This article offers a bit of a history of MOOCs but is mostly (starting about a third of the way in ) an article about the Modern States "freshman year for free" project (no explanation why they couldn't use the long-established gender-neutral term 'frosh', as in 'frosh year for free', or even 'first year for free'). It's marketing. “'We want to be an on-ramp into the traditional system,' he (founder Steven Klinsky) tells me (author Mene Ukueberuwa), explaining how the platform’s courses could help, say, a cash-strapped college student finish a suspended degree or a full-time worker shave time off her course of study." Taxpayers, meanwhile, foot the bill, while Modern States operates in cooperation with EdX. Via Audrey Watters.
David Wiley candidly admits that this history is written from his own point of view, which is a good thing, because my experience of these events was very different. For example, in the mid-1990s, when Wiley was working on an ISP startup, I was working on a FreeNet. I had been using and creating non-commercial shareware (including most especially extensive BBS systems and MUDLibs) for years by the time open source advocates gathered to launch the movement in 1998. When Wiley was writing Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond about his ideas for 'open content' in that same year my own non-commercial open content had been online for three years. When Wiley says we would be "close to nowhere" had we not commercialized free software and free content, I think that the appropriation of an already existing and robust sharing community by commercial interests is what is breaking the internet today. For some people it's cash; for other people it's community. I know where I stand.
In research and design my focus is more on creating affordances than outcomes. This allows for the creation of different outcomes by different people, in different contexts. It's also, I think, a better basis for the study of media. This paper offers a good example. It examines how the affordances offered by Twitter influenced leadership and activism in Occupy Wall Street. The authors found that "the core actors used Twitter to resolve ambiguity more often than reducing uncertainty." For example, "retweeting resolves ambiguity by filtering noise, spam, and misinformation by adding credibility to a piece of information." This makes sense to me. In a turbulent and chaotic environment, the world is awash with information. Merely creating more information does not add value. Creating interpretation, context and connection - that creates value.
Michael Geist is arguing against a proposal this week from Canadian telecom and media companies that would allow them to block websites. "The coalition’s proposal raises serious legal concerns," he writes. "It envisions the creation of a new, not-for-profit organization that would be responsible for identifying sites to block... The courts would remarkably be left out of the process." And the telecoms have a history of overreach. For example, " hen Telus restricted access to a pro-union website in 2005, it simultaneously blocked access to an additional 766 websites hosted by the same computer server." I think it's very likely we would see the companies use this power to block competition (like streaming media or TVAddons) or to rub out criticism and dissent. Moreover, as one commenter said, "This problem could easily be solved by some kind of functional separation. If Bell wants to own the content then it can't manage the pipe. Their censorious urges would probably evaporate pretty quickly then." More: Globe and Mail, Financial Post, OpenMedia, Buzzfeed, Telecom Trends.
There's no reason why this model couldn't work for academic or educational content as well. "Berlin-based daily Tageszeitung (taz for short) has more than 10,000 supporters who make recurring donations to fund its operations; 50,000 subscribers to its print and digital editions; and more than 17,000 reader-owners who pay a minimum of EUR500 to join the taz cooperative." Access to the content is free; no paywall. Of course nobody is getting rich, but that's the point. Herde Hitziger, a member of the cooperative, writes, “For me, taz is part of my political identity… I think that the reader cooperative and taz zahl ich [“I pay”] is a visionary idea. Together we are making something available that is educational, including people who would not be able to afford it otherwise. I also feel that I am part of a community through taz.”
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