Thursday, April 25, 2013

On the aversion to acronyms

A couple of weeks ago I was online at the Sloan-C conference on Emerging Technologies for Online learning. It seems as though MOOCs were the thing for this conference, and in specific the different varieties of MOOCs.  That said, itseems like many acronyms were floating around both for non-MOOCs, and MOOC-like things such as SPOC, MOLE, BOOC and so on. I've written about the sillyness of acronyms before on this blog, and those following me on twitter probably saw my virtual eye-rolling when I was live-tweeting sessions.

Don't get me wrong, I did like acronyms earlier in life, but mostly as a way to play with language.
Now, in this environment, acronyms seem like a way to get you noticed, or to get you a paper that others may cite in their papers so you can get some research-cred.  Maybe I am a cynic, but I find that acronyms, in these cases, do obfiscate what's happening or trying to happen. For instance, I've written before about SPOC (small private online course).  This is something that's been the "norm" for online courses for the past 15 years, what's new now?  Well, what's new is the opportunity to ride on the coat-tails of the MOOC hype to get you some more citations. Take MOLE then, a Massive Open Learning Environment.  Hmmm... well, this to me sounds like a PLE.

I could go on with crazy acronyms, but I wont. Even if we are talking about real MOOCs, just changing a few parameters does not warrant a new acronym.  The point is that a  MOOC is an archetype.  Just because we decide to run a course in manner X versus manner Y, it is still a MOOC.  We should be more thoughtful of what we throw out there in terms of terms and not try to reinvent the wheel.  This whole acronym gold rush reminds me a lot of something else that happened 10 years ago: the rush to name the next generation (digital natives, gen Y, etc.) - how many of those are still around? ;-)
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