Online Courses or Long Form Journalism? Communicating How the World Works…

I just spotted this:

(In case that livelink dies, it’s a tweet from @sclopit: “wouldn’t it be wonderful if somebody put together a Coursera course on Bitcoin, covering whole range: crypto, ops, economics, politics?”)

Here’s a crappy graph I’ve used before


It hints at how I see different sensemakers working together to help inform folk about how the world works… This was may how things were – maybe hard edges and labels need changing in a reinvention of how we make sense of the world and communicate it to others?

This was wrong – Publisher led mini-courses – but it still feels like a piece in a possibly new-cut jigsaw.

By chance, I also spotted this for the first time yesterday, even though it’s been around for some time: O’Reilly School of Technology. Self-paced, online courses with emailable tutor. (Similar context – The Business of HE Moves On….)

And this today: Facts Are Sacred“A new book published by the team behind the Datablog explains how we do data journalism at the Guardian.” Books are often handy things to pin courses round, of course… (Which is to say – is there a MOOC in that?)

FutureLearn has been signing up ‘non-academic’ partners – the British Library, and the British Council, for example. I wonder if the BBC are going to join the party too? If so, then would there be a place for other publishers…?

…or does that feel wrong? Maybe the press doesn’t have the right sort of “independent voice” to deliver “academic” courses? WHich is why we maybe need to rethink the cutting of the jigsaw, or at least, a new view over it.

Who knows how the MOOC thing will play out – it reminds me in part of the educational packs companies hand out… I’m sure you know the sort of thing: Southern Water’s Waterwise packs, or ScottishPower Renewables Education Pack, Herefordshiore Council school’s waste education pack, Friends of the Earth information booklets etc etc. Propaganda? Biased to the point of distorting a “true” academic educational line? Or “legitimate” educational resources? Whatever that means? Maybe it’s more appropriate to ask if they are useful resources in the support of learning?

So are MOOCs just educational resource packs, promoting universities rather than companies or charities? But rather than catering to schools, do they maybe cater to well segmented “media consumers” looking for a new style of publication (the partwork “course”)?

And are there opportunities for media and academe to join forces producing – in quick time – long form structured pieces on the likes of, I dunno, Bitcoin, maybe, that could cover a whole range of related topics, such as in the Bitcoin case: crypto, ops, economics, politics?


PS apparently FutureLearn are hiring Ruby on Rails developers (Simon Pearson/@minor9th: “On the look out for lovely Ruby on Rails devs who like working on Good Projects. FutureLearn needs you! – DM me”)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

7 thoughts on “Online Courses or Long Form Journalism? Communicating How the World Works…”

    1. Tony and Roland, I am glad I came across your discussion.

      This is one of the first thoughts that I had when I first learned about MOOCS, through an EdX launch experience.

      I teach for an on-line, for-profit university, so understand the shortcomings of most of these more traditional schools and their limited e-platform methods. I am certain that some of the media companies could facilitate fabuluous on-line learning.

  1. This seems like a very interesting idea. But how to make it work? Suppose you are a quality newspaper, owned by a for profit company, how do you promote such an idea – because the question will be: how does it affect our bottom line…

    1. @Roland

      Some publishers do already have “educational” products derived from their content and expertise.

      For example:

      – The Economist runs a series of online courses

      – the FT package some of their content for educational use

      – Guardian masterclasses do workshop supported courses as well as single day events

      Then there are things like the Conde Nast College of Fashion and Design, or Wired Consulting (who maybe also produce reports – this could feed into the “policy” area (loosely redefined to include industry reports etc;-)

      1. @Tony
        I agree. But I’m wondering about Massive Open Online Courses as an alternative way to look at ‘the news’ (e.g. the euro crisis, bitcoins and the future of money…)… These courses could include online synchronous sessions (expert panels, video conferences using Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect… ), asynchronous venues (forums, wikis, collections of social bookmarks, blogs… ) and ways to tie all this together.

        1. @Roland The Guardian already do sessions with some of their journalists, and they also host online expert panels, so there are elements of delivery that are could be easily woven into a MOOC, maybe topped up with feature article readings from “the news” (again, the Guardian has recent history in binding articles on a theme into short books).

          Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time is pull together a symposium day with media, academic and policy makers to bounce around ideas about how we can partner each other for content, analysis, sensemaking and interpretation. Maybe I should actually get round to trying to convene it. You interested?! ;-)

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