Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Time to call MOOCs something else?

A recent comment by Stephen Downes in the "OLDaily, (April 3rd 2012) " to the post by John Mak made me understand that the word MOOC is to be considered to mean any Massive Open Online Course (something that seems natural and obvious).
But then, what everybody (i.e. in the context of Change11 and the like) understands as a MOOC (see the excellent Educause paper [1] by Cormiere and Siemens) should be named something else.
Simply naming them “connectivists MOOCs” does not give credit to the ideas behind a MOOC. They should stand on their own.
MOOCs and the AI-Stanford like (AI) courses definitely represent very distinct course formats.
Both types bear some common features:
  • Geographical spread of participants
  • Big dropout rate although for AI courses is much higher than for MOOCs (85% vs. approximately 40% respectively).
  • Massiveness, although AI courses have orders of magnitude higher number of registered learners.
But, they clearly differ in many fundamental aspects (especially in its pedagogical content) so as to establish two very different course formats:
  • The AI fall into the cognitive-behaviorist pedagogy category and the MOOCs into the connectivist.
  • The AI participants have totally different learner’s goals and preparation than those in MOOCs.
  • There exists a very different nature of the subjects studied: in AI engineering and MOOCs educational theory.
  • MOOCs have a vast number of lurker participants while AI have no lurkers.
  • Tutors and facilitators bare very different roles.
  • Openness in each of the formats has also a different meaning. In AI it is more related to the fact that the courses are open for anyone to take. In MOOCs it refers to: openness to the personalization of learning, to the dialogue, debate, and conversation; to the novel, divergent thinking, and creative thinking; to the participation based on connection, collaboration, and sharing.

Open Online courses represent an important development in open education but MOOCs (our MOOCs) in particular, a major change.

So,  it’s time to call MOOCs something else.

[1] Cormier, D., and Siemens, G. (2010). Through the open door: Open courses as research, learning, and engagement. Educause, 45 (4), 30-39. Retrieved March 2012 from: http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume45/ThroughtheOpenDoorOpenCoursesa/209320
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