presentation for the OER16 Conference – for example open can mean free, as in without charge, or open as in available to all but with charges (e.g. open admission – courses in the Open University). Cronin points out that ‘open’ is a term used in relation to resources, practices and values. Open software gives access to source code, it’s open in the sense of being available to everyone to see and modify. ‘Free’ is also used in relation to Open Source Software is but can be assumed to mean non-commercial as Sullivan (2011) explains, citing Stallman:
…”free” simply meant free as in free speech, not as in “free beer”
Openness also refers to the ability to remix and build on others’ work. Lessig (2004) considers openness in the changing context of modern copyright law explaining that:
“…copyright power has grown dramatically in a short period of time, as technologies of distribution and creation have changed and as lobbyists have pushed for more control by copyright holders”
The DelftX: OG101x Open Government course is a licenced under (CC-BY-NC-SA) 4.0 so could be considered an Open Educational Resource (OER) – an important aspect of open education is the ability to reuse and re-purpose content. I began to question – what will I be able to access after the course is complete? I now know that I can still access an archived version: https://www.edx.org/course/open-government-delftx-og101x but I’m not sure how long will I have access for?
The course videos are in YouTube but they are not easy to find (they are unlisted) – I could only find them from the course. Also when viewed in YouTube you no longer have access to the transcript or slides which are in edX. The video is listed as having a Standard YouTube License which is somewhat confusing as the whole course sites under a CC-BY-NC-SA licence and this could have been applied in YouTube. So in theory I could collect the links and reuse them in my own teaching because there is a licence on the whole course that says CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 though if you take the videos from YouTube directly this is not clear.
How ‘open’ are completed MOOCs?
In my reading I keep hearing mention of influential MOOCs that have run. I’m interested to see if any of these are now available?
I’d like to be able to see CCK08 Connectivism and Connective Knowledge (the first cMOOC), I go searching and I can find parts of this still available.
I’m interested to see Introduction to Artificial Intelligence by Sebastian Thrun and Pater Norvig in 2011 (the first xMOOC).
I’m also interested in the University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. Actually I’ve just gone to Coursera to look at this, I thought you could only register interest for future sessions – but it turns out you can go on register for a previous course, so I can see this as an ‘archived’ course.
Salmon et al (2015) have tried to address this in relation to the Carpe Diem MOOC and state in their paper that the course videos have been uploaded to Swinburne Commons and YouTube. Yet, two years after the MOOC ran I can’t find any of these on YouTube, they are on the Swinburne Commons site but you have to search for them. However, when you find them they are licenced for reuse as CC BY-NC-SA 3.0. So what I can access now are just a few fragments of a course.
What do MOOC providers regard as open?
de Freitas, Morgan & Gibson (2015) talking about Open2Study courses say:
“The courses are only partially ‘open’ both in the sense that the course materials have a restrictive copyright and that they are not freely accessible, rather a prospective student must sign up to the course and await a start date”.
This is a very different definition of ‘open’ from ‘open source’ where you would expect access to the entire source code for a program. It’s more like an open door that can easily be shut again.
de Freitas, S., Morgan, J. and Gibson, D. (2015) Will MOOCs transform learning and teaching in higher education? Engagement and course retention in online learning provision. British Journal of Educational Technology. 46(3): pp. 455-471.
Salmon, G., Gregory, J., Lokuge Dona, K. and Ross B. (2015) Experiential online development for educators: The example of the Carpe Diem Mooc. British Journal of Educational Technology. 46 (3) : pp. 542-556.
The second O in MOOC is for Online and in this post I’ll be examining the ‘online’ aspect of digital education and some of the standards for this that make it possible.
Liss, J. (2013) in his paper points out that “the Internet revolution occurred because of the development of a standardized computing platform” (such as TCP/IP) and goes on to look at the development of “Standardized Education Platforms” which allow for interoperability. Liss is optimistic about the self regulatory power of systems and cites Schumpter’s (2008) concept of ‘creative destruction’ as a metaphor for this. He gives examples including technical standard such as SCORM and ISO/IEC 12785 as well as academic standards such as the Common Core State Standards Initiative in the US. He goes on to say that “It could be argued that a MOOC itself is a standardized platform allowing thousands or hundreds of thousands of students to take a course”. This may be true for edX which runs on an open source platform which multiple sites are using. According to the post by Leith (2014) another big MOOC provider Coursera is also moving in the same open direction but is not far along. While this article in the main offers a techno optimistic viewpoint, Liss cites Lawson (2000) and is concerned that “the forces of globalization will cause knowledge systems to conform to the point where they may become homogenized around one philosophy of education”. He later cites Dryzek (1996) “globalization spreads an insidious form of economic rationality” and is concerned about a move towards individualism and away from collective responsibility.
Clegg S., Hudson, A. and Steel, J. (2003) counter the techno optimists – they are concerned that the globalisation effects of ICT on education are a myth that is in fact being driven by policy rather than vice versa:
“Within education the passive acceptance of globalisation paradigms engenders a deterministic view about the role and function of technology as a phenomena with its own independent trajectory”.
They question the idea that globalisation has “rendered the nation state and its components impotent”. This also links back to the work of Cohen (2007) who was looking at the case made by some that cyberspace could be consider outside of geographical space and hence the law did not apply here. This acceptance of globalisation as inevitable maybe prevent people addressing and maintaining the interests of national identity and community. Clegg S., Hudson, A. and Steel, J. (2003) warn against the “Hype Cycle” (which suggests that early expectations may be over inflated) and cite two examples where this applies to education (Sinko, 2001, Hudson, 2001). Clegg S., Hudson, A. and Steel, J. (2003) conclude their argument against the “simple link from globalization through technology to pedagogy and a skilled workforce” by describing it as deterministic. They later say “It presents only one model of what it means to learn; that is to become an individually more competitive item of human capital” – expressing similar concerns to Liss, J. (2013). I’m not sure that the authors of either of these papers would approve of the MOOC phenomenon, with its focus on individual effort and the authority of ‘prestigious’ Universities.
Whilst studying on the DelftX: OG101x Open Government MOOC, I started to think about why this was being taught in English. It appears English has become the de facto standard language for teaching in distance education. Hansson, H., and van de Bunt-Kokhuis, S. (2004) explore this and look at the effects of English becoming the “lingua franca of modern times” giving examples such as Sweden where the accents on vowels are being dropped as these can’t be used in email addresses or URLs, but which can render company names meaningless. They are concerned about the effect this may have on cultural diversity as ‘language is linked to culture and vice versa” and also about disadvantages for speakers of other languages:
“What if English is the most predominant language in e-learning? For students there are clear disadvantages in learning in a language other than English if you collaborate with native English speakers”.
Marginson, S. (2004) also considers English as the language of teaching within the context of cross-border education, but regards this as advantageous rather than problematic:
“because of the advantages it confers: for Asia-Pacific students a higher education in an English-speaking nation has status not just because of the academic qualities but also the career benefits derived from learning to live and communicate in an English-speaking setting”.
Hansson, H., and S. van de Bunt-Kokhuis (2004) also note the rise of the use of images as part of communication: “Hundreds of years ago, society was picture-poor. In schools only a handful of illustrations were available, depicting the world outside”. Provided you have enough bandwidth or data allowance the modern Internet does allow for easy access to images and multimedia content.
The C in MOOC is for Course. From this point of view the DelftX: OG101x Open Government course is very familiar – as a learning technologist I’ve been involved in developing similar online courses for many years. It contained familiar elements, it was a time bounded event, open to a registered cohort of students. The EdX platform is not dissimilar to other VLE platforms (such as Blackboard Learn or MOODLE). As I noted at the start it contained a surprising amount of assessed activity Week 1 – MOOC first impressions. Feedback was provided – both from staff Feedback video on assignment 1 and peers Week 3 – Peer review activity. In fact I began to wonder if the emphasis on assessment was changing my approach to the course, Seeking out the marks….
At this point I began to think about where the term MOOC came from? MOOCguide lists two individuals, Bryan Alexander and Dave Cormier, using the term in 2008 – so it’s a very recent one. Dave Cormier says he and colleagues came up with the term when they developed a course CCK08 ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge’ which was a fully open course that could be followed online for free (there was also a paid, certified option capped at 25 students) – the first MOOC. Downes, S. (2008) describes this course, which was ‘explicitly designed according to the principles of connectivism’. It was a 12-week ‘distributed’ course with 2200 participants and activities in different spaces: Moodle, course blog, wiki, weekly conference call. Students were also encouraged to write about the course in other public spaces (such as blogs or Twitter) and tag it with cck08 so it could be found – so it was decentralised. In this video Dave Cormier, who coined the term MOOC, describes his vision of a MOOC.
“A MOOC is a course, it’s open, it’s participatory, distributed and it supports life-long networked learning.”
“It’s an event around which people who care about a topic can get together and work and talk about it in a structured way.”
“Participants are not asked to complete specific assignments”
The CCK08 MOOC sounds different from the MOOC course I just experienced? Was the MOOC I studied typical? It wasn’t distributed – I couldn’t find any related activity on Twitter for example, and everything took place within the edX platform. As I noted in my reflections Week 1 – MOOC first impressions it had quite a focus on specific assignments.
de Freitas, Morgan and Gibson (2015) explain that the CCK08 ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge’ would be called cMOOC – the “c” representing their connectivist heritage. They say that the Stanford University variety known as xMOOC has created more international media attention: “In particular, the course Introduction to Artificial Intelligence by Sebastian Thrun and Pater Norvig in 2011″. The xMOOC is a more standard web course (the x may stand for expert), within a learning management system that includes lecturers and assignments. This sounds much more like the MOOC I have just taken part in. The diagram below which was cited in de Freitas, Morgan and Gibson (2015) gives a helpful overview.
I’ve now I’ve done one MOOC (an xMOOC example) but is this enough experience to base any kind of observation on? Should I now go and look at courses on different platforms such as Coursera, FutureLearn, or any of the several providers listed in wikipedia. Should I seek out a cMOOC to understand the difference between this and an xMOOC? I could try MOOCs from different providers and locations to see what the differences in approach are?
MOOC’s are the most recent development in the long history of education and I’d like to take a small diversion to look at what came before. Sumner, J. (2000) gives an overview history of digital education from a Habermasian perspective, exploring how distance education relates to the two world views, “lifeworld” and “system”:
“lifeworld reproduces the culture, social integration and processes of socialisation necessary for the continuation of society”
“system….economy, coded as money, and the state administrative system, coded as power” p. 269
Sumner suggests that “…many of those involved in distance education have consciously or unconsciously served the system” and calls for distance educators to “stand up for the lifeworld against the system par exellence – corporate globalization”. She states that distance education that supports the ‘system’ isolates the distance learner and promotes professionalism, individualisation and personalising trends and gives several examples of early distance education approaches which she says support the system. These are similar concerns to those expressed by Clegg, S., A. Hudson & J. Steel (2003) and Liss, J. (2013) discussed in the post O is also for Online. Sumner hopes that technology (she has high hopes for computer conferencing) will offer alternatives that promote the lifeworld through its support for social learning:
” This interactivity, which can lay the foundation for the creation of the public space that enables communicative action, separates education from indoctrination” p. 272
Sumner, J. (2000) wrote this paper 8 years before the first MOOC happened, in it she made the following prediction:
“In this information age, distance education will diverge along these two pathways: the one retaining the system-serving approach to education that values high volume delivery over interactive learning processes, the other exploring the possibilities for building and sustaining the lifeworld that values social learning over corporate profits for private stockholders.” p 281
This appears to predict the dichotomy between cMOOC and xMOOC offerings. However, the recent appearance of social media does mean that a social aspect can easily grow around the driest/ least interactive of learning activities.
A paper by Marginson, S. in 2004 reviews what he terms as the “failure of English language global e-learning” and he cites failed projects, including UK e-University, Universitas 21/Universitas 21 Global and Cardean University (I worked for a company called Interactive University (IU) from 2002 to 2005 so remember the optimism of this time). However, despite this first wave of global education failures, many Institutions are now experimenting with MOOCs as a way to offer global education. I consider their motivations in the post: I’m thinking about why universities want to run MOOCS?
de Freitas, S., Morgan, J. and Gibson, D. (2015). Will MOOCs transform learning and teaching in higher education? Engagement and course retention in online learning provision. British Journal of Educational Technology. 46(3): pp. 455-471