Confused by MOOCs, Still…

All I am nowadays is confused… about everything. Take MOOCs (What Are MOOCs (Good For)? I Don’t Really Know…) – folk seem to think that something (I don’t know what) about MOOCs makes sense, but I don’t understand what it is they think is interesting or what it is they think is happening.

In the same way that I never did understand what folk were talking about when OERs (that is, open educational resources) were all the rage in ed tech circles, I really have no idea what they think they’re talking about now MOOC is the de rigeur topic of conversation.

(See for example Bits and Pieces Around OERs… or OERs: Public Service Education and Open Production. I also note that folk tend not to appreciate the value of linking. Or maybe I misunderstand it. Whatever.)

From the scraps of stats that are making it out of odds and sods of some of the online platforms (data is not generally available; data will pay the bills when the marketing spend gets cut back and until the MOOC platform providers start making money from selling analytics and course platform/VLE “solutions” to institutions or eking out affiliate and referral fees from recruiters) it’s hard to know whose taking the courses and why, and even whether the different platforms are appealing to the same markets.

My gut feeling in the absence of a proper review is that folk taking courses from the US MOOCx providers are as likely to have a degree as not (eg Participation And performance In 8.02x Electricity And Magnetism: The First Physics MOOC From MITx; I have no idea what the demographics of learners signing up for Futurelearn courses are (Futurelearn has far more of a “casual learner”/hobbiest learner (one might even say, “edutainment”…) vibe about it, though it also seems as if it could be positioned quite well as a taster site).

So here are a few of the things I particularly don’t get:

– if advanced courses are attractive to graduates, does that mean there is a gap in the market for courses for graduates? I’ve largely given up trying to convince anyone that universities should do what the banks used to do and treat the first degree as an opportunity to recruit someone for life as part of a lifelong learning package. The professional institutions have traditionally filled this role in the professions, but it’s hard to know how their membership figures are doing? Could/should the universities be signing up their recent graduates to a lifelong learning top-up package, potentially made up from MOOCs provided by their alma mater?

– if graduates like taking courses, why is the OU so keen on a) making it difficult for folk to take individual were-called-courses-are-now-called-modules? b) pricing individual courses out of the leisure-learner or professional-occasional-top-up market? c) insisting on competing with other universities on their terms rather than breaking open new markets for higher education and widening access to it? (Arguably, FutureLearn is a play at widening access.)

– if MOOCs are going to be important as part of a taster style marketing funnel, how would it be if FutureLearn MOOCs were eligible as an additional/alternative courses in the International Baccalaureate (have any MOOC platforms benefitted from PR around such an end-use yet? There are possibly also potential tie-ups there around the provision of invigilated assessment centres?); or received some amoutn of CAT point credit equivalent that counted towards university applications? Again, something I don’t really understand is why the OU has given up on the Young Applicants in Schools scheme at just the time when it’s starting to compete for 18 year old entry?

As I said, I’m increasingly confused, increasingly don’t understand what’s going on, increasingly don’t see whatever the hell it is that everybody else seems to see as emerging from the latest eduhype.

What’s education good for anyway, when we have the web to hand. Does the web change anything, or nothing? Why did we need universities when we had libraries – and university libraries – with books in them? Why does everybody need a degree? If graduates are the only people who make it to the end of an ‘advanced’ (rather than ‘course taster’) MOOC, what the hell are the universities doing? Why do folk who have become graduates need to take courses when we’ve got the web lying around? What is going on? I just don’t understand…