The HoneyMOOC is Over, Now What?

From recent MOOC articles:

” I was having lunch with a brilliant, hip colleague in the digital humanities when the question of MOOCs came up. “MOOCs are over,” she said. “Administrators haven’t figured it out yet, but everyone else knows.” My tech-savviest administrator friend agreed. Having taken two or three online courses to check them out, he admitted it: “MOOCs are a sideshow.” ” (MOOCs: Usefully Middlebrow, Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/25/13)

“Much of the hope — and hype — surrounding MOOCs has focused on the promise of courses for students in poor countries with little access to higher education. But a separate survey from the University of Pennsylvania released last month found that about 80 percent of those taking the university’s MOOCs had already earned a degree of some kind.” (After Setbacks, Online Courses Are Rethought, New York Times, 12/10/13)

Now what?

Was anyone really surprised to find out that most MOOC takers already have a college degree? Because really, MOOCs are set up for people who are independent learners, aka those who have already learned how to learn. Just look at the MOOC model as represented by Coursera and company. It does not in fact resemble anything close to best practices in online learning, such as small class size and synchronous sessions.

So what really drove the MOOC madness? Desire for an easy fix to what ails the higher education system? An eagerness to be ‘tech savvy’ and ‘innovative’? Money? Ideology? A serious naivete about good learning and instructional design? I’m sure all of those factors drove the craze.

Are MOOCs over? Not really. I think we’ve just witnessed the waxing and waning of the first evolutionary cycle of the thing we call MOOCs. Hopefully, the next cycle will be built upon the lessons learned from the first cycle. And maybe…just maybe, those with the greatest interest in MOOC success (e.g. administrators) will actually listen to the real experts in online learning: faculty, instructional designers, educational technologists and educational theorists.

Where do I think MOOCs are headed? Looking at who’s been attracted to them, I think they hold promise for professional development and for application-based certifications (e.g. technology). Undoubtedly, as they continue to evolve, and as their technology platforms continue to evolve, new ideas for uses will emerge.

Where do libraries fall into this?

If you have been at all involved in MOOC development up until now, you know how much time and effort they take to be planned, built and implemented.  That’s a very expensive use of limited resources, especially human resources. There are better uses of your time.

That said, MOOCs themselves can serve as valuable information sources, just like books in a library (I wrote about this in a post some time ago). Librarians can evaluate, curate and promote MOOCs that may be beneficial to their users. Keeping abreast of MOOC development is also worthwhile.

As for professional development, I think the MOOC platform has great potential as a way to earn CE credits. However, because of cost it makes more sense to leave the development of such MOOCs up to professional organizations like the ALA and ISTE, and to universities where MLIS programs exist.

In the meantime, if you are interested in developing something that is MOOC-like, you can do it on a smaller scale using platforms such as Lore, Haiku Learning, or Edmodo. The concept of a MOOC for professional development is akin to a community of practice, and that can be easily achieved at a much smaller scale.

Yes, the honeyMOOC is over and reality has set in. I think that’s a good thing.



What MOOCs and Libraries Have in Common


Substitute the word MOOC for library and you see an interesting commonality in Ray Bradbury’s quote.

MOOCs are providing opportunities for people to educate themselves for free. Just like libraries have been doing for more than a century. Except on a larger scale. That’s a good thing, right?

Despite the enthusiasm ad nauseum of MOOCS as a panacea for higher education, they’re still in the experimental stage of development. I’ve explored my fair share of them and at this point don’t see them transforming education in a positive way. First of all, from an instructional design standpoint they are not innovative. Innovation only lies in their mass delivery. Secondly, they’re not an education model – they’re a business model for education.

Ideologically, I’m all for the democratization of learning. And MOOCs, like libraries, can do that. But I question whether MOOCs are in fact democratizing learning. It seems to me that they could potentially create a bigger divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ If MOOCs really replace big chunks of higher education, then we’ll see the ‘haves’ enjoying the in-person college experience, while the ‘have-nots’ watch it all on video. I know I’m not the only one who shares this concern. And we’re already seeing it happen as the rising cost of tuition is limiting college choice for more and more students.

The irony is that MOOCs are supposed to solve that problem. In my opinion, they might just make it worse.

As Ray Bradbury’s quote so eloquently describes, libraries are a place for people to educate themselves for free. While that is true, libraries were never created to replace formal education as MOOCs may someday do. Instead, libraries play a critical role in supporting the outcomes of formal education.

And that’s where I see a future for MOOCs. To me, MOOCs have the potential to be designed as a sort of interactive textbook in a way that e-textbooks have failed. As interactive textbooks, they could be integrated into traditional courses – online or on-campus. If they’re free, that means no textbook fees for students. And if they’re openly available to the public, they also provide opportunities for lifelong learning. But at least for now, they don’t hold a candle to a well-designed on-campus or online course where interpersonal relationships are key to facilitating learning.

Like reading books in a library, MOOCs can fill a person’s mind with knowledge. But knowledge alone does not make an education. And if MOOCs are like books, then librarians have the responsibility of evaluating, selecting, curating and organizing the highest quality MOOCs for their patrons to easily access.