MOOCs are dead to me

I’ve decided that’s its best if I just opt out of the debate/conversation/fluff and general ignorance about MOOCs. I feel that the supply of words that should be allocated to such a topic has run out. People have listed all the faults, issues, disruptions and potential and done so far more articulately than I ever could – so I’m going to just sit this one out for a while.

I’m just over it. Over my twitter feed being clogged, Zite and Flipboard offer no relief and Yammer is no sanctuary. Instead I’m just going to tune out and wait. Wait for something interesting to happen like:

  • a MOOC to actually become massive – ie on a World of Warcraft level, say at least a million people
  • MOOCs to actually become open AND free, no exceptions no catch
  • that a MOOC actually educates the masses – in the third world where it would actually mean something
  • that a MOOC produces people with actual skills the world actually needs like nurses, midwives and engineers in places they’re actually needed
  • that retention and completion averages actually hovers at something that would resemble a pass mark – say 51%
  • that a MOOC actually replaces an educational institution or forces one to close down, not by stealing funding sources or via legislation but by competing on level terms
  • that a MOOC startup fails when investors learn that there is no money in this, hey there wasn’t even a business plan
  • or something that actually seems of genuine interest occurs – you know, demonstrating some actual disruption or innovation, not just an overhyped headline and a fawning reporter or crafted press release

Until then I’m just going to sit it out. You all have fun now, I’m just popping on my headphones to space out to my next fetishised musical fusion – Kebab-kosher-jazz-film-traffic-punk-music

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2 thoughts on “MOOCs are dead to me

  1. Whilst I can certainly agree with the sentiment – it’s easy to get MOOC-fatigue with all the hype surrounding them – I think some of the items on the ‘interesting things still to happen’ list are off the mark.

    1. ‘Massive’ scale: for starters this is relative, and relative to subjects at traditional Universities and TAFEs they absolutely can be labelled massive by comparison. How many students are in the largest on-campus subjects: 100? 200? What about the largest Tertiary DE subjects: <1000? I think comparatively 100,000(!) students enrolled in one MOOC subject is definitively massive.

    2. Since when has education ever been free? It's always been expensive and/or subsidised. What is the requirement for MOOCs to be different? This model is new because the costs are deferred to the point at which you seek accreditation, not the point at which you sign-up. This means students can complete the course for free, and only pay when/if they need the accreditation. This coupled with the lack of any prerequisite qualifications *is* new.

    3. Agree. The potential of this model is to provide education in lower socio-economic areas – but who says this isn't already starting to happen eg. Tanzania, Rwanda.

    4. The problem with demanding that MOOCs provide nurses/midwives/engineers is that students don't necessarily want to study these subjects – who would deliberately study a low paying job, when they can just as easily study for higher-paying, less-stressful professions. The problem here isn't anything to do with educational institutions – it's up to society to value these roles enough to incentivise new entrants in the field.

    5. Agree. Retention and completion rates are appalling. But again, where's the proof that millions of partially educated people who couldn't afford, couldn't relocate or otherwise couldn't participate in traditional tertiary education, isn't still a net gain for society?

    6. MOOCs don't have to shut down or replace Universities or TAFE's, both can coexist. It's not a zero sum game. Indeed, with Stanford, MIT, Harvard, UNE, etc. we're seeing that a hybrid approach may be the way of the future.

    7. Several MOOCs are already Non-Profit organisations. They aren't only start-ups.
    Isn't there a saying… something like: "Investors and their money are easily parted." 😉

    8. There is always going to be linkbait headlines and sensationalised press coverage of any catchy "new" thing. Even if it's an old thing that the press has only just caught on to. The trick is filtering out the hacks and their wilfully wowserish drivel.

    Having said all that, I haven't really been paying attention.

    • My list of interesting things was intended as a call for MOOCs to live up to the hype and offer something more than speculation. If MOOCs are so great (and they do offer great potential) then they now need to start proving themselves. I’m now at the point where I’ve heard all side of the arguement and have a made piece with my perspective on them, but now I’m going to have to wait and see. I won’t debate MOOCs further without proof, evidence, facts, actions – the time for words is over for me.

      The points I made were not meant as a requirement for MOOCs to perform in a certain manner. I don’t expect MOOCs to be any of these things really. The intention was that if any of these things did happened, I would be willing to re-engage with the discussion. Perhaps the subtleties of intent are lost when trying to write at midnight 🙂

      However I shall take your bait – one last time. I suppose if there is overarching answer – these are not in relation to my personal opinions, rather they are an attempt to call out MOOCs based on the circumstances they have created for themselves. To each point however:

      1. Yes the numbers are big compared to a traditional class, but being relative it also has to be said that a single class does not make an education. Big numbers for a class is not the same as big numbers of actual graduates receiving actual credentials. Technically anyone could run a single class for 100,000 given the right technology – but there is no evidence that supports MOOCs being able to scale this up to produce an actual system for education, and given their current stats, not one that would survive any serious accreditation process.

      2. This is really a critique of their own hype. By co-opting the term Open they’ve applied some significant connotations and implications.

      3. Their stats – most MOOCers are white, come from the west and already have a degree….

      4. True we could leave it up to the market – but that implies that the market is actually free and open to the 3rd world – which it isn’t. This was perhaps more of a stab at MOOCs as being unable to provision these types of courses rather than their viability form a market perspective. Also money might not be the driving force we wish to imagine – maybe alturism and betterment of their own people might be more convincing that that of a higher paycheck in a foreign country.

      5. Sorry but anything where the ‘waste’ of production is as high as 93% – not feasible, viable or sustainable. THat kind of net gain is the same as gambling and neither is a wise investment.

      6. No – but if they are a the legitimate threat to traditional institutions then they’ll have to prove it.

      7. Again this was more a scenario that would re-engage me in the discussion.

      8. True – its just that at the moment it like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant.

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