Our manuscript deadline for this book is approaching (2 months, really?) and the challenge of pulling together the threads of the impact of MOOCs is ramping up. How do we disentangle the differences between the impact of MOOCs and the impact of online learning or budget cuts? What relationship does the MOOC have to the OER movement? lots and lots of questions, and all we can do is keep writing I’m working on an article around the end of the topic with Valerie Irvine right now… proof that i’m thinking about it Val
MOOC as an act of curation
I was looking over the work the folks at the university of Edinburgh on Coursera, specifically the E-learning and Digital Cultures and the tidyness of the work that they had done really struck me. Each week, here’s five neatly organized videos, here’s some nice things to read, here are some more complex things you might want to engage with… all nicely arranged by topic. Or, you could say, by chapter.
Having mostly piggy backed on the encyclopedic knowledge of Downes and Siemens for the teaching of MOOCs, it’d never really struck me how much the process is really about carving out a piece of the internet. A dabble of this perspective, some papers by that person, lets get some differing opinions in here – I remember this really great video by…
If you’re lucky (and I would argue, if you’re doing it right) that curation does predate the course, but it only ramps up when the course starts. Grsshopper, Stephen’s software for newsletters, is a curation engine. It pulls together All the Things created by the participants in a course so they can be seen by anyone who wants to. Again, chopping the internet into manageable pieces.
The Edinburgh example
According to the Times Higher article from yesterday, The University of Edinburgh got 300,000 students for its Coursera courses. The article magically sets out what I have always thought was the most likely business model for MOOCs – the loss leader. In 220 words they lay out their reasoning… they currently have 2000 online students. They want to have 10000 students. One can imagine that they hope that of the 300K 8000 students not currently registered for ‘for pay’ courses at the institution will decide to pay money to have a longer relationship with their institution.
Quality of instruction/personality
This really puts the pressure on the instructors in the MOOC to represent the institution in a positive way. In order for the loss leader approach to work, the Coursera experience needs to be a positive one. I also don’t think it’s a big leap to believe that the people who are teaching the Coursera courses will also be the people teaching the ‘for pay’ courses that the institution will be hoping that students take in the future. Personal faculty brand continues to increase in importance.
Every bit of the content that i saw in the course mentioned above was open access. Due to the crazy international laws around copyright, trying to get a contract with a publisher for access to a journal for 300,000 people. At least… not under any current model. So we have maybe 100 items of open content being curated by the instructors and then seen by potentially thousands of other teachers. Important point.
The threat to journals
I see this creating a two point threat to the journal infrastructure as we know it. Current journals are either of the open access variety, where mostly unpaid academic type people take care of the work and allow every to access the material. These, i presume, will get more and more traffic due to MOOCs. The paid journals, where libraries are charged fees based on the number of times people have accessed a particular piece or based on an institutional price governed by the number of students or… well… there are a few models. Anyway these journals are not usable by MOOCs. The licensing as it is would be too weird.
Broad viewing of open access
I’ve always thought that one of the reasons that OER and open access has struggle to catch on in some circles is that many academics had particular articles and people that they were accustomed to using in their courses, and choosing to go open access would require rethinking their courses and long search times. The curation process that is a MOOC alleviates this to a great degree. Here we have a network textbook that, in our present case the fine folks at Edinburgh, have taken the effort to collect. How easy to just take it and repurpose the pieces that you need.
The brand element
The need to publish is wrapped into a pile of tangles inside the academic system, tenure promotion, institutions proving that they have impact, satisfying funders etc… If we are having giant courses with 100K people in them, however, and anyone who publishes in a closed journal is left out, that’s going to have an impact on the uh… impact. The chance to have your work viewed, your institution to be known as having influential people in it, could increasingly be a matter of whether your material is used in a MOOC.
And, as mentioned earlier, your ability to market online courses could increasingly be a question of whether you have the kind of faculty that people want to take a course with. If i’m looking to learn something about connectivism, and I see George’s name on half the things that are written about them, I’m going to be tempted to take the connectivism course with george at Athabasca. If he’d published all those things in closed journals, it seems less likely that they would get found
So whither the closed journal? They are either going to get left out of the MOOC drive, or they are going to have to change the licensing. If they are going to charge anything for the material, however, that will be taking the price of the course from ‘free’ to ‘not-free’… which is a pretty big leap no matter how much you charge. The open net, on the other hand, is licensed in a way that is perfectly setup for MOOCs. Now that we have so much public curation going on, we are not only going to be able to find more of the existing awesomeness, I’m guessing that we’ll see people releasing more and more of their stuff for free… if only so they don’t miss out.