Where there are Networks Life Exists

This published as Where there are Networks, Life Exists in Ecuador En La Capacitaxion Masiva En Linea: Memorias Del Congtrso MOOC IAEN 2014 Forward Apr 30, 2015. [Link] Type: [List all Publications]

In the seven years since George Siemens and I created the first Massive Open Online Course we have observed a proliferation of experiments, articles and publications in the field. It is with some interest that we have notice differeng degrees of interest in each of the four terms over time.

Some have questioned whether MOOCs should be massive at all, proposing that their large size makes conversation difficult. Our own approach was to break down the single instructor-dominated conversation into many small-group or peer-to-peer discussions. But this needs to be explored.

Others have questioned the definition of open, challenged us with models that include tuitions fees or subscriptions, or from the other direction challenged MOOCs that offered restrictive terms of use that prevented copying ro sharing. We felt openness and open educational resources were essential in order to permit interactivity. This debate, too, must continue.

The question of whether a MOOC must be online was raised by others who offered the model of the 'wrapped MOOC', treating the online learning component as analagous to a textbook or online community. This to me raises the question of egalitarian participation, and raises serious issues about whether people outside elite institutions can participate fully.

And others wonder whether a community counts as a course, whether a course must be devoted to a specific curriculum, or specific objectives, or involve an instructor, or be based in an institution. We believe a course has value in creating temporary networks and in creating temporary associations, all of which increase diversity and improve the chances for serendipity. This, too, is a conversation we continue to have.

Our experiments in MOOCs have flowed from their initial foundation in Canada though the United States and Latin America, across Europe and through Asia and Africa, a world-wide realization that happened almost instantly. I believe that we did not create a new thing that suddenly excited a large number of people so much as we tapped into some deep and important issues that had already engaged people and already captured their imagination.

So this is a conversation we must have. It's a conversation that reaches into every corner of academia, every part of the world, every aspect of education, from that provided to small children to the advanced degrees pursued by scholars, scientists and engineers. Because it is not just about this new form of educational delivery. It's about who we serve, how openly we serve them, where we serve them, and how. Nothing could be more basic. And nothing deserves our attention more urgently.


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