I’m not attending ASCILITE 2013 but I am following the Twitter stream closely and occasionally comment into the stream. This can be dangerous because sometimes the tweets don’t really represent the full intent of the speaker meaning that my comments are then out of context. This happened this morning when I read the tweets about Gregor Kennedy’s keynote presentation in which he talked about interactions between students and teachers in online courses. The tweets seemed to be suggesting that Kennedy was saying that we had gone too far with a student centred approach and that more emphasis should be placed on teacher to student interaction. I took this as a call to return to the sage on the stage model of teacher knows best and tweeted my disappointment. But Kennedy wasn’t really saying this. He was saying that the balance between teacher centred interactions and student centred interactions needed to be redressed. I agree with this idea that students can and should interact with experts during their learning. Continue reading
Dear Faculty Member or Academic (whichever you would prefer),
I was delighted to see your response to Joshua Kim’s post on experiences working with Learning Designers which he reports here on the Inside Higher Education web site. I’ll remind you of what you said:
“Enough of this professionalization nonsense. Education != instruction–education, to quote the good Cardinal Newman, “is a higher word.” We, faculty, establish the environment for education. Professional staff such as “learning designers” or “instructional designers” are extraneous and a drain on our precious few resources. Replacing tenure lines with an army of professionalized staff loaded with credentials alongside low-paid and necessarily subservient and contingent adjunct faculty is not the appropriate way forward. You are complicit with the destruction of higher education and the transformation of our institutions into the corporate university. Reject these efforts to redefine education into the instrumentalized system that you are already fully involved in. Enough.”
I think your view represents one that would be widely held in many universities and it’s important that this view be recognised and responded to because, the fact is, it represents the height of academic arrogance and pomposity dressed up as a concern for the welfare of students when, in fact, it’s nothing more than a demand for the status quo and, preferably, a return to some mythical golden age of academia.
Now I have every respect for an academic’s expertise in a particular discipline. I have no intention of arguing with someone who has spent their life studying mid-Asian relaxation techniques in the 14th century in a discussion on trends in Tibetan meditation in the middle ages. I will happily accept that somebody with numerous research outputs in the use of fruit flies in genetic studies almost certainly knows a bit more about it than me. And, more controversially, I accept the right of some academics to expound an unpalatable thesis. I may not agree with them and I may hope that somebody with expertise may counter that thesis but nevertheless it is critical that researchers and academics have the right of academic freedom to explore all possible topics and present alternative views. Continue reading
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.
I didn’t explain myself very well. Fortunately Cole Camplese (@colecamplese) wrote a very good piece that articulated my thinking much better than I ever could: “Innovation Confusion – Why do those who used to push forward now push back?”. But then an interesting thing happened; yesterday David Wiley wrote a great response to Cole entitled “Be Awesome Instead”. I spent a lot of time overnight thinking about what an ethical MOOC should look like determined to blog about it this today. Thankfully Mike Caulfield has already written another good response to Cole (Reply to Cole: Pushing Back vs. Pushing Forward) and like David Wiley his key point is about openness.
“It’s really the openness issue, full stop”
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.
This morning Richard Grusin posted a series of twenty tweets presenting a highly critical and thought provoking view of MOOCs. These are valuable so I’ve presented them here in this post.
What do you think of Grusin’s ideas?
1.MOOCs are the bastard children of 1980s cyber-utopianism and post-1945 economic neoliberalism.
— Richard Grusin (@rgrusin) March 12, 2013
2.MOOCs are a 21st century manifestation of cyberspace’s revolutionary ideology of information freedom.
— Richard Grusin (@rgrusin) March 12, 2013
3.MOOCs deploy liberatory & egalitarian rhetoric of the Open Net in the service of21st century neoliberalization of higher education.
— Richard Grusin (@rgrusin) March 12, 2013
My two previous posts have considered the role of venture capitalists in higher education and my disagreements with a fiercely critical anti-mooc article by Jennifer Cost and colleagues. From this you could be forgiven for thinking that I am some sort of arch capitalist hell bent on exploiting higher education for profit.
Peter Sloep picks this up in a blog post about ‘unhelpful’ arguments. He states that:
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
— Mark Smithers (@marksmithers) November 26, 2012
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.