Some Reactions to Learning With MOOCs II

Changing the unit of analysis?

October 4, 2015

Thank you to our colleagues at Columbia University for hosting the 2nd Learning With MOOCs gathering. The hospitality, warmth, and personal attention of our Columbia hosts set a new standard for gatherings such as these.

This conference is distinct from other educational technology gatherings as it is: a) focused on bringing together MOOC practitioners, and b) both MOOC producers and MOOC platform providers are represented.

The main theme that ran through all sessions, panels, and discussions at the conference was that the most important goal of MOOC programs is to improve learning at the schools that are developing and teaching these open online courses. 

We are all working on open online courses, but we are thinking about how MOOCs can be a lever and a catalyst to evolve residential (and traditional online) teaching and learning.

If MOOCs are conceived as a means rather than an ends, a catalyst rather than a goal, then restricting discussions to MOOCs feels constricting and artificial. 

We need to understand how we can effectively and productively leverage open online learning to bring new resources, new ideas, and new organizational structures to traditional postsecondary teaching and learning.

We need to go deeply into the politics, culture, and structure of our institutions.

We need to combine MOOC practitioners with experts on the structure, history, and future of higher education. 

We need to open up our discussions to include experts on organizational change.

One of the important outcomes of the growth of open online education has been the development of new campus competencies to evolve and support teaching and learning. MOOCs have provided venues where faculty have the opportunity to collaborate closely with teams of non-faculty educators. Developing a MOOC is a creative endeavor involving faculty, instructional designers, media educators, librarians, developers, assessment experts, and students.

We lack, however, a good way of talking about, measuring, or understanding the institutional impact on residential learning of MOOCs.

The research on MOOCs being undertaken by a new cadre of data scientists is wonderful. The unit of analysis for this research, however, is almost always contained within the MOOC itself. 

How can we apply this same rigorous analytical lens to measuring and understanding organizational change?  

How can we get the sociologists and the assessment experts to take the college and the university as the unit of analysis?

Can anyone point to some good research and writing on the impact of open online learning on institutional change, with a specific focus on improving residential learning?

What are the higher ed conferences where the same people involved in experiments such as open online learning come to talk about postsecondary institutional change?

Where is the social science research where improved residential learning is the dependent variable, and MOOCs are an independent (explanatory) variable?

If you are a MOOC practitioner, (someone who has worked on a MOOC team to produce a course), how do you see your MOOC work has supporting a larger goal to improve teaching and learning on your campus?



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