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MOOCs - a 2012 perspective!

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Our first activity in H819 was to read and comment on this article from 2012.

2012 wasn't that long ago but this article reads just like the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony - hopeful, idealistic, inclusive and, with the benefit of hindsight, shown to be a little bit naive.

I have yet to see the 'it' which the traditional model of face to face (or, at a push, paid for online) courses provide which cannot be replicated by MOOCs or their equivalent articulated; but 'it' clearly is a thing! The lecturer defensively says 'you can't put what we do online' without really explaining why, the former student nostalgically reminisces about learning to use a washing machine and joining a society and, whilst acknowledging this can be done for free, clearly doesn't want those rites of passage to end.

Again and again in MAODE I have had to contend with the fact that to many educators, teachers and practitioners - learning is a scared and beautiful aim and need not lead to any aim other than learning. Learners may, sometimes, agree - indeed some of those quoted in the article are on these MOOCs for the love of the subject. However - for many learners their education is very much a means to an end - and not just the end of knowing stuff, acquiring skills and understanding concepts - the end they're after is the certificate. There are even learners who will, if possible, circumnavigate the learning if they can still get the certificate!

I think the primary M and the O of the MOOC present separate problems. Whilst the article is at pains to stress how interactive and 'community based' the MOOC she went on the idea of a mass - hundreds of thousands of students -  on one course must mean a dilution of group identity and opportunities for group cohesion - and therefore those avenues of learning (significant) are much narrower. The O - open - is a laudable aim. But the pragmatist will ask 'but who is paying?' and 'how can something free have value?'. Even if people are willing to give up their time and skills for free (and they may not wish to do this in the long term) there are costs associated with any kind of endeavour like this which must be met by someone.

OCs (without the MO!) may well lead to a significant contraction of universities as we have known them. The online model can replicate many aspects of traditional university learning and the technological capabilities afforded by the internet can actually improve on some others. Costs can be lower and reach much further. Both good outcomes.

However - many universities measure their history in centuries and they have survived through various social, political and economic upheaval. I wouldn't bet against them!



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