M is for Massive

MOOCS – the world at your fingertips? CCO Public Domain

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.

Catropa, D. (2013) Big (MOOC) Data. Inside Higher ED
Retrieved 13 March 16 https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/stratedgy/big-mooc-data

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) 542-556

O is for Open

opensource.com CC BY-SA-2.0

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”

I started to think about the openness of the DelftX: OG101x Open Government MOOC from the start, in Getting started – registering. I was concerned about how ‘free’ it would be in terms of cost – the promotion of the validated (paid version) is very keen. In  Week 1 – MOOC first impressions I started to think about the Creative Commons Licences used in the course and the Terms & Conditions of student contributions within the course.  In week 2 we were asked to contribute to a survey Week 2 – no longer a newbie and this made me think about how ‘open’ the data was that was contributed by course participants. I also thought about the openness of the papers that formed the key readings of this course Week 4 – Exploring the *Master Track*.

Could I reuse this course

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.

Cronin, C. (2016) Keynote presentation: Open Culture, Open Education, Open Questions. OER16: Open Culture 19th & 20th April 2016, University of Edinburgh, UK http://www.slideshare.net/cicronin/open-culture-open-education-open-questions

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.

Lessig, L. (2004) Chapter 10: Property. In Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, (Penguin, New York): pp. 116-173.

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.

Sullivan, J.S. (2011) ‘Free, Open Source Software Advocacy as a Social Justice Movement: The Expansion of F/OSS Movement Discourse in the 21st Century’, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 8(3): pp. 223-39.


I’m thinking about why universities want to run MOOCS?

Image: DelftX: OG10x Open Government  Delft University of Technology  CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Hosting a MOOC is a great way to get people interested a subject to view it from your point of view and to get them to read your research in this area – if you are being cynical could it be considered a tool for promoting a particular set of ideas (even indoctrination?). This course on Open Government has a political agenda as it is encouraging ‘open government’ through ‘open data’ with a more democratic process as a goal. In Janssen, M. Charalabidis, Y. & Zuiderwijk A. (2012) (the second mandatory reading) they say:

“Instead of reinforcing current processes, open data should result in open government in which the government acts as an open system and interacts with its environment”

Two of the authors of this paper teach on the MOOC –  so  it’s also promoting the research of the staff who are teaching on it and research projects they have been involved in (e.g. http://www.engagedata.eu/). It will be raising awareness of the projects and getting more people to read the work and in time may lead to more citations. It may enhance their reputation beyond their own institution. It may raise the profile of the institution that hosts the MOOC perhaps bringing them to the awareness of a new audience. 

ed/DelftTU are also getting interesting data from the participants which also be used to create a large data set of ‘citizen sourced’ data – for example in the week 2 activity where you submit your case study into a collection via a survey form.

de Freitas, Morgan & Gibson. (2015) link MOOCs to the global economic downturn and the related need lifelong learning. They also talk about the timely convergence of technologies that has led to MOOCs  “…online learning opening up ready access to digital media rich content and more recently mobile learning allowing us to change where we learn – anytime and anywhere”.

Salmon et al (2015) suggest the potential of MOOCs for staff development:

“…that MOOC’s provide an easily scalable and effective means of exposing university academics and professional staff to the experience of learning online, to research, collaborate and potentially to change practice on a wide scale”

They suggest that this may be where MOOCs prove a ‘game changer’ in education.

Ng’ambi, D. & Bozalek, V. (2015) say that while higher education institutions are facing global austerity measures and meanwhile being encouraged to increase intake, improve retention and widen participation and that they may:

“…see MOOC’s as one way of addressing these challenges: however the relationships between MOOC’s increasing and widening intake, and improvement of of throughput and graduation rates remains fuzzy”

During her Keynote presentation at the OER16 Open Culture conference, Highton, M. (2016) quotes University of Edinburgh Principle, Professor Sir Tim O’Shea’s response to the question of why does the University of Edinburgh do MOOC:

“for reputation, for fun, to try new ways of teaching, not for money”

So I am starting to see that different institutions may have a variety of reasons for starting to offer 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

Highton, M. (2016) Keynote – Open with care. OER16 Open Culture April 20th 2016

Janssen, M. Charalabidis, Y. & Zuiderwijk A. (2012). Benefits, Adoption Barriers and Myths of Open Data and Open Government. Information Systems Management (ISM),29(4): pp 258-268

Ng’ambi, D. and Bozalek, V. (2015). Editorial: Massive open online courses (MOOCs): Disrupting teaching and learning practices in higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3): pp. 451-454

Salmon, G., Gregory, J. Lokuge Dona, K. and Ross B. (2015). Experiential online development for educators: The example of the Carpe Diem Mopc. British Journal of Educational Technology. 46 (3): pp. 542-556