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Congrats to Paul-Olivier Dehaye: MassiveTeaching

In a previous post, I commented on the Massive Teaching course at Coursera and that something odd was happening. Either Coursera deleted the prof from the course or the prof was running some type of experiment. It now appears to be primarily the latter.

The story has now been covered by The Chronicle (here and here) and Inside Higher Ed (here). Thoughtful reflections have been provided by Rolin Moe and Jonathan Rees. Participants on Twitter have also had their say. The general consensus is that “wow, this is weird”. Coursera has deftly pushed everything back to the University of Zurich, who in turn has pushed it onto the prof, Paul-Olivier Dehaye. Commenters have been rather cruel (I know, shocking to have mean people on the internet), going so far as to question Dehaye’s sanity. OT: Favourite comment of the day: “Moocs are demonic, and unhuman.”

There is plenty of blame to go around. Dehaye has not publicly commented. Coursera very quickly washed its hands of the situation. What Dehaye did was inappropriate and might have crossed a few ethical boundaries. That’s an important angle, but not one that I want to pursue here. Three substantial concerns exist:

1. Coursera has been revealed as a house of cards in terms of governance and procedures for dealing with unusual situations. While Coursera promotes itself as a platform, something that I wrote about a few years ago, it is more Frankensteinian than functional. MOOCs were developed so quickly and with such breathless optimism that the architects didn’t pay much attention to boring stuff like foundations and plumbing. What is the governance model at Coursera? Is there anything like a due process to resolve conflicts? And a range of questions around content ownership and learner data.

I have a colleague who taught on Coursera recently. He was unable to get access to data that had previously been promised. In a university, there is a counterbalancing process to these types of conflict or disagreements. At MOOC providers, the company rules. This is fine at Facebook, but Coursera is essentially a leech on the education system – getting teaching for free while exploring new ways to monetize the process. (Wait. Doesn’t that make them the Elsevier of teaching and learning? Content and teaching free. Monetize the backend.)

My point here is that the governance structure that underpins university is lacking in MOOC providers. It is not a balanced and equitable system. There are many fissures in the MOOC model and as providers become more prominent in education these fissures will become more evident. If companies like Coursera and edX expect to be able to make decisions on behalf of faculty and partner universities, conflict is inevitable. A transparent process is required.

2. University of Zurich has an obligation and responsibility to its faculty. Where a university’s reputation and identity can be launched internationally in a MOOC, leadership should have some quality control process in place. Is the university so poorly informed about online learning that simply giving a faculty member keys to the kingdom without some guidance and direction was assumed to be a good approach? There is much blame to be shared and it should fall in the following order: 1. Coursera, 2. U of Zurich, 3. Dehaye

3. Criticism ranging from a poorly designed course to poor ethics has been directed to Paul-Olivier Dehaye. Most of it is unfair. There have been some calls for U of Zurich to discipline the prof. Like others, I’ve criticized his deception research and his silence since the course was shut down. Several days before the media coverage, Dehaye provided the following comments on his experiment:

“MOOCs can be used to enhance privacy, or really destroy it,” Dehaye wrote. “I want to fight scientifically for the idea, yet teach, and I have signed contracts, which no one asks me about…. I am in a bind. Who do I tell about my project? My students? But this idea of the #FacebookExperiment is in itself dangerous, very dangerous. People react to it and express more emotions, which can be further mined.”
The goal of his experiment, Dehaye wrote, was to “confuse everyone, including the university, [C]oursera, the Twitter world, as many journalists as I can, and the course participants. The goal being to attract publicity…. I want to show how [C]oursera tracks you.”

There it is. His intent was to draw attention to Coursera policies and practices around data. Congrats, Paul-Olivier. Mission accomplished.

He is doing exactly what academics should do: perturb people to states of awareness. Hundreds, likely thousands, of faculty have taught MOOCs, often having to toe the line of terms and conditions set by an organization that doesn’t share the ideals, community, and egalitarianism that define universities (you can include me in that list).

The MOOC Mystery was about an academic doing what we expect and need academics to do. Unfortunately it was poorly executed and not properly communicated so the message has been largely lost. Regardless, Dehaye has started a conversation, raised a real concern, pushed buttons, and put a spotlight on unfair or opaque practices by organizations who are growing in influence in education. Yes, there are ethical concerns that need to be addressed. But let’s not use those ethical concerns to silence an important concern or isolate a needed narrative around what MOOCs are, how they are impacting higher education and faculty, and how control is being wrested from the people who are vital counter-balancing agents in society’s power structure.

Paul-Olivier – thanks. Let’s have more of this.


  1. Rolin Moe wrote:

    Well said; your Frankenstein line was especially brilliant. I want to push back on congratulating Dr. Dehaye, though; intent is not synonymous with progressive action. Awareness of Coursera’s contradictions and foibles is widespread and well-documented, in manners that have foundational backing in education-as-research and education-as-theory. This MOOCMystery got more traction than the trollers on Kimberley Sessions Hagen’s MOOC on AIDS because Apostolos Koutropolos and a few other intent MOOC researchers were in the course and brought it to the attention of an uber-dedicated MOOC research population, who in turn talked enough on social media to get the media types reading. I think this story stops at the Chronicle and Inside Higher Ed, so how does this affect any real change in looking at what Coursera does (information previously known to the population this situation has reached)? Coursera and Zurich have both deflected blame. Dr. Dehaye’s responses do not line up neatly. The situation can be written off pretty easily by those in power at the various organizations.

    To me, the situation highlights a zealous professor with limited understanding of social science methods and educational pedagogy taking to the field in a “run it up the flagpole and see if others salute” manner, something we decry when Edupreneurs use the same theory-bereft approach. I do believe that more people with a background in edu research and social science methods need to use their backgrounds more actively in the field (George Veletsianos and I are presenting on as much at OpenEd in November), but efforts such as these further color education as a field bereft of experience and more a sandbox for reinventing the wheel.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  2. Thank you for this post. When I read I thought how great and consistent Dehaye’s pedagogical move was, and was puzzled by the fact the author of the article (and Zurich University) didn’t seem to see it.

    I’ve taken a few Coursera courses. The teaching was great, well organized, the participants enthusiastic – but the look and feel is of a return to MSN groups. Not that I want to bash those: they were great in the 1990′s, in spite of their dubious paternity, if you were, like me, a tech-ignorant teacher trying to introduce students to online collaboration. But repeating them now? Not so great.

    So thanks for your support of Dehaye’s move.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Michelle wrote:

    I’m a student in this MOOC. While it was initially confusing, it’s also been a really interesting experience. I’ve gone back daily to read the forum posts as some of the discussion has been quite thought provoking. It has also caused me to consider aspects of MOOCs I had not before, some written about in this article.

    Today, there is a new announcement from U Zurich that “The course is now back on track, and will conclude as planned, with the final assessment that is due this week.” The final assignment, which is 4 questions that will be peer reviewed are due in a day and a half. I’m not sure how many are left, other than the few who were posting on the forums I(seemed to be a handful of people) and those like me check in to read the forums.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  4. Thank you for bringing your first-hand experience, Michelle. However the page still says “No sessions available” and indicates Dehaye as instructor. But then Coursera is always rather slow in updating things, or maybe U Zurich decided to close new inscriptions.

    As the videos are in open preview, though I’ve started adding pages for them in Amara with their English subtitles: so far the last ones in I thought they’d look nicer in the wild :)

    For the rest of the course’s Coursera platform, it can be publicly archived with , and then the archived pages could be shared, if this should interest you and the other participants.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 3:06 am | Permalink
  5. Martin wrote:

    I’m not sure I agree George. I found the whole thing self-indulgent and egotistical. It was about Dehaye really, not learners or unis. There is a truly dreadful film called Who Dares Wins, which has a plotline wherein anti-nuclear protestors want to set off a nuclear bomb to demonstrate how horrible nuclear bombs are. Dehaye’s strategy reminded me of a similar logic.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 3:14 am | Permalink
  6. Frederik wrote:

    I did sign up for this course but it was clear from week 1 that something funny is going on – so I did not take the course seriously and lost interest. I do however agree with George Siemens comment that “Learning is a vulnerable process and there is a responsibility on the part of the person you’re making yourself vulnerable to.”

    I do think that he did misuse his students to make a point – not sure what that point is.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 4:15 am | Permalink
  7. I guess I didn’t pay too much attention to this mystery at first because it was pretty obvious what was happening. No statement from Coursera or the University seemed to scream social experiment or social statement. I can’t count how many instructors through the years have mused about doing the same thing to protest University and company policy. But most usually end up waving it off as “well, this is about the students and not me…”, so I think Martin is closer to correct on this one.

    Sure, many students ended up having good conversations about it, but that is probably more because they turned an unhealthy situation into a good conversation. Plenty of people had great conversations about ethics and morality after the US dropped the bomb on Japan, but that doesn’t mean it was a good thing in the first place. We shouldn’t mistake people making lemonade out of lemons for the lemons being a good thing in the first place.

    But, of course this is not the first time this has ever happened, even in a MOOC. Just seems to be gaining a lot more attention. So what the prof did is not really that disturbing or even innovative to me. What is disturbing is calling this pedagogy or engagement. This is not pedagogy or engagement. Its just an egotistical political statement. We all make egotistical statements of all kinds on Facebook, Twitter, etc – so that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But to do so with students is a huge thing. I don’t know if you can separate idea from execution, communication, and ethics so easily in a live course. If your doctor had a great idea in the middle of a live surgery, but executed it poorly and unethically and with poor communication to the assistants involved…. you would probably die before you got to congratulate him on dealing with an important concern :) So, still on the fence over whether to congratulate Paul-Olivier on this one.

    To me, by being so obscure since he got attention, it just seems like Paul-Olivier wrestled control away from Coursera and kept it for himself instead of trying to create a narrative about it. I don’t really see him as any better than those he stood against. He’s not being open with the content or his intentions / designs / whatever. So unless he starts acting differently than Coursera… what’s the point? Control is not about size of the controlling entity or how much stuff, data, money, etc they control. One professor keeping his students and the university and the education world in the dark seems to be more controlling that even Blackboard at this moment.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  8. Bon wrote:

    i worry that congratulations, however dry, will encourage Dehaye to infer that he’s done something positive. i don’t think he has. sure, it raises lots of valid issues… but most of us aware of the story were, like Rolin says, not entirely unaware of these issues. the taste something leaves in people’s mouths is its legacy, so, to me, to set up a so-called ‘experiment’ like this with NO understanding of the kinds of network literacies and scaffolding needed to decenter the teacher is…incredible hubris, no matter what valid issues it raises. Dehaye’s Twitter timeline centers HIM, makes it a great hoax-ish mystery about HIM…and strikes me as incredibly tone-deaf to the human-ness of the people in the course. you can’t decenter by making it all about you, folks.

    i don’t need or want his head on a platter. i just don’t want to see all experimental teacher-decentering efforts dismissed after this as “oh, like that awful clusterfuck”…but that’s how the media coverage will play out in most people’s awareness/knee-jerk reactions.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink
  9. I too am worried about the same issues that Bonnie is worried about, because Dehaye’s approach has been labeled as experimental. A lot of us depart from traditional teaching methods in our teaching/research, but we do so in a caring manner. Asking students to create blogs, to take charge of their digital identity, to participate in the original MOOCs, are all experimental approaches, but what’s common in caring experimentation is the support that is in place to make sure that students are supported, consulted, guided, etc, and not just forced to swim in the deep end.

    I’m also really interested to hear more from students. I read Apostolo’s original post and Michelle’s above, but what was the experience like for the rest? What was it like for students who were seriously interested in the topic promised to be covered? What actions did they take when the whole thing started collapsing? Did they self-organize in some way to make sense of the mess? How did they go about doing so? Did students actually arrive at the understanding intended by Dehaye?

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  10. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Rolin – the whole situation is a mess. No one involved is without some blame. You raise an important point about the lack of understanding that many folks now playing with MOOCs have regarding ed research. George V. responded in this vein on twitter as well. Education suffers from “my mom makes a good meatloaf so I can open a restaurant” view of expertise. Dehaye is absolutely at fault for his lack of regard for established methods of research involving human subjects. There are numerous problematic elements to this experiment and poor research is one of the most significant. Even then, I think Dehaye was trying to raise a needed conversation. He failed largely as the attention turned to his actions rather than the concerns he was trying to raise (something that also supports your point about the importance of proper research methods)

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 9:39 am | Permalink
  11. gsiemens wrote:

    Martin – during CCK08, Stephen Downes subscribed all learners to one of the discussion forums during the week on power and control in learning. Learners were understandably outraged. Suddenly their inbox was assaulted with dozens, hundreds, of emails. The point that he was trying to make was on the power that faculty have in a course. Numerous learners swore off the course and were understandably upset. The point was made clearly and concisely and most learners, once they finished deleted their forum notification emails, understood what had happened. Overall it was successful…but that was after 5 weeks or so together in a course where learners had some connection with each other, the forums weren’t killed (i.e. the spaces where students could vent and complain), many had already developed connections outside of the course, etc. The ground was prepared for this type of experiment in CCK08. In MassiveTeaching, learners had not formed connections. Relationships still centred on the faculty member. When the forums were killed and the prof went quiet, the infrastructure (social and technological) for engagement outside of the profs influence was not possible. If Dehaye had done a better job of scaffolding the experiences of learners so that they were prepared to function on their own without his guidance or the coursera infrastructure, this would have had a different outcome. The impact of his experimentation was not too severe – learners simply bailed on the course, confused and baffled. No WMD discovered or detonated!

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink
  12. gsiemens wrote:

    Bonnie – in fairness, my Twitter timeline centres around me too :) .

    My motivation for writing this post in the first place was the internet effect of piling on and blaming one person – Dehaye. Yes the experiment failed. Yes it was misunderstood. Yes he should have done a better job of debriefing learners. Yes he should have received ethics approval.

    I don’t think that people who are familiar with the issues that we are acquainted with (social media, online surveillance, etc) were his target. Which means that he should have been particularly focused on making sure his experiment resonated with or at least was understood by his audience.

    In terms of tone-deafness – yes, you are absolutely right. The whole thing smacks of something like egoism and self-indulgence as Martin noted. I met Dehaye when I was in Delft last month. I have found, as I’m sure that anyone in education has, that different academic disciplines value and perpetuate different ideals. My gentle feelings can be more readily hurt when I’m talking with folks in the education sector because I know that they should be aware of social issues, power, fairness, and equity. When I’m chatting with folks in comp sci, mathematics, and engineering, I often need to remind myself that those disciplines do not place the same emphasis on whole person development that many of us do with our students. Additionally, english is a second language for Dehaye. He speaks and writes it well. But nuance and tone can sometimes be lost.

    None of this is to dismiss the failure of this experiment. As you state, media coverage will play out negatively on this. Nuance is lacking in public discourse. I had a rather intensely frustrating tweet chat earlier this week with an individual that I had previously viewed as informed and knowledgeable. However, in the course of the discussion, it became very clear that even the most capable academics abandon logic and reason if something, in this case online learning, is seen as being threatening. The narratives of failure around technology use bring out schadenfreude in some academics. Dehaye has been treasonous to the movement to quote the great Charlie Sheen.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  13. gsiemens wrote:

    Matt – my congratulations obviously comes with many qualifiers. This whole thing is a mess. There are many narratives and concerns that can be pursued regarding ethics and self-indulgence and so on. I wanted to highlight one narrative – the need for faculty to perturb systems where inequity exists – that was missing. I agree that Dehaye overstepped. I think his experiment largely failed. I don’t congratulate hime for any of those things. I congratulate him on being an academic in trying to expose stuff that isn’t quite right. But that isn’t an endorsement of his actions in general.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 10:06 am | Permalink
  14. gsiemens wrote:

    George – good questions. I don’t think anyone arrived at the conclusions Dehaye wanted (and even then we don’t know what those are because he has not responded publicly). This experiment, if measured by what Dehaye wanted to do, is a fail. If measured by autonomy and role of academics in teaching and raising concerns and starting conversations, it was a success. But it’s bittersweet. I’m still confused.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink
  15. It is amazing to me how every event in the world of MOOCs simply reinforces everyone’s pre-conceived notions and gives folks a new soapbox to restate their long-held opinions. The anti-MOOC crowd is in love with the way this incident “challenges” authority. The pro-MOOC crowd is kind of bummed because hundreds of MOOCs go well every month and change people’s lives in positive and wonderful ways and never get any press or attention. This incident has not taught us anything – it just lets bloggers further polarize the discussions about MOOCs.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  16. I agree there are polarizing elements out there, but I believe it is the press more than the bloggers. Don’t forget that George Siemens both co-taught the first MOOC and also said “there is nothing innovative about MOOCs other than scale.” You can find a lot of the “pro-MOOC” crowd also being very critical on their blogs. If that is polarizing, then a bunch of people are schizophrenic in their approaches by polarizing themselves :)

    While I’m not sure I agree with the term “congratulate” (because if someone came to me and offered a congratulations with several qualifiers, I wouldn’t believe them), there is a lot to be learned here and people are learning a lot. Often what makes it out into the wild of the web are people grasping to old paradigms changing. The louder they shout “evil”, the more it is usually a sign that they are fighting a mindset change that they don’t want to happen. Just look at all the anti-gay politicians that turn out to be gay.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink
  17. True, media coverage will probably bash Dehaye, but that does not mean that he has failed. Back in the 1990s, a daily of canton Ticino (CH) had a kind of lemon prize for the worst teacher at the end of the school year. Everybody knew it was a farce, that a small group of well-organized kids could get a teacher they disliked nominated.

    Nevertheless, when it happened to C., a friend of mine, she was hurt. The reason some kids hated her enough to do that was that she taught biology disruptively, allowing them to bring their textbooks and notes to the tests, but asking questions that required reasoning from what had been done in class.

    A couple of years later, I met a girl who was studying biology in Zurich, who told me she had been lucky to have had a really great biology teacher in high school. I asked her who it was. She hesitated, then said: “It was C. We really hated her and were horrid with her, but she taught us how to reason scientifically.”

    So hopefully it’ll be the same with Dehaye, whatever journos write about him, however angry the students might presently be. Because he was not using them as guinea pigs for a self-serving experiment. He was being disruptive to make them think about the paradox of using Coursera for massive learning, in a course about massive learning. And he did that at the end of the 3-week course, btw.

    Maybe that was too short. Last year, Andreas Formiconi organized a real MOOC, for teachers, #ltis13 (see ). He too used a disruptive approach, but he had more time – and he has a strong empathy for others’ feelings. So there were a few outbursts of protest at first, but students did have enough time to elaborate what disconcerted them during the MOOC, which is preferable. But afterwards is OK too.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  18. Chris Lott wrote:

    You write about CCK08: “The point that he was trying to make was on the power that faculty have in a course. Numerous learners swore off the course and were understandably upset. The point was made clearly and concisely”

    Sounds to me like the point Stephen made didn’t mean what he thought it meant.

    Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  19. Liz wrote:

    Could someone please explain – what experiment do y’all think he was doing?

    What I saw is a prof who disrupted his own course, like a child knocking down his own pile of blocks foolishly believing that somehow defeats some “enemy.” What was the experiment? Just to see if he could delete his own content? (If so, Coursera defeated him – they restored the lecture videos – he protested that, which suggests he failed to read the contract – and the control two sub-forums which allowed students to continue communicating inside Coursera.)

    What I saw was a series of inconsistent and immature behaviors that came across as foolish arrogance.

    First was an introductory video claiming innovative features all of which are in fact old hat, like students doing the grading. (Not only old hat but widely criticized as an academic tool; there are reasons for preferring an informed, rational, and consistent grader instead of a random name in a crowd imposing personal criteria and private agendas. Coursera’s peer grading is not exactly loved by students, although no one has come up with a workable alternative.)

    Then there were the many inconsistencies between Mr Dehaye’s stated goals and actual behaviors – like supposedly wanting student participation but killing the easiest mechanism for that, the forum.

    More alarmingly, he frequently warned that social media are dangerous while insisting students move to those dangerous sites! His goal was to put students in danger? And if he really was upset by Facebook’s recently revealed experiments, as he claimed, wouldn’t he be telling us to boycott Facebook instead of insisting we go there for course information? Like Facebook is less a self-oriented business than Coursera?

    He also lied to us, telling the forum he had never deleted any student posts – after he deleted all of the forum he could. (Thanks to Coursera’s structure we still had the tech errors and course errors forums); telling the forum he no longer had prof powers on Coursera but opening three new sub-forums, which only a prof can do.

    What I saw was an immature arrogant man who set out to cause chaos in his own sandbox for no reason but to enjoy the childish “power” of destroying (he kept crowing talking about power and about causing confusion), and who disrespects students (that was obvious from the start, his videos reveal very low level knowledge of his suppose topic!).

    So what on earth do any of you think he “accomplished”? Other than losing trust from course students, Coursera, and his university? Having seen his poor preparation, poor execution, and rampant inconsistencies of thinking, I wouldn’t take a course from him in any topic.

    I fail to understand what others of you think is so wonderful in what he did (or failed to do)? I really want to know why some have become fans of his deceptive behavior. Who gained anything? What are people suppose to think differently about Coursera or MOOCs (if that was the goal)?

    Friday, July 11, 2014 at 1:13 am | Permalink
  20. Robin wrote:

    Looks to me like George Siemens and Dehaye might have set this story up when they personally met (See one Siemens’post). Otherwise Dahaye’s tweets and posts are completely incoherent, but Siemens has arranged them nicely. It is one thing to point to (already well known) risks related to MOOC’s and discuss them,and quite another is to set up a course with the Sole purpose of generating public attention. Reproaching that Coursera is manipulating students and manipulating themselves… well, what is the difference? The outcome of this whole story is minimal: Dahaye is preaching to those who already are believers. Conclusion: attempt of another ego driven guy to gain visibity and profile.

    Friday, July 11, 2014 at 1:56 am | Permalink
  21. gsiemens wrote:

    You have found me out Robin. In the three minutes that I spoke with Dehaye, we sat on a grassy knoll an planned this.

    Friday, July 11, 2014 at 7:28 am | Permalink
  22. Wilma wrote:

    Liz, thanks for your contribution. Dehaye discussed his plans for that Coursera (for-profit platform) course in May

    While it was becoming unglued after he shut down the forums, he turned to another (for-profit) platform to discuss,

    He used a deceptive course topic to lure professionals into a course. Then within less than a week, after encourging students to use closed FaceBook group (for-profit company) he removed the discussion board limiting student involvment.

    When Coursera reinstated the course, minus Dehaye, Coursera (for profit platform) played role of hero. When UZH stated the course methods were used to foster communication, UZH lost credibility. Dehaye’s twitter posts continued to be an embassassment for UZH, so they restricted him.

    Remember, the class was targeted to university educators and professionals (students)… who mostly quit this course and moved on to use their time for better things.

    Lessons learned? Depends? They surely were not delivered with methods those entrusted with public education will brag about or value.

    I was a student in this class and the GeorgiaTech bomb. I don’t remember the course title or the instructor. A year from now I imagine most people will just remember this as the UZH Punk

    Friday, July 11, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink
  23. Liz wrote:

    Wilma, I was in the Georgia Tech course too. In that one I feel sorry for the prof. She had a genuine goal but was unfamiliar with the inherent chaos of a MOOC; and (unlike Dehaye) she had good materials for what little of the course existed.

    In this one the prof engineered the course to fail, proving he could bomb his own course if he wanted to. Duh, like that’s innovative education?

    As to the elearnspace and etherpad links, I read them several days ago and remained clueless but rereading now what I get out of it is that Dehaye plotted with a few selected EdX students to trash a Coursera course and treat the non-EdX Coursera students as cannon fodder. (Sounds like the sociopathic mentality that is incapable of empathy or respect for others.)

    His etherpad says “The goal being to attract publicity.” Not seemingly to any specific useful idea, just to himself. Well, he got it – and got blocked from the net as a result.

    That was the experiment? See if he could get personal publicity? That’s it? People including the author of this web site are cheering that he got contentless publicity? No wonder he came across in the course (from the very first video) as arrogant, self-important, and surprisingly ignorant of his supposed topic. He set up a sham course to get publicity for himself and people are saying “congratulations”? I don’t get the applause. Anyone can be destructive, and getting publicity for destruction isn’t hard. Being constructive is harder and is what deserves applause.

    Friday, July 11, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  24. ELI wrote:

    I must agree with the comment “there is nothing innovative about MOOCs other than their scale”. As a student in the course (enrolled via Coursera)it felt like the teacher had left the classroom and then predictable chaos ensued. The “naughty children” wrote rude words and drew pictures on the blackboard/whiteboard; the studious children tried to make sense of the work; those who were completely confused (or very sensible) left the classroom to find better things to engage their intellect. Then small conversations began among remaining students – some interesting, some not so interesting. This is all very predictable, very human behaviour.
    There was no way to directly reply to the Professor’s very swiftly deleted posts in the forums, and the few posts that I saw were simple accusations that students were either “addicted to technology” or had a “love of technology”.
    I cannot see the relevance of these statements, when we had been encouraged by Professor Dehaye to use the technology, albeit on online platforms other than Coursera.
    The “experiment” was conducted without informed consent of the participants and the aims of the experiment were never stated publicly. In this behaviour I see only hubris and a paucity of ethics.
    What I gained from this experience was how not to conduct an educational course.

    Friday, July 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink
  25. Liz wrote:

    I’m a little concerned about his tracking us, behavior he seems to think “evil” when others do it! And I’m concerned about his motivations in asking for more info and his annoyance that Coursera wouldn’t let him do it even more.

    17:11 Paul-Olivier Dehaye: I did track tweets, but not coursera links, except for one: the “students discover etherpad” link
    17:11 Paul-Olivier Dehaye: to make sure there was a geographic distribution
    17:11 Paul-Olivier Dehaye: that’s the only information i tracked
    17:11 Paul-Olivier Dehaye: this comes after an untold (but will be told) number of emails
    17:12 Paul-Olivier Dehaye: might be 100
    17:12 Paul-Olivier Dehaye: emails asking them for some data live
    17:12 Paul-Olivier Dehaye: whenever i ask for data, they ask me questions about what i want to do with it right side chat window.

    Friday, July 11, 2014 at 10:16 pm | Permalink
  26. Joe Dillon wrote:

    I first read about this experiment when Maha Bali, a participant in #clmooc, blogged about it. Since I help facilitate that MOOC I was particularly interested in her commentary about this case. I was struck by her call to action. Amidst her thoughtful commentary she shared that reading about this experiment made her feels angry and used. She wrote that MOOC communities have a responsibility to be critical of this experiment.
    I encourage all to read her post. If you only read two lines, read the last two.

    I response to Maha’s call, here’s a comment.

    DeHay’s stunt strikes me as an unethical attempt to make an unnecessary comment on ethics.

    I agree with Bonnie when she says above that DeHay has “No understanding…”

    His lack of understanding is easy to illustrate. We can speculate about who was lurking and who was learning in this course but that is a waste of time. Better to focus on one learner to effectively comment on DeHay’s choices. We know AK was a learner present in the course.

    What DeHay chose to do with this audience of learners was akin to a magician’s illusion. The magician captures your attention and maybe your trust in order to trick you and maybe violate your trust. AK, a learner, came to the course in order to engage with content and participants about the pedagogical shifts DeHay promised to “teach.” DeHay didn’t teach AK anything. He came to the course knowing full well the point that we think DeHay was trying to make about Coursera.

    DeHay saw his role as a performer on the stage and doesn’t seem to know or care that he’d gained just a small amount of learner trust only to perform a stunt that was beneath them. If you read through AK’s blog or read his twitter feed, it takes about 3 minutes to know he would have catalyzed discourse in the course, stretched DeHay’s thinking and advanced the conversation about how teaching needs to change. It is a credit to AK, not DeHay, that he makes sense of this ill-conceived stunt and shares what took place. It shows that DeHay probably should have engaged AK instead of try to trick him. His failure to do so doesn’t reflect negatively on Coursera.

    Maybe DeHay wasn’t an illusionist. Maybe he was a performance artist. He assembled learner collaborators and instead of collaborating and learning with them, he chose to take the stage and do something outlandish, like defecate.

    Since I encountered this story through a networked connection I established in a MOOC I facilitate, I instinctively asked myself what would happen at #clmooc if we deleted all the content to cause chaos. This is such an outrageous hypothetical because we have a team of facilitators that is informed about our practices daily by engaged participants. If I impulsively deleted the content they would have it back up in minutes. If I suggested to them we should delete content, they would quickly reject that idea. The facilitators are teachers and we know what to do when learners assemble. We’re not pooping on stage or pulling a rabbit out of our hats. DeHay assembled learners by luring them to a chance at networked learning only to perform a weak illusion or nonsensical performance art. He chose to perform instead of collaborate. He didn’t make a point about Coursera and its ethics. He showed his lack of understanding about the real opportunities in front of us online that compel learners to convene.

    Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink