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Neoliberalism and MOOCs: Amplifying nonsense

I’ve said this many times over the past six months: If 2012 was the year of the MOOC, 2013 will be the year of the anti-MOOC. Things are unfolding nicely according to plan. Faculty don’t like MOOCs. Critiquing MOOCs is now more fashionable than advocating for them. Numerous quasi-connected fields that thrive on being against things have now coalesced to be against MOOCs.

It’s great fun. I am very pleased to see substantial critiques of MOOCs. Every concept needs to be challenged, chewed on, evaluated, and understood from multiple angles. There are many reasons to not like MOOCs (including the elite university models, poor pedagogy, blindness to decades of learning sciences research, and its entire identity: just a very bad name). The faculty response to MOOCs is particularly important. Almost every major MOOC initiative over the past 18 months has developed without the inclusion of the faculty voice.

The more prominent argument emerging is one of classifying MOOCs as neo-liberalism. This is disingenuous. First, I don’t think anyone actually knows what neoliberalism means other than “that thing that I’m thinking about that I really don’t like”. Second, if we do take a stance that neoliberalism is some combination of open markets, deregulation, globalization, small government, low taxes, death of the public organization, and anti-union, then MOOCs are not at all neoliberalist.

In recent presentations, I’ve been positioning MOOCs in terms of the complexification of higher education (see below for sample presentation). The argument is simple: Much of today’s economy is knowledge-based. In a knowledge economy, we need to be learning constantly. Universities have failed to recognize the pent-up demand for learning as the economy has diversified and society has become more complex and interconnected. As a consequence, the internet has contributed by creating a shadow education system where learners learn on their own and through social networks. MOOCs reflect society’s transition to a knowledge economy and reveal the inadequacy of existing university models to meet learner’s needs.

The reason MOOCs are being classified as neoliberalist is because entrepreneurs see the changing landscape and have responded before many universities. Universities, in contrast, are actively trying to preserve their legacy models so as to stay relevant, or at minimum, stay in control. Something is not neoliberalist just because neoliberalists are the first to take advantage of the gaps created by the traditional and emerging shadow education systems. Don’t blame the ill motives of others for what was caused by inactivity on the part of the professoriate and higher education in general.

22 Comments

  1. See also: Kathleen Fitzpatrick on “Neoliberal” http://www.plannedobsolescence.net/blog/neoliberal/ — a good reminder that “to say, for instance, that the university-in-general is a neoliberal institution is to say precisely nothing.”

    Even so, I’m not sure I agree with you that MOOCs are not at all neoliberal (whatever the term might mean). I *do* see an abdication of “the public” (in terms of financial, political, institutional, collectivist needs, offerings, and philosophical frames) in exchange for an emphasis on “the individual.” I do see our conversations about education increasingly becoming about markets and instrumentalism rather than about civics, justice, growth, attainment.

    Perhaps we should just call it Friedmanism instead — because then we do get to invoke a imperialist, deregulated, market-driven world in a neat little phrase that captures how media-elite-driven much of this MOOC conversation has become. I dunno.

    I really like how you highlight the “complexification” of higher education here. But again, this strikes me as a very different lens than those I hear (from the startup world) who talk about this same moment in terms of “unbundling.” You speak to a richness and complexity. They speak to a carving up of, well, market opportunities. Without recognition of legacy, theory, research, practice, it’s hard to see how your complexity reconciles with their “solutionism.”

    But I love the notion of a “shadow education system” — naturally, I like the subversiveness — and this seems to be to be something to leverage in a very powerful way for both individual and social transformation. This is a way to bypass much of products and services and all the administrivia and, thanks to learners’ agency *with* technology, forge something really meaningful, not something temporarily fashionable.

    Monday, July 8, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  2. I maintain my consistency in mocking MOOCs, which actually are not the MOOCs themselves but the insane inane hype. I’m a fan of open online learning and a fan of one of the dudes who set the monster in motion.

    and I have no frigging clue nor want one what “neoiberalism” means. That’s a red flag warning when I read it that cow shit is near by.

    I wonder, in all seriousness, reading Audrey’s comments, if we are a bit to close to the forest, because despite all the buzz in our circles, MOOCs barely register on the public awareness and right now seem to be a minor part of the overall landscape of education, which seems to be motoring along fine.

    I can see a graphic of Friedman riding a cow standing on a surfboard cruising down the slope of the tsunami wave.

    Monday, July 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  3. George, I don’t think it is so much that folks believe MOOCs in and of themselves are neo-liberal. What I think is happening is thet folks are applying the neo-liberal label to the Udacity, Coursera, and edX initiatives that are looking to monetize MOOCs. And I don’t think that they are wrong on that front.

    The problem that exists, in my opinion, is that those anti-MOOC forces don’t understand what a MOOC is or where they came from. They understand what Udacity, Coursera, and edX are trying to do with them. I liked David Wiley’s description of them as “Massively Obfuscated Opportunities for Cash” (see http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/2846 ). Under that guise the neo-liberal label isn’t far off.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink
  4. Scott Kipp wrote:

    What I see as the greatest opportunity for MOOCs is an economic one: allowing students (of any age) to explore a subject matter before making lengthy and costly commitments to it.
    How many students, particularly in the US, rush into college with little or no sense of what they want to study or why, just to “stay on track”?
    How much of the current misalignment in the labor market between demand and supply for skills could be corrected by accessible tools (MOOCs) allowing students to explore and hone their curiosities early on?

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink
  5. gsiemens wrote:

    Thanks for your comment, Audrey. I agree that there are neoliberal undertones in MOOCs. Or, more accurately, there is neoliberal salivation at the prospect of MOOCs. Perhaps I’m being too idealistic, but I think open online courses can do as much for the development of a democratic, equitable, and just society as they can do for those who have profit motives. Unfortunately, many educators who care about those ideals are not the ones expressing interest in MOOCs. Maybe they have been burned in the past and see this through the lens of neoliberal determinism.

    Good point about solutionism vs complexity. This is a challenge beyond moocs and is one that challenges education broadly. Have you read Edgar Morin’s paper Seven Complex Lessons in Education for the Future (.pdf)? He gets at the challenge of fragmenting/unbundling education into knowledge silos. With the unbundling through silicon valley lens, I imagine Morin would be even more adamant that the system needs to be seen as interconnected and reflective of complexity.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink
  6. Good post, George. I’m glad you focused in on this connection.

    There’s a way one can make the MOOCsneoliberalism connection argument. It goes like this. Neoliberalism is anti-union, anti-organized labor. It pushes labor towards precarity.
    MOOCs follow a similar line, as the majority of instructional staff can be part-time, TAs, student interns, adjuncts. MOOCs are an engine for adjunctification and the decline of tenure.

    One big problem with this line of thought is that academia has been doing this very thing to itself, on its own, for a couple of decades, before MOOCs. But it’s usually easier to blame technology.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 7:56 am | Permalink
  7. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Alan – I appreciate your consistency in mocking moocs. they need mocking and the hype needs dousing.

    You are right about public awareness and how not much is registering with moocs yet. Coursera has 4 million registrants (whatever that means). That is rather insignificant in the scope of the web. That may change – remember those early clips on ABCNews talking about this new thing called the web? moocs won’t hit the status of the web. Their most useful contribution to date has been to get people talking and thinking about education.

    In the mean time, Mock On Brother Alan!

    George

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink
  8. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Michael – my point exactly. The neoliberal aspect of moocs is not the moocs themselves but the people who have warmed up to them and are now seeking to monetize them. If we take a different slant and start emphasizing: open access, self-regulated learning, learner-controlled pedagogy, creativity, maker-culture, etc, I don’t expect many academics would call them evil. The problem to date has been the silence of the academic voice and the prominence of the for-profit sector. For that, I lay the blame squarely at our feet.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink
  9. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Scott – where I agree with many others on mooc criticism is how they appear to minimize academics and the role that formal expertise and research in instruction, exclusion, social systems, pedagogy, etc. play in creating a fair, equitable, and democratic society. The labour market is only one dimension of education. If moocs ignore the higher ideals of education, then I dispair for the future of society!

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink
  10. gsiemens wrote:

    Bryan – you make an important point: higher education has been doing exactly what moocs are threatening to do now. Faculty have sat rather idling while administration has gained prominence, tenure has been reduced, adjuncts have become the norm, not exception, etc. MOOCs are part of that existing trend, sadly.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  11. I think that MOOCs in themselves have great value because they show us that we have many ways for us to experiment with educational models. Something that is large, and very out of the box will no doubt attract negative attention. Far too many educators throw buzz-words, adopt other people’s attitudes, and judge things without really having and maintaining a healthy curiosity towards new developments in education like this. I think we need this experimental mindset of “collecting data for its own sake” because it may offer insight into how we can tweak our educational models and make them better. Do things like this have the potential to upset the status quo? Of course. But do they also hold the potential to improve our society? No doubt.

    MOOCs are not nonsense and neither are any other potential new and different modalities of learning. What I find could be termed “nonsense” rather, is our innate tendency to paint things like these as black or white rather than view them as merely one of many opportunities for us to experiment with learning, and potentially improve the process for both educators and students. If numbers do not lie, then why should we?

    I think the Bible has a good quote for this one – “You will know them by their fruits.”

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink
  12. Scott Leslie wrote:

    “The more prominent argument emerging is one of classifying MOOCs as neo-liberalism.” Can you point to some specific examples of articles that describe MOOCs *themselves* as neo-liberal? As there doesn’t seem to be that much disagreement in the comments above that many of the first movers are working towards (or at least not out of alignment with) neoliberal aims in their pursuit of profits through MOOCs.

    There’s two pieces I’d refer people to in regards to the co-incidence of network disruption and unintended consequences. One is the recent SXSW talk by Bruce Sterling (http://boingboing.net/2013/03/20/bruce-sterlings-closing-sxsw.html) in which he decries the celebration of disruption for its own sake and urges those involved in the disruption to take some responsibility for it rather than simply dancing in glee in its ashes.

    The other is an old post by the inimitable Jim Groom where he ponders the possible unintended consequence of diy approaches when they are hijacked as an argument about economic efficiency (http://bavatuesdays.com/edupunk-or-on-becoming-a-useful-idiot/).

    MOOCs themselves may not be “neoliberal” but calling the discourse around this “non-sense” diminishes some important issues that deserve unpacking, about the relationship of individuals to large collectives and society, the role of “efficiency” as increasingly the sole arbitrator of decisions, about civic society in a networked world.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  13. Priscilla wrote:

    There’s hype around MOOCs because those of us who take these classes LOVE them. I’ve taken 9 now. Yes, some of them have had a “blindness to decades of learning sciences research” to quote the post, and I didn’t finish in those cases. But a lot of them are really fantastic, with a good focus on the learner, good application of pedagogical principles, great lecturing and hands-on exercises, etc.

    We students love MOOCs because we love to learn and we need to learn to survive in our jobs. To quote the post, “Universities have failed to recognize the pent-up demand for learning as the economy has diversified and society has become more complex and interconnected.”

    It would be a terrible shame if there truly were an anti-MOOC movement. It would be like having an anti-Internet movement or an anti-apple-pie-and-motherhood movement.

    As far as the neo-liberalism of MOOCs: I can only comment from the point of view of a student, and if this is neo-liberalism, bring it on! :-) Seriously, is the concern that professors might be asked to develop a MOOC and not be paid for that time?? I really don’t get it. A lot of professors are glad to provide their expertise to a massive audience, for free. I took Biology from Eric Lander. Eric Lander! He is the best lecturer on the planet, not to mention a brilliant scientist… I took AI from Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig!!!!!

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
  14. Ron Baumann wrote:

    Personally I think people are taking this all too seriously. MOOCs are fun. I’ve done 17 this year already. As they stand now, they fill in a few hours a week we’d otherwise spend in front of the stupid box and give us a small insight into a topic we’re interested in and know nothing about. They’re great for broadening general knowledge but I doubt anyone expects a doctorate out of them. They may, at some stage, lead to a better mode of serious education but then they won’t be MOOCs any more will they?

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink
  15. Jamie Newman wrote:

    I agree with a couple of the above posters, people are taking this far too seriously.

    What’s wrong with providing more educational choice for society? I’ve taken a few MOOCs myself and I have added a great deal to my skillset.

    I’ve also taught online on http://www.chalksy.com, now are we going to say that online tutoring is also controversial?

    I believe that anything which helps enhance the learning experience is good, regardless of a few bad eggs out there.

    Jamie

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink
  16. George, but can we really be effective as academics presenting a counter narrative to the dominant neo-liberal narrative? I ask this because when I look at my own field of K-12 online learning, there is a growing body of evidence from academics and investigative journalists that shows that full-time online learning provided by for-profit cyber charter companies is quite lacking. Yet the vast majority of legislators and policy makers continue to buy into the neo-liberal rhetoric. Would the field of MOOCs be any different?

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  17. Richard Hall wrote:

    Hi George,

    There are several moments in what you post/your slides where I feel we need a wider discussion.

    1. Critiquing MOOCs is now more fashionable than advocating for them.

    Either way, we need to talk about techno-determinism (revisiting Andrew Feenberg’s work would be a good place to start: http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/pub_Questioning_Technology.html) and the reality of technology/technique-as-fetish. MOOCs/whatever need to be critiqued from inside the system of production/consumption in which they emerge. This is deeply political, and has a politics that is amplified by an overlay of crises: socio-environmental; economic; inter-generational etc.. This is why a critique of MOOCs/whatever as they are subsumed inside capital’s drive to reestablish profitability post-2008, and the systemic need to seek out new spaces for that profitability (public education, healthcare etc.), is key. The idea of the MOOC (as learner-focused, enfranchising, entrepreneurial etc.) is secondary to the co-option of the idea for the extraction of value. The fetishisation of the learner or learner-voice sits inside this systemic narrative/critique and needs to be politicised.

    2. The faculty response to MOOCs is particularly important.

    This is important. MOOCs/whatever risk being co-opted inside a process of global labour arbitrage. We need to discuss that, and not hide behind narratives that either seek to save or restore the traditional university/college/school (whatever that is/was), or that state that traditional educational institutions are vested interests that won’t change.

    3. The more prominent argument emerging is one of classifying MOOCs as neo-liberalism. This is disingenuous. First, I don’t think anyone actually knows what neoliberalism means other than “that thing that I’m thinking about that I really don’t like”. Second, if we do take a stance that neoliberalism is some combination of open markets, deregulation, globalization, small government, low taxes, death of the public organization, and anti-union, then MOOCs are not at all neoliberalist.

    I think you are wrong here. A number of academics/activists have done wide-ranging work in defining neoliberalism. It is more than a thing I don’t really like. It is a global pedagogic project aimed at subsuming the whole of social life under the treadmill logic of capitalism. It is a project that seeks to deny sociability and to enforce individuated entrepreneurial activity. Under global agreements like GATs it enables transnational activist networks/elites to marketise the idea of the public good in the name of private profit, and to diminish our collective ability to emerge from the current set of crises. There are a number of people/projects seeking social, co-operative responses to this, and critiques of MOOCs/whatever generally end with “what is to be done?”, rather than simply saying “no”. I have blogged about this extensively, and can point to a number of academic critiques that are more than “I don’t like this.” The issue is how/why MOOCs are being co-opted, and we witness this in the UK in the Coalition Government’s pronouncements and those of the private sector/IPPR. In my opinion the co-option of MOOCs inside a specifically-defined neoliberal restructuring of HE is clear. See:

    http://www.richard-hall.org/2012/09/02/networks-the-rate-of-profit-and-institutionalising-moocs/

    http://www.richard-hall.org/2012/12/05/for-a-critique-of-moocswhatever-and-the-restructuring-of-the-university/

    http://www.richard-hall.org/2013/05/20/on-the-secular-crisis-and-a-qualitative-idea-of-the-university/

    http://www.richard-hall.org/2013/05/29/on-the-university-and-revolution-from-within/

    This also denies the extensive work done by Christopher Newfield amongst others in critiquing MOOCs and education policy in California. http://utotherescue.blogspot.co.uk/

    4. The argument is simple: Much of today’s economy is knowledge-based. In a knowledge economy, we need to be learning constantly. Universities have failed to recognize the pent-up demand for learning as the economy has diversified and society has become more complex and interconnected.

    Again, I fundamentally disagree. The argument is complex, and the presupposition that the economy is knowledge-based is also wrong. It may well be that knowledge/immateriality is some of what education produces, and the global economy as it has been restructured post-1970s oil crisis has been painted as a knowledge economy. However, this does no favours to the billions in the global South and in the global North who are unemployed, low-skilled, engaged in dangerous manual productive labour, engaged in menial service work, whose work is militarised etc.. This view disenfranchises those who labour globally to enable our rarefied view of the economy as knowledge-based – witness those mining rare earth metals in the global South or laboring in poor conditions in Foxconn factories. It also doesn’t enable us to engage with the crisis of over-production/under-consumption in the real economy, or the dislocation between immaterial labour (or knowledge work) and what has been termed the real economy. William Robinson amongst others would argue that the economy has been globalized and stratified, and the complexities that you allude to merely reinforce the hierarchical power of transnational elites (http://www.richard-hall.org/2013/02/22/the-university-and-the-globalised-learning-landscape/).

    Your argument here is also determinist of one view of activity/life, as ostensibly economic. I would argue that we need to restore sociability and to push-back against a view of education that is about economic value or entrepreneurial activity. The demand that you highlight also needs to be critiqued rather than simply accepted (from whom and why?)

    5. The reason MOOCs are being classified as neoliberalist is because entrepreneurs see the changing landscape and have responded before many universities.

    As Stephen Ball notes neoliberalism is revealed through the following.
    • The economisation of everyday, social life, in order to realise new opportunities for profit.
    • Reconfiguring governance through an appeal to the entrepreneurial self, with the State as regulator and market-maker.
    • The State acting transnationally in concert with supranational bodies like the IMF, the European Central Bank and the World Bank, imposes the control that a free market desires, and removes impediments to the logic of the market.
    • There are several active waves of neo-liberalism: proto (the intellectual project of Hayek and Friedman); roll-back (of Keynesianism); and roll-out (of new state forms, modes of governance and regulation).
    • The creation and extraction of value is predicated upon mobility and connectivity.
    • The (networked) structures that enable neoliberalism are polymorphic and isomorphic.

    Entrepreneurial activity, effectively a pedagogic project designed to transfer the risk for the creation of value/management of risk from the public to the individual, is a cornerstone of critiques of neoliberalism (Robinson, Lambie, Ball, Lipman, Newfield, Hoofd etc.). If MOOCs emerge from entrepreneurial activity then given the accepted analyses of neoliberalism they fall within that frame. They therefore need to be analysed in terms of the ways in which they are co-opted inside the global system of value production/extraction/subsumption.

    6. Don’t blame the ill motives of others for what was caused by inactivity on the part of the professoriate and higher education in general.

    Is that what is happening? I guess that the emergence of MOOCs has enabled a critique of education and technology inside this current phase of capitalism. It has also enabled the idea of the university/public education to be critiqued. That is a wholly good thing; nothing is sustainable. However, this is not limited to us-and-them inside the academy. As Newfield notes again-and-again about California, the University is subsumed inside a much wider political context that we need to understand in order that we can take action.

    MOOCs/whatever need to be critiqued and alternatives developed in light of that politicisation. That doesn’t mean negating this MOOC or that ds106 or this social science centre or that college. It also means that we do not fetishise them…

    7. In your Slide 41: the task of education is not to enculturate young people into this knowledge-creating civilization.

    We need to talk about this in light of critical pedagogy. As the edufactory collective have shown, we need a robust and democratic discussion of what education is for – who has power to enculturate and why? What is this knowledge-creating civilisation? I return to the work of Amin and Thrift (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0066-4812.2005.00488.x/abstract) that: our work is political; that there must be better ways of doing things and resolving crises; that we must help people to out power; that we need to be reflexive. The quote on this slide feels like it is about enclosure and closing down deliberation, in the name of the knowledge economy. In engaging with immanent crisis we need a better way.

    Take care.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 5:13 am | Permalink
  18. Hi George, thanks for your great insights. My response post http://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/my-response-to-neoliberalism-and-moocs-part-1/ I think privatization and monetization of HE is now a trend that could be hard to revert back. Universities can only afford to succeed once they are in partnership with the major MOOCs providers and there is simpler no route of return. You said:”The faculty response to MOOCs is particularly important. Almost every major MOOC initiative over the past 18 months has developed without the inclusion of the faculty voice.” I wonder what percentage of faculty would like to be involved in MOOCs because of the Hall of Fame effect as first promoted in the initial xMOOCs. It wouldn’t be surprising as super-rock professors would like to teach the world and be famous, isn’t that the reality? May be there are also altruistic reasons behind those professors who would like to contribute in making MOOC a success. MAKE IT HERE syndrome could also explain why most faculty would like to see MOOCs work in their country. John

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 6:00 am | Permalink
  19. Sandra Milligan wrote:

    George and friends
    I am a MOOC fan, building one at present,enthral led with the possibilities. But heaven protect me from people who tut-tut about nasty for-profits and look down their noses at talk of money (eapecialy if they are safely (or not so safely) esconced in their tenured jobs. MOOCs cost money… lots of it. SOMEONE has to pay. Someone IS paying. Until we get serious about finding out how these things will be/can be/ should be funded I won’t take any notice of people getting the jitters about who is stumping up some money. PS: i work off the public purse too.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
  20. Rolin Moe wrote:

    Good discussion happening here!

    I agree and disagree on your neoliberalism take. The term gets thrown around as a pejorative, a catch-all for any intrusion on a hallowed structure, the intellectual equivalent of “They took our jobs!” But that doesn’t mean the term lacks meaning — just like what you did with CCK08 and connectivism gets lost when Periodical of the Week runs a MOOC piece that fails to note any history in distance education, neoliberalism is an economic and social theory of governance with a somewhat substantial research base (I suggest Henry Giroux and Gert Biesta to start). There is a sizable fit between neoliberalism and the recent MOOC movement…but I think MOOC critics went running for terms and evidence in lieu of pitchforks and torches, and tried on this term without really understanding its nuance. Ironic that the same happened when techies needed to label the massive course cartridges stamped with high-powered institutions.

    That said, as long as the term is used so generally and incorrectly, it doesn’t provide the meaning as a criticism of existing policy and procedure. And there is an argument to be made about how MOOCs fit into the sociohistorical argument…a place EdTech seems to often ignore when researching its wares. Government subsidy of education has decreased, and costs have risen. An institution once dedicated to community and environment with roots in public good for a millennium is highly looked at as a private good now, eroded by (among other things) 30+ years of policy initiatives. Today society judges the quality of education extensively on a rubric of individual competencies. Faculty share blame in seeing the institution end up at this space, but they are just one player in a very tangled web that played out in primary education years ago (continuing to) and for the first time is really rooted in higher ed. Public sentiment today is that, with a lack of private competition, education ended up bloated and en largesse…and the MOOC can fit that argument as a hybrid public/private competition model. I don’t think it’s coincidence that, as MOOCs take the education narrative by storm, the US Congress cannot (for the first time in ages) keep student loan interest rates down.

    I see MOOCs as the first shot across the bow in the higher education/privatization of public services fight. And to that end, I look at the critical argument not as one of neoliberalism, but instead Deluze’s Societies of Control. It meets the argument of the loss of public good in a private sphere, but adds a spice of criticism of the lifelong learning/knowledge economy argument that has been a big part of distance education’s scholarship for the past decade but has gone unchecked to criticism.

    Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink
  21. Timos Almpanis wrote:

    Thought provoking post and interesting discussion; the power is in the conversation. As mentioned previously in this thread, Moocs started as an ed-tech experiment by people like yourself with a genuine interest in education, but they got sidetracked following a ‘Californian invasion’ which resulted in them being more about the platform and ‘learning analytics’ and less about pedagogy and the learner. In that sense I agree with Richard’s post above that the area of Philosophy of Technology and Feenberg’s work becomes pertinent to the MOOC discussion, as the MOOC game is now deeply political.

    On another note, MOOC major platforms – and not the original MOOCs – have been accused of elitism simply because they are elitist.

    In my view there is another major misunderstanding around MOOCs in general, that has to do with the discrepancy between their target audience and their actual participants. There are many MOOCs that are introductory – in order to appeal to a wider audience I guess and be ‘massive’ – but 2/3 of the people who participate in them have already got university degrees or even postgraduate qualifications. This fact prevents any findings from those MOOCs to be generalisable about participants’ learning and even questions their validity.

    Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  22. Ledora Alexander wrote:

    When I saw the word MOOC in this article, I never expected to see critiques. On the other hand, I do agree with some of these critiques. As a graduate student, I have experience some advantages and disadvantages to MOOC.
    Advantages of MOOC:
    1. Free knowledge sharing online.
    2. Tuition fee is moderately low.
    3. Socializing and networking is worldwide.
    4. Flexibility in learning

    Disadvantages of MOOC:
    1. The Need for good internet connection.
    2. Requirements-Eligibility such as Digital/online literacy.
    3. Inexperience in socializing, feed sharing, blogging etc.
    4. Must be capable of self-regulating (Discipline).
    5. Costly Internet Service
    Many adult learners have chosen to take online courses rather than traditional face to face classroom, only to find themselves repeating the course later.

    Monday, July 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink