Procedures, Protocols, and Prestige equal stagnation in education

Normally, reading anything MOOC, good or bad, is a ‘just one more article’ proposition. This time, I found myself beyond exasperated reading Inside Higher Ed: No-Bid MOOCs by Ry Rivard.

“The providers of massive open online courses have rapidly expanded in the past year, aided in part by a series of potentially lucrative no-bid deals with public colleges and universities, including for services that may extend beyond the MOOC model.” Ry Rivard

The use of qualifiers defines the entire Inside Higher Ed article. In part? How much is ‘a part’? ‘Potentially’ and ‘that may’? I really should have stopped reading after the first paragraph, but it was one of those ‘Don’t think of an Elephant’ moments.

I may be doing Rivard, and his article, a disservice by my interpretation of his ‘No-Bid Moocs’ article; the angst I took away from reading the piece seems to be lingering. In my defense, before posting my reflections on this article, I actually slept on it. I am now willing to acknowledge that Ry Rivard is sharing some important details about the massive changes education is experiencing. The economic details should not be ignored. My problem is the use of bid process as a benchmark of sorts.

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4 thoughts on “Procedures, Protocols, and Prestige equal stagnation in education

  1. It seems that MOOCs are encouraging educators to think outside their traditional boxes. I found the writing course did the same for me as a student. It freed me from the pressure of grades and exams to see learning as the true aim of study and learn I did!

    1. Hello Heidi! Truer words have never been spoken! 🙂 I have been participating on MOOCs as a TA recently and I can testify that the course material is rarely the challenge or the stumbling block. Participants are voracious consumers of content. The struggle that participants face is always some version of performance anxiety. Conditioned to learning to tests and exams, participants are often confused and overwhelmed at the concept of acquiring knowledge for personal goals, aspirations and use.

      Once participants do become accustomed to the concept …. there is no stopping them. “Moocaholics” are definitely on the rise! I have yet to meet a participant that failed to benefit from course content and course inspired networking. I find many people are embracing new challenges and directions in their personal and professional lives as a direct result of MOOC immersion.

      I find it fascinating to watch the creative explosion that follows the cognition that learning has nothing to do with tests, quizzes and exams. The joy and pride that people take from creating and developing artifacts with newly acquired skills and knowledge lasts a great deal longer that the pride in achieving ‘A certificate with distinction’. The certificate is usually just another .pdf taking up space on a hard drive… 😉

  2. RFPs? Yeah, as soon as specifications can be defined, the horizon becomes limited. As a MOOC student, how pleased I am to be partaking in and contributing to, a movement in which creative teaching is valued (by everyone but trolls, and people seeking traditional education, anyway).

    My high school set me on a path of life-long learning. We had no grades, no exams, no course requirements. The teachers shared what excited them, regardless of their “expertise”, and we students let them know (in no uncertain terms) what we wanted to learn about. The teachers were not hired to fit certain criteria; prospective teachers spent a couple days with us, feeling us out, and us feeling them out to see if it seemed to be a good fit. We hired people, not teachers to teach specific curriculum.

    Yes, “we” hired people. The students had equal votes in most matters regarding school policy, and consequences of people’s unpleasant choices.

    MOOCs are the closest thing I have seen to my high school. I am delighted to see student feedback valued in the forums and surveys. I enjoy seeing new features pop up, especially when I recognize them as having been tested in previous courses. I see instructors who are excited about what they are doing on this new platform.

    When I began reading this article, I thought of the one a friend of mine shared with me last Spring http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/05/20/130520fa_fact_heller. After reading that article, she was concerned about my involvement in such a doomed endeavor. She was especially concerned about the part, “When you take MOOCs, you’re expected to keep pace. Your work gets regular evaluation. In the end, you’ll pass or fail or, like the vast majority of enrollees, just stop showing up.”

    I assured her that not showing up doesn’t necessarily indicate failure. When someone stops showing up, it could be because they got what they wanted, they will come back later, or they found that the course wasn’t what they wanted. Isn’t it great that they had an easy chance to try it? How is that failure?

    Passing or failing is not what MOOCs are about for most people, according to what I read on the forums. During a recent coursera poll that I took, I was surprised to see that nearly all the students described themselves as lifelong learners, primarily seeking knowledge, not certificates or credentials, though those are nice.

    Next, my friend was concerned when she read, “Rather than writing papers, they take a series of multiple-choice quizzes.” How cheap does the word “quizzes” sound? How many significant papers and projects have we completed in our courses? How hard are MOOCs working to develop effective peer review systems?

    The Inside Higher Ed article similarly shoots misdirected arrows at MOOCs. MOOCs aren’t necessarily corporations that have to report profits to their shareholders; they have the flexibility to go out on a limb with their venture capitalists, and push the horizon.

    Thanks for all you do to support MOOCs!

    1. Hi there Weavergrace! 🙂 Your high school experience sounds fascinating! I would love to hear a lot more about it. I would be very interested in hearing how it influenced your approach to learning compared to the education experiences of people you met later in life. How did your high school experience and influences compare to peers and colleagues who were streamed through the write-to-the-test standard education model? I would love to add your reflections about the experience in a post on this Blog . Would you consider contributing an article?

      Like you, I am finding that MOOCs are often challenged for the wrong reasons. There is an assumption that they must somehow model themselves after existing education systems. Systems that are not yielding the outcomes individuals need to succeed in our rapidly evolving knowledge economies. I find that fear of change is the recurring theme in conversations related to MOOCs.

      Bryan Alexander explores these fears in an article I link to here: https://allthingsmoocable.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/education-vs-technology-what-we-fear-divides-us/
      I appreciate the time you have taken to share some of your insights about your MOOC experiences here. The voices of those who are benefiting from MOOC experiences need to be heard so that MOOCs can continue to evolve despite despite the fears of status quo proponents.

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