An open ramble on the openness of “open”

I’ll admit. I’ve never understood the hype about MOOCs (MOOC = Massive Open Online Course).

Maybe I’ve worked too close to edtech to see it as a “revolutioniser” of education for the masses. I’ve had online components of my F2F courses at university and did a wholly-online course as well. I’ve tried out a few MOOCs from Coursera, Open2Study, UNEOpen to see what the fuss was all about and mostly left with a resounding “meh”. I’ve watched article after article be posted in sites like Inside Higher Ed about the MOOC wave and various iterations thereof and left more confused and less inspired each time.

Many people far more eloquent, accredited and intelligent than I have harped on about what a MOOC is, what it should be, what it’s not, what it’s going to change in education and how much money will be spent on this trend.

Me? I noticed this today: “Top #MOOC provider edX no longer free for all” which got me thinking about the “open” in a MOOC. Is it referring to free or freely available? Open entry, i.e. no prerequisites/all entry level, or openly (publicly) advertised? Openly shared as a resource or leveraging openly shared resources?
Personally, I have no problem with charging a fee for a course. Udacity has had that available for some time. In my experience delivering “opt-in” professional development for time-poor teachers, we often grappled with the dilemma of making it free so there were fewer barriers to entry and charging a fee so that there was a sense of value enough to actually attend and participate. Is there a relationship between the price of online courses and completion rates? If so, and if the goal of MOOCs is to increase the level of education of the masses (stretching a little here, but why build something if not for it to make a difference?), is there a sound reasoning behind payment?

I’m fascinated by the decisions by organisations to go to the effort of setting up their own MOOC platform, rather than signing up to Course/edX/Udacity/Open2Study. An advantage is, usually, being able to use a platform with which they’re already familiar (e.g. Moodle for UNEOpen) that seems to have far more engaging activities than the standard offerings within the official MOOC platforms (I refuse to do any course that has nothing more than videos, discussion forums of “what do you think?” and a 10 question multiple-choice quiz). A disadvantage is missing out on the already converted masses and the free marketing those platforms seem to get. Not knowing the business model for “partners” on the established platforms, it’s difficult to be sure.

This is where I sum up my opinions with some kind of pithy statement, but this is Mental Health Week and I made a promise to myself that any “link” that distracted me enough to think about for 5+ minutes I would blog my thoughts, so that’s what I’ve done.

I’ll admit, I still want to build a MOOC. It will teach people how to play the ukulele and be an open-ended self-paced community-based course. I just need some time to actually build it…

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