This was originally going to be a post on the veritable cornucopia of buzzword that is MOOCs, but as @marksmithers rightly pointed out there’s not a whole lot to say. MOOCs (in the mainstream sense) are what they are – content-push delivery systems unchanged from standard university educational practices, offering no credentials for no money in a culture that supports the proliferation of neither.
MOOCs (and you can substitute any edu-buzzword flavour of the month here) get rather a lot of screen time (‘televised’ is a bit of a stretch given how the media functions these days, but who am I to pass up an excellent title on a technicality?) claiming they are going to revolutionise higher education. Now the implication here of course is that if there is going to be a revolution you’d damn well better be part of it or you’ll be rapidly rendered obsolete. Thus we find ourselves in the current situation where universities are either scrambling to get on the bandwagon, or publicly justifying non-participation. The significant problem with both of these approaches, however, is something I found summed up neatly in this article this morning.
While mostly commenting on an unrelated topic, Stokes’ comment ‘You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for’ struck me as interesting, along with his assertion that we should not be substituting opinions and matters of personal taste for expertise and research. Following this principle, we should expect that those who identify educational trends as innovative and revolutionary and subsequently are responsible for implementing them are education experts, perhaps with education degrees and certainly with a background in teaching and learning. Those who have worked in universities, however, will understand how rarely this is actually the case.
Frequently, the media commentary on these trends comes from senior executive, and usually presents with a business focus rather than a discussion of the educational issues. Implementation often falls to management units with a ‘strategic’ focus and involving those with backgrounds in management, consultancy, IT, project administration, marketing and so on (@djplaner offers some good comments on the implementation of fads in universities in this post). As a result, the emphasis tends to be on hype, fast-tracked implementation and deliverables rather than a critical analysis of educational value and long-term outcomes. One has to wonder how much of what we’re arguing for is based on in-depth educational research and expertise rather than the opinion of business or marketing strategy.
I am wary that this repeated hype cycle of implementation and attrition will not revolutionise anything, and in fact may result in a revolution vacuum (or are we already there?). As long as it happens in isolation from the conversations we (those of us working in edtech and teaching and learning) are having about what might truly start to change things, I don’t think we’re headed much of anywhere at all.