Remember how, not so many months ago, June 2012 to be exact, a Trustee forced UVA's president to resign because she didn't "solve" the problem of escalating costs by immediately, wholeheartedly, that-very-second jump onto the MOOC bandwagon? Well, that was sure silly, wasn't it?
At the time, though, it was silly and horrific--that a technological solution so modest in scope could be seen as a "fix" to a thirty-year trend defunding public education by supposedly rational people made us all aware of how much power technology has, how ready humans are to believe technology can solve problems human hath wrought (as if humans aren't making the technology too). That story, in and of itself, should be told, over and over again, and studied in all its public, political dimensions--including in the smart way faculty (inc Siva Vaidhyanathan and others) and students worked together, sanely, strategically, and pushed back, using the media to their advantage.
But it was that summer that I decided to make a MOOC myself. I wanted to see for myself what you could do with the format and the clunk--and yet also powerfully global--technology platform. I'd taken many MOOCs in a desultory way, but it is different making one, actually getting into the guts, and actually being online with the participants. I made a MOOC on "The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education" for two reasons:
(1) there was way, way too much hype and way, way too much hysteria for my taste. I was sure it couldn't be all that great and I was sure it couldn't be all that awful. But I wanted to be able to see for myself; and
(2) I wondered if, given the form, and given the right topic, and given the right open attitude, and given a cadre of community teachers to participate and lead and aggregate and social media-ize what was happening in the conversations in the MOOC community, if it would be possible to actually mobilize thinking and make social change? Could my very humble, homespun, amateur videos--put up on a Coursera platform that could reach some 14,000 people for free--help to provide the occasion for people to gather, to talk, to think about the future of education and learning and learning institutions?
(3) And here's the aspirational question: If you don't have admission requirements, bureaucracy, location, or cost as an impediment, what ideas can people scattered all over the world come up with together that might make a difference in the world in which they live?
I'm not ready, of course, to answer any of those big questions yet but here are a few things from Day 1.
- It's so much fun.
- The participants come from all over the world and they are delightful, smart, engaged, wise.
- The real deal here isn't the videos, but the community that is shaping up around ideas of learning and education
- My favorite online conversations are reflecting conversations that are happening off line.
- I'm still not sure how we can make sure we go beyond conversation to a movement.
- The demographic of my students is so not that of college age, paying, degree-gaining students that the hysteria about MOOCs putting all us college profs out of jobs and contributing to the horrific 70+ adjunctive exploitation of young contingent faculty is just wrong. Blame neoliberalism, folks! Vote in better elected state officials. MOOCs aren't the answer, but they are also not the problem.
- Doc on the Laptop, well, yeah. I say so in the video. But the participants are way too strong-minded and smart to believe everything they see and hear in a video. It's a community of thinkers, dedicated to new modes of learning. Passivity? Not so much. I critique MOOCs in my video (I think 1.3) but, well, I'm not so sure any more.
- Community's the thing, and the MOOC is the platform.
But, hey, it's only Day 1. Just under 5,000 people have tuned in out of more than 14,000+ that signed up. Something over 6500+ videos have been viewed. There have been several hundred comments. Lots of people have favorite teachers---and a lot of teachers are participatng (and I bet there are some great ones here).
And in one quite charming exchange between three people from the UK, the US, and Romania about whether the purpose of education in their respective countries is content or learning how to learn and change and adapt, there was even a way around diction and the stilted form of email by way of an amusing range of quite happy, delightful emoticoms. I added my own favorite one to that exchange, the Japanese happy face: *_*. Why? Because, after Day 1, I pretty much feel: *_*