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Often we treat MOOCs as a single model of education, and praise or criticize it accordingly. However, it is important to keep in mind that “Massively Open Online” only explicitly refers to the course’s setting (Online) and reach (Massively Open), and not its teaching pedagogy, nor the multitudes of ways that it leverages technology or fails to do so. Hence, saying a class is a MOOC is about as informative as saying a class is held in a classroom with 30 chairs.
I believe that two main points constrict the discourse on MOOCs.
A MOOC is primarily a platform. Creating a educational platform and providing content to fill that platform does not solve the problem of education! It can make educating students easier, but the need for good teaching practices never goes away.
…online instruction are vehicles for transporting instruction. They are not teaching methods. By teaching methods, I mean practices such as asking questions, giving examples, lecture, recitation, guided discussion, drill, cooperative learning, individualized instruction, simulations, tutoring, project-based learning, and innumerable variations and combinations of pedagogies. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/24/the-great-divide-over-MOOCs/
Because a MOOC can encompass many different types of courses (it is a suitcase word), we realize the following:
In this post, I’ll give a classification of MOOCs. By understanding the types of MOOCs and hence the different directions we can go with MOOCs, we’ll broaden our conception of how to use technology to deal with problems that I talked about in the last post (lack of personalized instruction, lack of discussions and interaction, not being geared towards disadvantaged learners, and so forth). In particular, the most popular MOOCs (edX, Udacity, Coursera) are mostly what are called “xMOOCs,” so the discourse (praise and criticism) has been accordingly skewed.
There are two kinds of MOOCs:
(Of course, like all dichotomies, this should be more of a continuum, though courses so far have roughly organized themselves into these two categories.)
Justin Reich summarizes MOOCs with this picture (see his blog):
Connectivists aggregate, remix, repurpose, and feed forward material. As Stephen Downes writes, the content is a MacGuffin, the thing that brings people together so that the real learning can happen through dialogue, interaction, and exploration. One concern is how assessments would work in cMOOCs. Downes write that we could use big data (the full profile of a student’s interactions) and network clustering.
Here are some links to learn more about cMOOCs:
We are at an especially critical point in developing educational technology because what we develop now will be the model for the future. Mainstream MOOCs need to absorb better pedagogy and explore ways to implement connectivism.
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