On June 24th, Jeff Carreira interviewed Michael Zimmerman. The event was called:
A very important point Zimmerman makes concerning the connection between Heidegger's thinking and the work of Werner Erhard. He explained that Erhard was able to understand Heidegger in a way that he could turn Heidegger's thinking toward purposes that would make a difference for others.
In the February 18 Inside Higher Ed article, "Try, Try Again," Carl Straumsheim provides a virtual rebuttal to Bogost's critique of the unnecessarily "hot" medium of MOOCs and their flipped classroom Trojan Horse (see my last blog). Drawing principally from a visiting professor at Princeton, Keith Devlin, and his MOOC Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, Straumsheim plays up the narrative that MOOCs are struggling to overcome significant difficulties, especially concerning the completion rate. For instance, Devlen has kept the content but has revised the structure and delivery of the course, which has led to more students persisting beyond the first couple of weeks. However, Devlen
The radical change in the structure and experience of taking the course, according to Devlen, is through borrowing (composition/translation) the participatory and collaborative gameplay of World of Warcraft, where the groups form in order to assist each other accomplish tasks that can only be done in coordination with multiple parties. Devlen explained that:
Thus, once the formerly marginalized quality of online education, namely, the inherently connectivist and participatory qualities, are amplified with the composition of xMOOC and MMORPGs, a detour becomes possible. Indeed, as Straumsheim quotes Devlin, "the course is now explicitly about participation, not about getting a good grade at the end.” Thus, make MOOCs about the experiences that are possible because of the online milieu.
Just a few months before the MOOC Research Initiative conference in December of 2013, Ian Bogost wrote an article for the Atlantic entitled "The Condensed Classroom," posing a skeptical glare at the move to promote flipped classrooms as a Trojan Horse for MOOCs to swarm within the high walls of Troy (my metaphor, not his).
Furthermore, Bogost explains, flipped classrooms more often than not serve to abstract the materials students would encounter prior to a traditionally delivered class. That is, rather than direct students to encounter primary materials, prepackaged lectures remediate those materials. So, in a way, the flipped classroom further removes students from the kind of chaotic, process-oriented learning experiences that a "cool" seminar-style delivery makes possible. Rather than improve instruction, the flipped classroom alters the educational experience away from the kind of "cool" (in the McLuhan sense of calling for those at the receiving end to generate their participation) delivery method of the traditional seminar.
Bogost is responding to a larger actant with this article: the ed-tech industry (MOOCs et al)/ Obama composition that already assumes that any real investment in education aside from the new online education push is already precluded:
What Bogost presents here is a interruption, a block in the pathway that the composition of MOOCs with politics still must contend with, especially after the results of the MOOC Research Initiative. And the new project transformation to follow will have to address and include the elements already trumpeted by George Siemens with the Connectivist MOOC.
The assignment for week two of Latour's "Scientific Humanities" MOOC is to locate a "dictum" and reveal the conditions--the "modus"--that qualify its truthfulness.
I am taken by the claim that MOOCs are disruptive of higher education. For instance:
There are two distinct ways to read the meaning of disruption, though these three utterances gravitate to only one: MOOCs as an agent of institutional disruption. The other possible meaning is the potential disruptive nature of online education, and MOOCs in particular, to serve as disruptive of Cartesian subjectivity: the modern bourgeois subject. This would be through the connectivist pedagogy that is possible to emphasize in MOOC designs (cMOOCs).
In his New York Times Article "After Setbacks, Online Courses are Rethought" from December 10th, 2013, Tamar Lewin addressed the breakdown posed to the MOOC industry that resulted from the MOOC Research Initiative, funded by the Gates Foundation, and organized by George Siemens.
Taken from "The Lifecycle of a Million MOOC Users," this screen shot says it all:
Together with Alan Ruby and Robert Boruch, Laura Perna gathered data concerning over a million participants in 16 Coursera courses over a year (June 2012-June 2013). The shocking news is that only around 4% of those registered in the MOOC persisted to completion. Lewin connects this failure to Sebastian Thrun's response to the unexpectedly poor results from the San Jose State University Udacity experiment, wherein students from each of the pilot courses were outperformed by students engaged in the traditional delivery of the course.
What's interesting to note is that the conversations about the disruptive nature of MOOCs largely hinged upon their potential to reach out those who lack access to higher education, among other issues, and now, with this forced detour, a translation is in progress. Here is how Max Chafkin put it in his Fast Company article, "Udacity's Sebastian Thrun, Godfather of free Online Education, Changes Course":
The shift away from academic forms to vocational-focused learning is precisely the translation Thrun has begun given the detour required of MOOC proponents who must take heed of the cacophony of nay-sayers. Yet, with this translation, other actors may be more willing to become enrolled in the MOOC project, but under a different aegis, for instance, SPOCs instead of MOOCs.
One of the actors and stakeholders in the battle between traditional institutions and the transformative potential of MOOCs, of course, are professors: the professional class of people whose role is to cultivate and train students to become researchers, teachers, and citizens. In his blog for the Huffington Post, John T. Delaney attempts to do just that, kind of. Rather than give voice to those experts that seem to be sidelined in the race to populate the world of higher education with MOOCs, he essentially scolds those who are not getting behind the eight ball, and warns administration to work more nimbly with the recalcitrance of "entrenched interests."
The key actors in the network are all present already in the first two paragraphs: higher education, administration, observers (code for advocates for the revolutionary power of MOOCs etc.), faculty, unions ("entrenched interests"), students, and of course technology, the growth of which is inevitable.
Delaney presents the multi-barbed technological hook in a triumvirate: less prestigious schools will adopt new technologies more readily than well-established universities, effectively shifting the balance of power; the belief that students will continue to pay a premium for the brand will only add to the lag time to adopt and implement new technological forms of delivery; and faculty governance, together with union structures will slow any urgent moves to change to compete in the new technological/educational marketplace.
What is left unquestioned in Delaney's blog is the naturalized agency of each of the actors in the network, and in particular: faculty governance with unions, technology, and students. These are the intractable actors that administration (the good guy here in need of coaching) must creatively adapt to. Telling is the approach to the final paragraph, where a new actor appears: the reader.
The readers have the ears of Delaney's deliberative discourse here. His aim is political, and preparatory. There are battles to come that are bigger than what is at stake with adoption of technological modes of course delivery. These battles are hidden from view, and Delaney postures himself as having the rhetorical savvy to read the symptoms and to guess at what the symptoms point to.
The first article by Warner was more of an editorial than a report published within the same venue, Inside Higher Ed: the article "Confirming the MOOC myth," written by Carl Straumsheim, which led me directly to the MOOC Research Initiative.
Here's the article, and my highlights of the various agents/actors (I am beginning to regard each of these named actors as a qualitas occulta):
I have begun to participate in my first MOOC (massive online open course) in earnest, after several other failed attempts at other MOOCs. My motives are legion: I am able to study the actor networks at work in MOOCs as the content of the course, and I will do so as part of the data gathering process for my upcoming presentation at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (March 20th, 2014). I'm hoping I've picked an angle that will work in multiple ways. We'll see.
My first assignment is to read an article within a news stream that deals with science and the humanities in some way, and to begin to identify and inventory the agents involved in defining the issues that appear as newsworthy. My first article is from The Chronicle of Higher Ed's February 13th, 2014 issue, and article by John Warner entitled "There is No Demand for Higher Education."
The inventory is as follows:
Latour's MOOC instructs me to answer these three questions:
I'm not quite sure if the sample I have chosen (as the most recent news item concerning MOOCs that came up from a Google search) deals with science in the way Latour means. It deals with the intersection of technology (MOOCs) in traditional educational spaces where certain people, the author in this case, feel they do not belong. If the technology of MOOC design and deliver may be seen as a "science," wherein there are experts who practice these methods to produce certain results, then the author of the article may indeed occur as a representative of the humanities, whose identity was forged within traditional educational frameworks that are threatened in some way by those agents advocating for the "science" of MOOCs.
What I see as a more important observation is that I have actually transitioned into a new role as an active learner within the network of this particular MOOC, engaging in the risk of failure, and actually having a bit of fun in the process.
I am an associate professor of Writing Arts at Rowan University. The views expressed here are my own.