Last Friday I was delighted have been invited to the “what are MOOCs?” staff development seminar at Newcastle University
I started the day with a presentation around the the history, pedagogy, myths and media of MOOCs, followed by Sian Bayne who gave a very open presentation about the experiences at Edinburgh and in particular of the #edcmooc. Suzanne Hardy (based at Newcastle) then reflected on her experience as a student on the #edcmooc, and also raised some very pertinent points for fellow staff members on the potential opportunities and pitfalls of developing MOOCs as part of institutional provision.
It was, as ever, really useful to hear the thoughts of “normal” staff members. By that I mean your average lecturer/support person who doesn’t know much about MOOCs, hasn’t been a student on one and who has only heard bits and pieces about the whole phenomenon and isn’t part of the edtech twitterati. Newcastle, unlike Edinburgh, but like many Universities not just in the UK but around the world, hasn’t been part of the “first wave” of activity. So what are the institutional benefits to becoming involved now that the initial splash is over? Is it a case of just having to be seen to do “something” to keep up with your peer institutions? Or can you afford to take some more time to see how things play out? As Sian emphasised throughout the day, there is an awful lot of research that needs to be done to show the actually effectiveness (or not) of MOOCs. (This recently published survey of teachers experiences although mainly US based is a step in that direction) .
As Patrick McAndrew pointed out during his keynote at #cetis13 perhaps what we really need to think about is less of the “m” and more of the “o”. In other words concentrate on developing and sharing open practice and resources and in turn open courses/content which meet specific institutional aims. As we all know there are many variations of open. And again Patrick as pointed out, by using one of the big MOOC providers you could be putting at least one more barrier in front of your “open” course.
I suspect that for a number of the UK institutions in the first wave of MOOC activity, the reputational benefits are the key driver. Many of them can afford to underwrite the costs of developing and running the courses in the short term without having to think too much about the longer term benefits/costs or indeed any potential lock downs/change of service agreements from platform providers.
Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing for those institutions not involved with MOOCS just now, to take a step back to consider the most beneficial aspect of MOOCs for their aims and objectives before trying to become part of the second wave. And in the meantime, like this well know VC, encourage more insight and reflection for both staff and students with a try before you buy (or sell!) attitude.
My presentation (with thanks to #ds106 participants for many of the images)