Insider / Outsider MOOC Divide

What I hope to learn from my open online learning colleagues at Learning With MOOCS II - 2015.

October 1, 2015

There are two MOOC narratives. An insider MOOC narrative. And an outsider MOOC narrative.

MOOC insiders are people who have taught a MOOC, worked on a MOOC, done research about MOOCs, championed a MOOC, or worked for the platform providers that have enabled MOOCs.

MOOC outsiders may have invested time exploring an open online course, but they have not been directly involved in the creation, teaching, or enabling of a MOOC.

What I’m coming to understand, and what is causing me increasing levels of concern, is that there is a growing chasm between MOOC insiders and MOOC outsiders.

I’m starting to think that the biggest challenge that the open online learning community needs to face is how to authentically engage with MOOC outsiders.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I head off to the Learning With MOOCS II - 2015 workshop (10/2-10/3).  If there ever was a gathering of MOOC insiders, this is it.

Here is what the MOOC insider / outsider narrative looks like:

MOOC Insider: Open online learning provides an opportunity to create a space to experiment with new teaching methods and techniques that have the potential to inform how traditional teaching and learning is structured on campus.

MOOC Outsider: MOOCs are a fad, and the schools creating these open online courses are doing so out of fear of being left behind. Like all fads, MOOCs will fade away as sustainable business models fail to emerge and the promises of transformative educational practices fail to materialize.

MOOC Insider: Open online learning was never meant to replace traditional higher education, as there is strong evidence that authentic student learning occurs best when educators have the opportunity to intensively mentor and coach individual learners. Where MOOCs may be helpful is discovering where certain aspects of teaching, such as content delivery, can be moved to other (data validated) platforms, freeing up time and space for a relational model of teaching and learning.

MOOC Outsider: It is clear that the goal of people pushing MOOCs is to increase postsecondary productivity at the expense of both faculty autonomy and student learning. MOOCs are a thinly disguised corporatist attempt to de-skill faculty by moving the traditional teaching role from a creative enterprise to a commoditized (and low-cost) set of  operations.

MOOC Insider: Open online learning initiatives are as diverse as the schools creating the courses. At some schools, the goal of creating MOOCs is to open up a dialogue around how teaching and learning is changing, and how technologies and methods (like open online learning) can inform this change. Other schools are more interested in leveraging open online learning to provide affordable access to learning, as well as create a pipeline for enrollment and a path to degree completion. Still other schools see offering open online courses as part of their mission to create and share knowledge.

MOOC Outsider: MOOCs are all about marketing and branding. They are attempts to combine their existing brand position with the potential of going to Internet scale. This incumbent digital land grab is more about maintaining the status quo of postsecondary inequality than about providing meaningful education opportunities to the millions of people who are currently poorly served by higher education.

MOOC Insider: The scale of open online learning provides us with a laboratory to measure the impact on learning of various instructional strategies. In trying to learn from the data that MOOCs provide, we are building new competencies and skills in both assessment and in making instructional choices informed by data.

MOOC Outsider: The big data element of MOOCs have been oversold and overhyped. Any model of education that relies on videos and multiple choice assessments tells us little about what actually occurs in most college classrooms.

What would you add to this MOOC insider / outsider narrative?

What is fascinating is how little common understand is shared by MOOC insiders and outsiders.

Almost none of the values, assumptions, and experiences of the MOOC insider community has crossed-over to those outside of this group.  If anything, positions have hardened.

Productive conversation is difficult as the experiences, networks, and even world views of MOOC insiders and outsiders have continued to diverge.

My hope is that our community attending the Learning With MOOCS II gathering will take some time to understand and articulate the concerns of the MOOC outsiders, and to come up with a plan to bridge this chasm.

My fear is that if our open online learning community continues on our current path that we will become more and more isolated and disconnected from a large portion of the educators that we think that we are supporting in our work.

What are your thoughts on how to bridge the MOOC insider / outsider divide?


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