LJ – MOOCs all in one blog Week 10

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MOOCs made a big splash when they first appeared on the scene about 10 years ago. They were thought to be the answer to democratising education, especially in the developing world where there are not enough teachers, schools/universities, not to mention doctors.

As I write this entry, we are in lockdown due to Covid19 and the world has gone on hold and online learning and remote teaching are on all educators minds in a big way. It has had me very busy at work so and I am catching up on Week 10 content in one big blog.

I started off with a Good Practice podcast interview with Hannah Gore, who did her masters at Open University, on MOOCs.


The hosts have a light and informal manner while they chat with their guests that I find engaging. They joke around while dishing up practical suggestions and experience from their own work.

Points in made:

  • Hannah reported (and I am paraphrasing here) that many people dip into a MOOCs like we watch Nigella cook Naked Salmon. It is entertainment, we may never make it but enjoy the idea of it knowing about it.
  • Hannah also mentioned how importing “Step Titling” is in your topic headings e.g. instead of ‘Introduction to Diplomacy’, use ‘What is Diplomacy?’  Her research of 1500 MOOCs revealed the most successful ones formed each one as a question to hook people which she likened to social media ‘clickbait’. Very interesting… She proposed we are hardwired for engaging this way.

MOOCs and Open with Martin Weller 2012

I have paraphrased the highpoints

Martin recorded an informal and unscripted video chat with George Siemens, who is credited for developing the new learning theory called Connectivism, and Dave Cormier who is credited for inventing the name MOOC around 2010. (Dave quickly acknowledged iterations were around since the late 1990s).  Being from the USA, it was a nice experience to hear the voices of two Canadians who are very into open education.

Dave Cromier introduces us to the MOOC – (thanks Rebecca for the video).


One of Dave’s more salient comments was how much better he is with open practice. When he comes to a project with a conclusion all the participants focus on it and not on what else is possible. Transparency is a window into decision making and a process for ‘sharing half baked’ ideas and has more potential for surprise.

George praised large universities like MIT, Harvard and Stanford for dishing out loads of their content much of the developing world can use to improve their lives in a real way. Still, he was concerned regarding the ‘knowledge colonisation’ in that is it primarily represented by a western point of view and elite. This was also mentioned in our class discussion by some of my classmates and I found it very insightful and had not thought of the larger picture.

Veletsianos and Shepherdson (2016) confirm this concern. Their research study of MOOC literature found half of their sample were from the USA. 80% included the USA, Canada, Europe 27%, Australia 7.7% and China 5.4%. It provides an in-depth review of MOOC literature and sets out a really good summary of how to produce such research. Veletsianos and Shepherdson (2016), A Systematic Analysis and Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013–2015.

This article and others mention concern as only 10% of participants get the certification. 10% of 5,000 seems a significant success if 500 learners finish and many more learned something. Many including George, my classmates and myself dip in, and out. George said he does the same and often finds useful reading lists and connections that don’t require actually completing the course to learn and benefit.

The other guest, Dave Cormier just started experimenting with having open events suggested the teaching model is not the same as a classroom and suggested that focus on the completion is misguided. We need to “rethink the habit of learning”. It is about connecting to the four corners of the globe, and the numbers magnify everything and break ‘the walls of knowledge’. George said it is a very ‘old lecture’ style echoing David Wiley’s comment.

Dave found that just meeting online didn’t make it happen without a date and a topic and a structure.

Martin liked the fact that an open curriculum, a MOOC could be spun up rather informally without lots of red tape and committees, reviews etc.

None of them saw MOOCs replacing HE. However, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if students could do lots of the preparatory work for a degree in the first or second year in a MOOC setting and then the face to face, labs, get experience with experts in person when prepared.

It occurred to me, sounds like a flip classroom on steroids (rather than each day or weeks lesson). This model could allow for more students to attend universities given the shortage of places predicted by John Seely Brown in the Mind on Fire the Long Tail.

Finding a business model is required to support the funding and at that time Robo grading and other AI/machine intelligence could provide some mileage there.

I also looked at DS106 – digital storytelling and being a photographer myself got lost in the posts and arty diversions and decided it must be time for a study break! It is really intriguing and I have been interested in U.MaryWashington for some time.  I was scrolling down the list of recent posts – only 4 from 2019 and stumbled on Rebecca Hobbs https://rebeccahobbs.com/2019/04/14/comparing-moocs-ds106-and-coursera/ brilliant comparison of DS106 and MIT. This was just a little bit spooking because it was shared in our Whatapps group for H187 2020 last week and I don’t know her yet. I am doubly impressed by the level of detail and brilliant writing has gone into her piece!

Compared to Coursera it is a bit of a fun mish-mash but I like both (probably the messy artist in me). Time allowing I would/will participate in both. I am registered on an Instructional Design MOOC with Corseara that started today and the platform is so fresh and easy to navigate – love it. Very formal and structured in comparison to DS106 and takes less time to find your way. However, I am there for a strategic reason – I need to understand more detail about the field I am planning to try to find employment in and if it is really what I want. At my uni. there is a lot of chat about ‘oh they are just trainers’ and don’t know pedagogy etc. and I want to be informed. MOOCs can be an excellent resource one can access anytime and free of charge – unless you need the badge. I may need to do it again and pay the $62 🙂

Lastly, I chose to read Peter Starkey blog on and ended up downloading 2018 Creative Commons and his new role as the Executive Director of Open Education Consortium. (His home page has a stunning image of himself standing in front of the Grand Canyon! I really love that about the person blended with the professional blogs allow and will take that up in making mine better).

BTW: In 2018 Peter was largely optimist about the world’s institutions becoming more open. Now I will go read the one on MOOCs with the videos which I find easier to digest. 

Stacey (2013), The pedagogy of MOOCs


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