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MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly; or, How a Cave Troll Can Help Revise the Syllabus of Education

MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly; or, How a Cave Troll Can Help Revise the Syllabus of Education


by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel


For some, a hashtag chat is pure chaos. For others, it’s an exhilarating gathering of minds. Either way, the act of conversing using Twitter hashtags is an innovation in how we make connections, parse information, and participate in learning and professional networks. It is precisely this kind of social learning that permeates “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education”.


The basic premise of Cathy Davidson’s MOOC movement is that education must get beyond its industrial roots and uncover what it means to learn in a networked, increasingly hybrid world. As Sean writes in “We May Need to Amputate: MOOCs, Resistance, #FutureEd”:


Education needs different objectives than it had when the current system was invented; and so, just as we would for a course with an evolving set of outcomes, we must continually rewrite the syllabus of education. Cathy’s MOOC proposes one space for that revision to begin — and it is a branching, disparate, distributed space, not localized inside her course alone.


MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly (MMDU) is just one small node of the HASTAC #FutureEd festivities, centering around weekly #moocmooc Twitter chats. The topics are emergent, rising directly out of conversations begun during the various offspring of #FutureEd. The times for these chats alternate each Wednesday during the course to allow for more global participation. MMDU is a meta-meta-MOOC, a MOOC MOOC about Cathy’s already meta-MOOC. And it’s a place to unearth some of the deeper (and sometimes darker) issues implicated in discussions about the future of education.


Our first chat focused on chaotic learning environments, vulnerability, and internet trolls. Some highlights from the conversation.


In our second discussion, we imagined a world without syllabi, courses, and credit hours -- a world where learning is not subsumed by the trappings of education’s various (and sometimes airtight) containers.

An important point, though, was raised by Molly Shields in her comment on the announcement for the second #moocmooc chat: “Entertaining the constraints of syllabi is fine-and-dandy, but the conversation can’t be had without acknowledging the elephant(s) in the room,” such as, “course oversight, increasing standardization, and/or the inflexibility that most contingent faculty members draft syllabi under.”


It’s exactly these existing, limiting systems that our future #moocmooc chats hope to push upon. Change is difficult, and the considerations about making changes are many and complicated. But, in the spirit of #FutureEd, we proceed with optimism and open creativity. We’re less interested in grand proclamations about the death of the course or syllabi and more interested in helping find the cracks we can widen, even slightly.


In “10 Things I’ve Learned (So Far) from Making a Meta-MOOC”, Cathy Davidson writes, “In our meta-MOOC, we hope to galvanize a community,” and this is exactly what MOOC MOOC has been about since its inception. Over the next several weeks, the MOOC MOOC monster will continue to extend the discussion, as he lovingly circles his prey. So, join us on #moocmooc throughout #FutureEd for a rowdy exploration of higher education. And, if you want some light reading in between chats, we’ve archived all the materials from the various iterations of MOOC MOOC at the original MOOC MOOC site.




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