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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Are you participating in MOOC or a Massive Online Course acting as a MOOC

The Background

It started with this tweet:
  MOOC-the M in Massive should be viewed as an aspiration and uncontested, If not truly Open, then it is not a MOOC.
in conversation I quickly followed up with this tweet:
  If it's not truly Open, its a MOC, and further more it is making a MOCERY of MOOCS :-)
I have been encouraged to explain my thinking a bit further by Vanessa Vaile, an online friend and valued member of my personal learning network, so In relation to the tweets and the blog post title here we go.

Brigham Young University faculty survey seeks to advance open education through academic libraries
Image Courtesy of opensourceway under the CC 2.0 SA licence

Some More Background

To be absolutely accurate it started with me perusing the Academia and the Mooc MOOC discussion board (Running from the online learning platform, Canvas) and observing a discussion around "is MOOC the right name to explain what you are participating in when involved in a MOOC". At the same time i was reading the JISC CETIS document on "MOOCs and Open Education: Implications for Higher Education" (pages 4-5) which explains the origins and subsequent labelling of recent online course initiatives.
"Following on from the development of Open Education Resources and the Open Education movement (Yuan, et al., 2008), the term Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) was first introduced in 2008 by Dave Cormier to describe Siemens and Downes’ “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” course. 
This online course was initially designed for a group of twenty-five enrolled, fee paying students to study for credit and at the same time was opened up to registered only learners worldwide.  As a result, over 2,300 people participated in the course without paying fees or gaining credit (Wikipedia, 2012).
In 2011, Sebastian Thrun and his colleagues at Stanford opened access to the course they were teaching at the university, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”, and attracted 160,000 learners in more than 190 countries (Wikipedia, 2012).  
Since then, MOOCs have become a label for many recent online course initiatives from institutions, individuals and commercial organisations."
In this same document (page 6) the following paragraph grabbed my intention:
"The original aim of MOOCs was to open up education and provide free access to university level education for as many students as possible.  In contrast to traditional university online courses, MOOCs have two key features (Wikipedia, 2012):
1.    Open access - anyone can participate in an online course for free
2.    Scalability - courses are designed to support an indefinite number of participants
However, these features may be interpreted differently by different MOOC providers; some MOOCs are massive but not open and some are open but not massive."
Some even More background

Those that know me will know that I am a strong advocate of connectivist learning. I believe that participation in cMOOCs is a fantastic opportunity to not only learn but to also build and enhance a lifelong personal learning network for ongoing future connectivist learning.

I think we can all agree however that is more than one way of learning. I fully appreciate the need for different learning approaches for different people, situations, and levels of development including transmission mode teaching and learning. xMOOCs are often characterized as transmission mode style of learning and there is no doubt that thousands of learners have benefited from participating in these courses just as have thousands benefitted from leraning in cMOOCs. The exercise played out on this blog post is purely a discussion of the terminology related to MOOCs and by extension the relevance and significance in relation to "cMOOCs" and "xMOOCs".

The Nub of it

The Nub of this post simply started with a deeper look at the language that describes a genuine MOOC. Looking at the The JISC CETIS paragraph citing the original aim and then especially the phrase some MOOCs are massive but not open and some are open but not massive." I came to these conclusions.

Massive - It is an aspiration and therefore it can be legitimately used by anyone describing their course.
Open -     if it's not truly Open, its a MOC and i am afraid not really a MOOC. More on 'Open' below. 
Online -   This is self evident
Course -  I take the 'Course' description to give participants a sense of time, to engender some urgency, to indicate some purpose. Other suggested options mused in the canvas discussion 'defining and redefining MOOC' include classrooms, conversations and communications. These for me do not conjure up the same sense of urgency and purpose.

Being Open- Conclusion

In the JISC CETIS quote above it states that Open access means "anyone can participate in an online course for free", but in the true spirit of the original MOOCs this extended explanation from Dave Cormier gives a more complete explanation of what open actually means.
"Open in the sense that all of the work gets done in areas that make the work accessible for people to read and reflect and make comment on.

The course is open in the sense that you can go ahead and take the course without paying for it
you might pay for getting credit from the institution, but you are not paying for participating in the course.

It's also open in the sense that the work done in the course is shared between all the people taking it. The material put together by the facilitators, the work done by the participants it's all negotiated in the open. You get to keep your work and everyone else gets to learn from it."
An important element for me is keeping your work and it's not that you are just keeping it, but the effort in producing your own work in your own space is good for you as a learner - A place where you can easily retrieve your learning to be referred to and passed on easily again and again when required either directly by yourself or randomly because your work is out there to be shared long after the 'course' has gone.

So after mulling over the language and the terminology associated with the Term MOOC, it dawned on me that if the course is not truly open then it is not a MOOC which it could be argued that some xMOOC offerings may come into this category and in affect they are in fact just a MOC, a Massive Online Course, which chimed in nicely with a blog post by@whitneykilgore xMOOC or New Publishing Paradigm? So
 if not a MOOC or a MOC maybe a new publishing paradigm!

When you look more closely at the words and the meaning and the original aim of a MOOC you logically come to the conclusion that cMoocs by their nature are true MOOCs.

See More From Dave Cormier below in "What is a Mooc"

See also George Siemens' interview on MOOCs and Open Education

See also Welcome to the Brave New World of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)

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