I recently shared that I couldn’t see why anyone who loved open education wouldn’t at least be in like with MOOCs of all flavors including Udacity, Coursera, EdX, etc. My friend Scott replied that meh was about all he could muster.
I get it. I didn’t say everyone should love them. I don’t love them. But when I consider all the work that so many have put into trying to get institutions to open up and share something, I can’t believe I am the one playing the part of optimist now that at least those institutions are doing something…and something that is more interesting than pretty much everything Open CourseWare and similar initiatives have managed to do.
xMOOCs aren’t the greatest thing since [insert snappy comparison that isn't sliced bread here]. xMOOCs aren’t as “good” in my mind as cMOOCs (and so the arcane language of the edgeeks grows)…or perhaps a better word would be “complete.” There’s nothing particularly innovative about the corporate and/or institutional MOOC offerings. I get that too.
But there’s a lot of great stuff there to be used and co-opted just as we who have been promoting innovative teaching having been doing for what feels like eons. I don’t care that they are for-profit as long as I don’t literally have to pay to steal their good content and put it to better use. I don’t care that Twitter, Google, and dozens of others are for-profit if the payment borne by the learners isn’t actual money and isn’t inordinate in quantity…I’ll use them.
I’ve been making the case that open education should be called open teaching and learning for many years because otherwise it’s all about content…and that’s the least interesting part of open education. But the reality ignored by many who embrace open education while resenting xMOOCs is that the xMOOCs are at least as good if not better than the product of most of the single-faceted sharing that has characterized most of the open education movement until now. What opponents complain is missing from the xMOOCs is just what is missing from most of the stuff of open education, much of which those same people embrace.
I’m a fan of good open textbooks and the like…why shouldn’t I be a fan of xMOOCs in at least the same way (since that’s essentially what they are)? I feel the same way about Khan Academy, which is in no way innovative but still useful. With so many of the first waves of innovators in the web age burning out after years of banging their heads against the walls–institutional and otherwise–that limit realization of their innovative ideas, I’d think we’d embrace the utility and openness–even if less than ideal and even if incomplete–as not only considerably better than nothing, but as an actual, not-so-bad tool in the toolbox.
In case anyone missed the memo: the education revolution isn’t happening now, just as it didn’t happen yesterday and won’t happen tomorrow. Innovation will always happen at the edges and it will always be in reaction to–and contention with–institutional forces. xMOOCs aren’t cMOOCs and cMOOCs aren’t DS106. But if I could convince the faculty I work with to open their courses up to the same degree as xMOOCs and convince my institution to buy (literally) into doing so, I’d feel pretty good about it. Maybe not as good as if I could a) see clearly how to make the richer model of connectivist MOOCs or the even more interesting model of DS106 work in the context of other populations and different topics and disciplines and, b) implement those ideas… but still significantly better than I generally do contemplating the state of eLearning as it stands right now.