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2. Access is not a given.

Who actually gets access to MOOCs? And what are they getting access to? According to Susan Meisenhelder, professor emeritus of English at California State University, San Bernardino, “access is a complex, even slippery, term. It means much more than the mere opportunity to enroll in a course just as access to the middle-class dream of home ownership meant much more than the opportunity to get a loan and move in for a while. For access to be meaningful—and not just an empty advertising slogan—students must have a real chance, if they work hard, to succeed in getting a quality education.”

““MOOCs are another tool in the box,” says David Wiley, a leader in the open education movement and an expert in instructional technology. “If we start swinging them, hammer-like, at everything, we will do so to the detriment of students. We should be honest about the situations they may be appropriately used in, and make heavy use of them there. We shouldn’t make inappropriate claims about broader applicability.”

According to two-year assessment of the massive open online courses (MOOCs) created by HarvardX and MITx through their edX online-learning partnership, “those who hope that MOOCs will spread higher education to underserved populations in the United States or around the world, it is thus fair to say, the promise is so far not being definitively met by the high-level HarvardX and MITx offerings…” (Read more here.)

Meisenhelder believe that faculty have the expertise and the access to numerous platforms for exposing what she calls the “fake access claims” made for MOOCs. “Even the simple act of demanding that those institutions beginning to push MOOCs for credit inform students about the data on success in MOOCs could empower a student to make wiser choices—and ask some hard questions.”

Meisenhelder also believes that demanding administrators answer questions about the digital divide among students being “targeted” will not only highlight a very concrete problem with MOOCs but also open discussion of other social class and equity issues in their use.

“As faculty we can also demand—and actually do—research on MOOCs and other innovations. Right now, the research ‘agenda’ on MOOCs is largely being driven by universities sponsoring them and corporate providers. We need not only to scrutinize their research claims; we also need more independent research that pushes beyond what Phil Hill has called the ‘billions served’ metric currently passed off as MOOC assessment.” (Read more of Meisenhelder’s essay here.)

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3. Like desktop computers, MOOCs are going smaller, easier.

Like many disruptive innovations, the initial tech offering may not be the one that survives. In fact, it’s often an easier-to-implement, smaller offshoot of the original that is the true disruptive innovation that changes the market.

Though its success will depend on its performance over the next year or so, Edcasting may just be the iPad to MOOCs’ desktop computers. EdCast–a personal learning network platform– developed what it says is a new social media platform that allows people to post mini-MOOCs, or video snippets of educational content; the new functionality is called “EdCasting.”

EdCasting is a less formal version of online courses, and is akin to tweeting, with the difference being that each post is based on a video or link that can be described without being limited to 140 characters.

“Just as podcasting and Tweeting made it easier to share general content, EdCasting empowers everyone to share their knowledge and help create the new culture of lifelong learning in this knowledge economy,” said Karl Mehta, CEO and Founder of EdCast. “With EdCasting, you are just a button push away from being connected to subject experts.”

The launch of EdCasting includes 10 channels ranging from entrepreneurship, architecture, robotics, technology, and health, filled with insights from over 100 “globally renowned experts and influencers,” described the company in a press release.

And just like with Twitter, the mini-MOOC platform is meant to be an informal learning ecosystem, where those who sign up for the EdCast platform can follow channels, groups, or individuals, and educators can curate content for their followers. It’s also AI driven based on user profile characteristics and activity-based interests.

“Imagine following teachers or mentors and continuing to see content they endorse on an ongoing basis,” noted a report from Class Central, a MOOC aggregation platform. “Unlike Twitter, this is not mixed with personal comments or the latest news—it is a pure-play channel for educational content. Also, there is no “re-tweeting”, so that the information flow is not diluted with recycled information–everything in your feed is a hand-selected link or video.”

Read more about EdCasting here.

(Next page: Design and strategy)


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