Tuesday, April 19, 2016

wrapping up this MOOC book...

Finally!  I've made it to the end of the book!  It only took me nine months to do so (a couple of chapters each month?) but it's finally done!  This will be my final review of chapters in Macro-Level Learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): Strategies and Predictions for the Future.  I was going to write two separate blog posts about this, one for each chapter, but I've sort of run out of steam, and I have a sense that I will be writing the same (or similar things) for the last two chapters. Today under the microscope are chapter 11, which is titled MOOCs: Evolution and Revolution, and Chapter 12 which is titled The Evolution of Online Learning and Related Tools and Techniques toward MOOCs. It should be noted that there is actually a chapter 13 and 14, but I had received those to review before I got this book, and I've written briefly about them, sometime last year - so no rehash in this post.

The abstract for chapter 11 is as follows:
This chapter introduces the evolution of the MOOC, using narratives that are documented by research generated from the educational community. It concentrates on the history and progression of distance learning and its movement toward online education. The authors' perspectives focus on their own anecdotal evolution, from traditional classroom teaching, infusing distance and online learning, to designing and teaching in a MOOC setting. In examining whether the MOOC is more of an evolution or a revolution in learning, they explore questions that have emerged about MOOCs including what distinguishes this model from other online offerings, characteristics of learners who succeed in this environment, and debates regarding best practices. Critical reaction and responses by proponents of this learning format are presented and acknowledged. The research, perspectives and debates clearly impact what the future of the MOOC appears to offer. This continues the discussion within the book section ‘RIA and education practice of MOOCs,' aligning to the discussion on the topic of ‘educational training design.'

The abstract for chapter 12 is as follows:
The latest development in the online learning environment, Massive Open Online Courses, dubbed ‘MOOC,' has garnered considerable attention both within and without the academy. This chapter discusses tools and technologies that can support the development of a MOOC, and concludes with commentary about the potential for such a development to continue into mainstream postsecondary education. This chapter delivers a small yet meaningful contribution to the discussion within the book section ‘RIA and education practice of MOOCs,' aligning to the discussion on the topic of ‘educational training design.'

For me, chapter 11 seemed lengthy (which isn't bad) but it has sparse citations.  Granted, the abstract tells you as much -that this chapter is the author's anecdotal perspectives on the evolution of the MOOC, but I guess I expected something more than that.  See, when I sit here and blog, whoever reads this blog knows that I am generally responding or reacting to something I've read or experienced.  So, when I write about something there is usually some sort of link to that original something.  On the one hand I did like this chapter's look back at educational technology, and specifically looking at the minitel system and how that was applicable to language learning here in the US - historical details like that don't seem to be acknowledged in our EdTech world of today and some of us seem to be suffering from memory loss in this experiment quickly and fail-fast world. I think there is value in knowing about the past and what those heuristics, affordances, and capabilities were (especially for systems that no longer exist).  That said, I really don't think think this chapter was well researched (makes sense since this was mostly anecdotal), and to me that doesn't provide a lot of value, especially since the list price for this chapter is around $38 US.  Furthermore, the authors seem to be hyper-focused on worries about cheating MOOC, which to me seems like a non-issue. There are articles in open access journals that do a better job than this chapter with the same theme.

In Chapter 12, on the other hand, the chapter was very brief.  In this chapter the technologies used to support a MOOC might as well be technologies that support regular, "traditional" online and distance education. I really did not see a convincing  differentiation between MOOCs and the traditional, for-credit, online learning environment.  I did like the little section that the authors wrote on getting the MOOC publicized and having people sign up for it because I know I haven't seen this elsewhere. So, for a novice in MOOC this might actually be valuable. Again, though, this was only a small part of the chapter.

All things considered, I am glad I read this book, but I really didn't come away with seeing the value in it, include those who are novices at the MOOC. I'd personally prefer to curate the equivalent amount of chapters from open access journals and people's blog posts and package that as a perspectives on MOOCs volume. I hope I am not being too harsh :-)

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