Christian Bokhove

…wonderful life

Unclear definition of MOOCs

moocIf I would write a blog post every time I do some positive or negative critique on Twitter I would have a day job doing it. It’s just too time-consuming to write them all the time. But recently, after a dialogue on the ALT mailing list, I think I need to write something on….. MOOCs again. It was sparked by a useless discussion on acronyms like MOOCs and SPOCs and what there purported differences are. I responded:

We need a MOCUA a Massive Online Course on Useless Acronyms.
Sorry. Got carried away there.

Then today I read a tweet on ‘research about MOOCs’. Yes, research would be great, but please don’t let it touch the -in my opinion- uninteresting field of xMOOCs and cMOOCs definitions (see this post where I wrote about it). And if you would construct a new framework then let it be a solid one with clear definitions. Needless to say the paper that was referenced (here) could perhaps have been better. Some comments:

  • No-one would argue that quality and learning are important but to me the paper feekfragmented sources were glued together.
  • The section with the history and background on MOOCs is ok, but far from new.
  • Then the main part of the paper starts, aimed at classifying MOOCs, and ending with a 12 dimension classification for MOOCs (note that there are typos in this paper, it says ten dimensions).  The 12 dimensions are: the degree of openness, the scale of participation (massification), the amount of use of multimedia, the amount of communication, the extent to which collaboration is included, the type of learner pathway (from learner centred to teacher-centred and highly structured), the level of quality assurance, the extent to which reflection is encouraged, the level of assessment,how informal or formal it is ,autonomy, and diversity. The paper then continues to exemplify the framework by categorizing five MOOCs.
  • The categories are far from clear:
    • Openness. What is meant by this. Further in the paper ‘open source’ and ‘creative commons’  are mentioned but looking at the CCK MOOC I see ‘Second Life’, Elluminate  and ‘uStream’ which aren’t open source as far as I know. Encouragement of sharing through creative commons is good, but is it open if you ‘just’  encourage. Another high scorer used Google Apps. And what is the role of Open Standards? Some courses score ‘medium’  but why. To me one of the courses (OE) seemed open, hosted on Canvas. (Another sloppy mistake here with Audacity instead of Udacity)
    • The massiveness seems more clear. I suspect it’s based on number of enrollments, but this is not explained clearly enough.
    • Use of multimedia: have instances been counted. What IS multimedia. An image? Movies? Video-conferencing? Is 10×1 minute movies just as much as 1×10 minutes?
    • Degree of communication. Forum posts? Are tweets communications? Blogs? One-way communication is communication as well (it seems so because reflective blogs further down the paper count).
    • Degree of collaboration. When are people collaborating? When they react on someone else’s forum posts? Or is more communication needed. Groupwork? Group products?
    • etc….
  • I feel these criteria are fairly arbitrary, if not in their selection, then in the way they are operationalized.
  • The paper suddenly ends with a ‘7C’s of Learning Design framework’. Conveniently 7C’s, no references, not rooted in evidence.
  • It also strikes me that many references are from blog posts. Now I fully understand that society is changing, and personally I welcome the fact that the web has so much to offer when it comes to (well written) blog posts. However, I am a bit skeptical when it comes to quoting numerous blog posts as ‘evidence’ for these developments.

In conclusion, I think ‘research’ is a bit too flattering term for a framework that’s not well defined and is not rooted in well established literature. But then again, I’m not a professor of course.


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This entry was posted on October 13, 2013 by in Education Research and tagged , .
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