Jon Beasley-Murray, an Associate Professor of Latin American Studies at UBC, as part of a recent debate at UBC’s Open Access Week, explores the role that MOOCs: “So why, then, talk and think about MOOCs at all? Well, in the first place, because any challenge to the university and its business model is welcome, even if the point of the challenge that I myself would want to make is quite different from that presented by Koller and her venture-capitalist partners. And second, because the university’s reaction to the MOOCs is so very revealing. It shows us how much is rotten in the institution and how far we still have to go before we achieve the vision of a truly open education.”
David Wiley, a chief academic officer of Lumen Learning, adjunct faculty at Brigham Young University, and pioneer in open learning, discusses the impacts that MOOCs have had on the idea of “open” in higher education. “Despite all the hyperbole, it has become clear that MOOCs are nothing more than traditional online courses enhanced by open entry, and not the innovation so many had hoped for.” He suggests that MOOC providers should support open licenses to allow for reuse, revision, and redistribution. Dr. Wiley also poses the question, “If MOOC providers changed from ‘open means open entry’ to ‘open means open licenses’ what would the impact be? In fact, it would drastically expand the access enjoyed by people around the world, as learners everywhere would be free to download, translate, and redistribute the MOOC content. MOOCs could become part of the innovation conversation.” Dr. Wiley also suggests that an open education infrastructure that consists of open credentials, assessments, competencies, and resources would “provide a foundation that will greatly decrease the time, cost, and complexity of the search for more effective models of education.”
UBC recently announced the development of four new MOOCs. The faculty authors and titles of the MOOCs are:
- Karen Bakker, Professor, Department of Geography – The Global Water Crisis
- Jan Hare, Associate Professor, Department of Language and Literacy Education – Reconciliation Through Indigenous Education
- Edward Slingerland, Professor, Department of Asian Studies – Foundations of Chinese Thought
- Joleen Timko, Managing Director, AFRICAD, Department of Wood Science – Forests, Poverty, and Livelihoods: Current Topics From Across The Developing World
These topics expand the disciplinary base of UBC’s MOOC offerings and highlight UBC’s strategic strength in areas of sustainability, Aboriginal understanding, Asian Studies, and the natural resources sector. Development of these MOOCs will involve a range of people from faculty and centrally positioned units, and it is expected that these new MOOCs will launch in Fall 2014.
A new paper found that in the first year of HarvardX and MITx, only 5 percent of people who registered for a MOOC went on to earn a certificate of completion these courses. However, two authors from the report argue that “completion rates are a measure that threatens the goals of educational access that motivated the creation of MOOCs”. The authors argue that there is a wide variety of learning practices emerging in open online learning environments that may be obscured by a focus on completion rates. For example, they highlight a case of how exposure from the Colbert Report, a popular television show, lead to tripling a registration rates but only doubling certification rates. One of the reasons completion rates were lower is that “nearly half of registrants were joining courses that were already closed for certification.” While closing those courses to new registrants would have increased certification rates, it would lead to a minimization of students learning something new.
Michael Feldstein examines how MOOCs explode the assumption that the goal of a course “is to be able to certify that students in the class have learned a well-defined set of knowledge and skills.” He states that one of the most transformative aspects of MOOCs is they “challenge us to look for pedagogically effective alternatives to the control that faculty can assert in a face-to-face class and that they can’t assert online. But in order to really learn from this forcing function, we need to go beyond designing solely for course goals and explicitly design for student goals.”
As part of her Top 10 Ed-Tech Trends of 2013 Series, Audrey Watters provides an abbreviated history and on-going summary of MOOC-related news and trends: “MOOCs expanded greatly in 2013 – expanded their partner institutions, expanded their course offerings, expanded their investment dollars, grew the number of students enrolled, and so on. But there were lots of questions along the way: who’s succeeding in MOOCs; how will MOOCs make money; how will MOOCs affect higher education; and how will MOOCs affect open education?”