George Siemens has a nice set of slides up on MOOC as a new educative practice which do a very good job of capturing the differences between MOOC and the free online courses now offered by the likes of Coursera (the new home of the Stanford free online courses, plus some from other partner universities), Udacity and MITx. Where that latter are offering free online access to a very traditional form of education (based on lectures and learning a set content syllabus), MOOC are quite different. As George states in the introduction to each of his MOOC courses:
“the learning in the course results from the activities you undertake, and will be different for each person”
MOOC use a far more distributed model of learning and interaction, where most of the content is itself generated by the students as they share their learning.
Outside of education, I would say that the closest thing we have to MOOCs are probably Alternate Reality Games – which have been posited as a form of Collective Intelligence. Some (not all) MMO games also require very large scale collaboration (Eve Online is the one that springs to mind).
I was talking about Massively Collaborative systems in my Collaborative Virtual Environments class this week, and seeing this link between MOOC and ARG, I appended some of George’s slides (properly acknowledged of course) to the existing slides on ARG as collective intelligence (Why I love bees: ARG and Collective Intelligence, and below).
I would also say that while I totally agree with George on the key differences between MOOC and the other offerings, and that MOOC are more interesting to think about because they are a genuine attempt to do something different in a different way, I should say that I don’t feel that MOOC threaten the role of teaching universities nearly as much as the likes of Udacity.
A worrying piece in the THES on the impending cuts facing universities as part of the UK’s comprehensive spending review and Browne report. An eye-watering 82% cut to state funding for university teaching is heading our way (For a Scottish university, the actual cuts may be different… but it be a while before we find out specifics. I wouldn’t rule out something equally awful).
The comments in the THES run the usual gamut… with a number of folk with teary eyes remembering the glory days when only the nations elite went to university, and eagerly anticipating the closure of a large number of universities. (Such folk generally see a single factor as the basis upon which to decide which universities should be closed down – the date at which the institution became a university. Anything after 1991 or perhaps anything after 1960…). But wade through the usual trolling, sniping, and predictable arguments and you get the odd gem such as…
Back to basics 15 October, 2010
There is a simple solution here. Remove all IT support, computers, administrative staff, powerpoint, email and buildings. Instead, run all classes uses chalk and blackboard from the upstairs rooms of pubs, and move from region to region as a university, to areas which support universities and their students best – ie, return to the 13th century approach of university management.
Perhaps it’s time for ‘Free Universities’ following the ‘Free Schools’ model?
Augment the blackboard with a laptop, a cheap projector and mi-fi to provide internet access for students (who’ll have their own laptops, phones or tablets of course). Rather than rewind the clock back to the 1950′s, why not go the whole hog – lets go back to the 13th Century model, but augment it with modern communications. All that’s left is tutors and their personal reputations, and students and their personal choice of classes. Indeed, this might be the perfect complement to online Open Education.