#mooctober – end the madness

mooctober 2012

Every blog post I read, every tweeted link I see, every breathless gushing article about “tsunamis” and “disruption” I flick past is a nail in the coffin of rational and realistic debate about the way connected technology can support learning. Every sturm und drang keynote – every hyped-up sharp-suited Silicon Valley sales pitch takes us further and further away from the idea of people talking to each other, making stuff, and learning as they go.

And now, this October, it is time to take a stand. I am pledging to refrain from discussing, speculating and analysing the trend for the remainder of this month. On my blog, on twitter, in conversation. It is no longer anything to do with those who are interested in education and technology. It is a monster, and I refuse to be a part of the forces that are feeding it.

If you agree – join me. Celebrate #mooctober by writing about everything else in the education, technology, funding and policy world that catches your  eye. But ignoring this one, glaringly overdone and over-hyped topic.

#MOOCtober 2012. End the madness.

(ps: #ds106isNotaMOOC – likewise #phonar )



16 thoughts on “#mooctober – end the madness”

  1. Trying to write a – long – post about my experience with a MOOC, namely the Coursera #gamification12 one which several people you know were on. Kinda left with a bad taste in the mouth about it, even though it filled (in an inefficient way) some gaps in my knowledge, and perhaps oddly gave more reasoning and persuasive ammunition of where not to use gamification.

    In summary, lots of things went technically wrong with it, so several of the assignments had deadline extensions. The course forums were of often appalling quality, made much worse by a lack of moderation, identity checking and people being able to post anonymously. The content quality was variable. The peer review … words fail me at the moment (and just because someone can sign up to a free course does not make them a peer). I didn’t cheat but the system was designed so it was easy to either cheat, or pass doing a very minimum of effort. I have not yet watched the final two sets of videos out of the twelve sets, but still scored 96.4% overall.

    It was free – this year. I got some stuff out of it. They got some data, and some guinea pig testing of their system out of me. I’m left getting regular spam from the course director, trying to flog us his book (can’t turn this spam off, as our certificate will be emailed to us “in a few weeks”). In summary, it’s a significant way from being something that people would reasonably pay money to do. And at some point, as people on the forum collectively forgot, the venture capitalists behind Coursera will want a return, a profit, on their 16 million dollar investment…

    I don’t think I’m going to do another free one, not when it’s so alpha (and that’s meant not in a testosterone man-leader way, but in a not-even-stable-enough-to-be-beta-software way).

    Also; the sense of achievement at the end. Nil. Not a bit. I’ve been nihilistically educated; my choice, I guess.

    End of mini-rant. Much longer post (Working title: “If this is the ‘future of education’ I’ll have my Victorian classroom, slate and chalk back, please”) soon.

  2. I am aware that I’ve completely done the opposite of what you said in your post 🙂 and fully expect my comment to get deleted. So be it; it’s just random, angry, bits in the ether. A detoxifying month-of-no-MOOC seems like a pretty damned good idea, on reflection.

  3. I see a lot of parallels to the emergence of open source software projects. During the 80’s there was very little traction in “the real world” of business or academia. Indeed, the longevity and quality were severely contested by business leaders and “professional” software vendors.

    Now – not so much.

    Most business and “professional” companies in those early days failed to grasp was the power of the model, and they could not fathom how a free product could be a sustainable one. For example, from a quality perspective, they did not appreciate that any change is probably viewed by hundreds of eyes before being accepted, not to mention having to survive a strict testing regime before being promoted to a release. The controls on ones ability to make changes (and the revoking of those rights) is harsh, fast, and unequivocal. No “professional” institution would come close to having such stringent processes and controls as most open source projects (except possibly for this company.).

    So I think we should not be so quick to write off MOOC as a fad, or as being over-hyped, or lacking in quality. This is academia’s “open source revolution”. It could very well be that the relevance of the traditional credential is going to be severely challenged in the near future. I’m pretty sure the winds of change or inevitable. Traditional institutions will bend or break. But they will not likely be able to survive for long in a dismissive state of status quo.

    1. Yeah – good point. I kind of feel like (much like with open source) that it is the overweening hype that puts me off. These courses can be good things- they get people learning and connecting and what is not to love about that? But they are unlikely to destroy traditional HE as open source is to destroy commercial software. It’s just a new tool is all. Maybe the best tool in some situations. We shall see.

  4. The rants of the quasi religious copyleft crowd can be annoying, but it would be unfair to paint all FOSS with the GNU brush. While GNU may have lead the way, a lot of newer, more “business friendly” licensing models have emerged (Apache and BSD to name a few).

    Regardless, do you honestly feel any of the FOSS claims are more overweening that what we see from from Microsoft or
    Apple. Different sure, but none the less arrogant. They have indeed perfected the fine are of engineered obsolescence and are laughing in the faces of their adoring public.

    The measure of success (or not) of FOSS is not whether or not it failed to destroy commercial software. But it’s impact has been unarguably gargantuan.

    MOOCs do not need to destroy HE to have an equally gargantuan impact. It is more than just a tool. It is a value system, and philosophy and approach that will impact on HE. At least the part of HE that continues to be around by rising to the challenge and changing.


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