Repost: 8 Things about MOOCs—

While we work to share blog posts written by members of the community more regularly, we write or repost our own work as facilitators. Here's a "reprint" of a post just written by Shyam Sharma on his blog, poking fun at mainstream discourse of xMOOCs for continuing to overlook complexities due to variations in MOOC types, learners, contexts, and so on.

= = =  8 Things about MOOCs—= = =
While reading this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, I thought about a similar number of things about MOOCs that many people in the media and the mainstream MOOCosphere seem either unable or unwilling to learn:

1. There is no such thing as MOOC, only many types of MOOCs, with many kinds of them making the original acronym sound very funny.

2. If “nearly half of registrants never engage with any of the content,” then it’s time to stop touting the “total number” of people who click on the “sign up” button.

3. If people signing up for multiple courses are most active, but even those lose interest after taking the sixth course, then there is probably something about online and massive courses that has failed to bring about magic solutions to the “crisis” in education.

4. Because the word “student” (especially in phrases like “students with a PhD”) sounds like saying “butterflies crawling on the ground,” it should be retired from being the default term in the world of online learning/teaching.

5. If MOOCs attract students who already have college degrees, are 24 or 40 years old, then we should probably tell Coursera and EdEx to “open your mouths, hahaha.” General education for the general mass may need to be “disrupted” in a different way. Leave it to those who’ve been working on it for centuries, Johnny! The harder you sell the snake oil of xMOOCs for general education, the more harm you might do to others’ children.

6. If one-third of MOOC (xMOOCs, that is) participants are from North-America, if “Africans enroll at twice the rate in social science courses than other courses,” if “South Asians are most likely to take engineering and computer science courses,” and if just over 10% of Chinese and Japanese participants even view courses in the humanities, then maybe there is something really important about CONTEXT, including language, culture, and local education system and practices that needs researchers’ attention.

7. That said, at some point, people must realize that some issues don’t lend themselves very well to “research” questions–especially to wrongheaded questions like these: “What are the motivations and goals of registrants? What kinds of content engage students the most?” What the hell will you do even if you find out all the motivations–because you’re still talking about “content” and not education?  

8. Overall, if the majority of xMOOC participants are male, from a limited number of and privileged places, with high level of prior education, etc, then the computer scientists who seem to never look at education as a social cause should be told to shut up and start reading some literature on education as such.

Would love to hear what you think about the one-track-minded discourse that still dominates the MOOCosphere.

2 thoughts on “Repost: 8 Things about MOOCs—

  1. Now that they’ve “opened their mouth,” I’m sure they’ll “start reading some literature on education.” Very well said!

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