There Is Open and Then There Is Closed

open closed

Going back all the way to the early days of MOOCs (less than a decade, of course), the Open part of Massive Open Online Courses was a very important part of the equation. OPEN meant a number of things, including:

Access - open to all, regardless of age, location or previous experience and education

Free - without cost

Open Tools - using free and open tools like Moodle, blogs etc.

Reuse – the right to reuse the content in its unaltered / verbatim form

Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself

Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other content to create something new

Redistribute – the right to make and share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others

That is not true for many of the big MOOC providers. Another blow against the Open Everything Empire comes with the announcement that Udacity will no longer give learners the opportunity to earn free, “non-identity-verified” certificates. People will still be able to view Udacity’s online course materials without paying, but those who want a credential will have to pay. Udacity feels their courses are worth something and plans to charge students accordingly. Udacity had earlier pulled back on believing that MOOCs are best-suited for academic pursuits and better applied to traing and lifelong learning. That is what many universities consider to be "non-credit" courses.

How long before the courses are not even open to those who aren't willing to pay to learn?

The big MOOC providers already tend not to use open source platforms and most don't allow the courses to be remixed, reused or redistributed.

The openness is eroding.



The MOOC of One

I have given several presentations in the past six months on MOOCs and audiences are always interested in the future. After all the hype that MOOCs received in 2012 and 2013, I expected the crash of attention and favor.

I'll have more to say on the future of the form, but in brief, I feel that it will have less traction in academia with formal, credit courses and greater traction with non-credit programs, lifelong learning and professional development.

The slides below seem to be moving in the same direction of thinking. In this talk, Stephen Downes looks at the transition of the massive open online course to applications in the personal learning environment.

He says that "I question what it is to become 'one' - whether it be one course graduate, one citizen of the community, or one educated person. I argue that (say) 'being a doctor' isn't about having remembered the right content, not about having done the right things, not even about having the right feelings, nor about having the right mental representations - being one is about growing and developing a certain way."

He offers audio at

MOOC: The Seven Year Itch

I am looking forward to speaking at NJEDge.Net's 15th Annual Faculty Showcase on March 28, 2014.

Last year, I spoke about Massive Open Online Courses just ahead of offering one myself. That was "Academia and the MOOC" which was offered with NJEDge.Net through Canvas Network last spring.

This year I will be back as the lunch plenary and I'm calling my talk "MOOC: The Seven Year Itch" since the MOOC is now 7 years old.

If 2012 was the "Year of the MOOC", then what happened in 2013 - and what will become of the MOOC in 2014?

I will give an update on the past year in Massive Open Online Courses and a sense of how they are really impacting education and training.

The morning speaker is Dr. Erin Templeton an Associate professor of English at Converse College and a fellow lover of poetry. But for this audience, it is more that she is a regular contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education blog, ProfHacker.

The Faculty Showcase is all about best practices from member institutions and is targeted to educators from K-12, higher education, institutional research, and healthcare related teaching as an opportunity to show their work to NJ colleagues.

The event features presentations and posters on technology-mediated instruction.

More event information at

Still Questioning MOOCs?

Whether you think they are a game changer or a fad, you have to admit that no other recent development in higher education has captured the imagination of the media and the attention of universities as MOOCs have done.

Are they really a disruptive innovation and, if so, how are they changing higher education? That's what a recent call for papers asks. (Submission deadline: 30 June 2014) Actually, they ask a number of questions:
Why and how do institutions decide to offer MOOCs?  
Who are the learners and what are their patterns of behaviour?   
What are the implications of MOOCs for developing countries?  
What changes are MOOCs stimulating in institutions (e.g. more online learning, shorter programmes/courses, public-private partnerships, etc.)?  
How is evolving technology changing the infrastructure required to offer MOOCs?
MOOCs have spread beyond higher education and are now being offered by a wider range of institutions and organisations – what is their experience?
Are viable business models for MOOCs emerging?

The early big pioneers of big MOOC platforms are still around. In the spring of 2012, Anant Agarwal, a professor of computer science at MIT, taught a course called “Circuits and Electronics.” The course enrolled 155,000 students from 162 countries around the world. Now the head of edX, Agarwal says MOOCs still matter. He thinks that they are a way to share high-level learning widely and supplement (but perhaps not replace) traditional classrooms. He has a vision of blended learning as the ideal learning experience for 21st century students.

Daphne Koller co-founded Coursera with Andrew Ng and got top universities to put some of their most intriguing courses online for free. They do it as a service and as a way to research how people learn.

Coursera measures each student's activity, quizzes, peer-to-peer discussion and grading gives them Big Data on how knowledge is processed.