A couple of days ago I wrote a dreadful piece of drivel that I’ve since removed from this blog (not a step I take lightly but it was just that bad). I was trying to explain my concern at the way that some educational technology commentators appeared to be becoming increasingly critical of MOOC platforms such as Coursera and educational technology entrepreneurs in general. For me, at that point, the rise of private MOOC platforms and edtech startups in general was something that, while not ideal, was at least the lesser of two evils and could be seen as a positive trend in changing higher education for the better.
And yes it is the openness. I had convinced myself that a ‘sort of’ open was good enough as long as enough disruption was going on to make the big changes that I think we need. I was wrong. While we may argue about what form of MOOC is best, the role of instruction versus connection, how assessment could be carried out, if at all we should all be agreed that an ethical MOOC should be open. Very much like the Psychology MOOC that Mike Caulfield co-created.
Quite obviously Mark sits on the ‘make money’ side of the fence, as is evidenced by such terminology as delivery model, product, marketplace, consumer.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I actually dislike the use of the language of commerce being applied to higher education. Nothing irks me more than hearing students being described as consumers or customers. They’re not; they’re students. The reason I used that language in my blog post was that it is the language that Clayton Christensen uses when he talks about disruptive innovations. It was just clearer to use that language in describing the way that MOOCs are working as a disruptive innovation in higher education. That was the point I was trying to make.
In what can only be described as a rant, six community colleges members have taken to Inside Higher Education to produce a self serving article that bemoans the implications of the use of educational technology and, in particular, the rise of the MOOC.
Without encumbering themselves with anything so drastic as a bit of research into their topic they proceed to brand MOOCs (presumably all types of MOOC) in fairly inflammatory language as being “designed to impose, not improved learning, but a new business model on higher education, which opens the door for wide-scale profiteering”.
There are a couple of problems with this; firstly it supposes that the current higher education business model is the only one that should exist and, secondly, that the current higher education delivery model does, in fact provide a better learning experience.
Both of these claims are contentious to say the least. MOOCs are a classic disruptive innovation that fits the model described by Christensen precisely. They operate at the lower end of the supposed product capability range at low cost to the student. Typically such innovations arrive in a marketplace in which the functionality of existing ‘products’ has increased beyond the current level of demand from the consumer at a cost beyond what they are prepared to pay. In other words, the disruptive innovation is good enough.
Well that’s a big topic for what I aim to be quite a short post. I was listening, from a distance, to the Great Debate which was held at the ASCILITE 2012 conference currently underway in Wellington, NZ. The debate was on MOOCs as game changers in higher education. I have more to say on that but I’ll leave it for another post. What I want to talk about here was the emphasis placed by the anti-Mooc debaters on how bad it would be to have higher education run by venture capitalists. I remarked in a tweet how perplexed I was by this sentiment.
I’m not sure why there seems to be an obsession with the ‘evil’ of venture capitalists at #ascilite2012
The Conversation web site is currently half way through a series of invited posts entitled “The Future of Higher Education”. It has been a disappointing series so far in that five of the first six posts have focussed on MOOCS and the sixth has been a general post on equity in online learning. Now MOOCs are an important development but the future of higher education is bigger than MOOCs and the questions are much more fundamental. Here are are some questions that I think this series should be addressing. Continue reading →
My friend Inger Mewburn (@thesiswhisperer) recently wrote a thoughtful piece in The Conversation web site entitled Academics behaving badly? Universities and online reputations. For the record I think that the points she made were valid and true but I also think that there is an underlying issue that remains uncovered. Simply put, it is that fact that policies around the use of social media by the academy have, in many cases, been outsourced to individuals who are not members of the academy and do not understand the purpose of the academy. As a result they fundamentally miss the opportunities that social media offer universities in engaging with the wider community. This seems to me to be particularly true in Australia where rampant managerialism associated with the corporate university has led to situation in which ‘brand positioning’ and being ‘on message’ is seen to be more important than concepts of sharing, collaboration and collegiality in knowledge distribution and generation.
There was a reasonable amount of discussion at the #pleconf last week on the role of e-portfolios in personal learning environments and who should be responsible for providing e-portfolio tools for students. I think the ground swell view was that e-portfolios are important but that students should be able to choose how they create their own e-portfolio. This is a view I agree with and is a slight softening of my previously held view which was that universities had no business in providing e-portfolio software. My view now is that universities probably should provide e-portfolio software for their students to use but that the use of that software should absolutely not be mandated and it should be up to the student to choose how they manage their e-portfolio.
I’m going to ignore the ‘teaching’ word and just concentrate on the ‘learning’ word because that is far more important and far more enabled by the network. I’m sure there are many reasons but this a short post so I’ll limit it to three:
Blackboard have set the cat amongst the pigeons with their announcement today that they have acquired both Moodlerooms and Netspot to help run a new business to support and host open source learning management systems.
Both George Siemens and Audrey Watters have already posted their initial views on this and both provide an interesting and sceptical take on Blackboard’s motivations. I agree with their scepticism but I disagree with George’s analysis of the Blackboard’s motivations. I actually think Blackboard are making a play to position themselves as the cloud provider of LMS solutions. Here are my reasons: