MOOCs ended last year and MOOCs begin this year. MOOCs are currently here there and everywhere, but under the surface the hype is being mixed with words of caution. This is welcome. So far I’ve been happy to promote the potential of MOOCs and post links to the different places where MOOCs can be found. It’s another rung in the affordances of the internet for the life long learning agenda. However, MOOCS should be seen for what they are – access to educational resources rather than access to equivalent university experiences. Sir John Daniel, previously VC for the OU, has written a perspective on MOOCs at http://jime.open.ac.uk/jime/issue/view/Perspective-MOOCs which offers an account of their sort history and appraises their usefulness.
‘This essay has taken a critical stance because the discourse about MOOCs is overloaded with hype and myth while the reality is shot through with paradoxes and contradictions.’ 2012: 18
Not a bad place to start. Meeting your critics is one way to success. The poor quality of MOOCs and the fragility of their free access is covered and attention drawn to their frequent reliance on old out of date behaviourist pedagogies based on models of information transmission. Where in the 21st century the internet enables interaction and networks, it is acknowledged how these rarely happen in isolation. Instead, the potential for collaborative communities of practice built around subject specialisms needs online intervention and presence; this can only come from a tutor experienced in this sort of distance online interaction between a group of eclectic strangers.
This reinforces the necessity for online learning to have a number of off line prerequisites in place. These include support for learning design and content development, in particular accessible, inclusive multimedia, and appropriate digital literacies for engaging with and operating effectively within online environments. MOOCs offer the incentive for universities to revisit how they already teach and learn on campus and re-examine their mechanisms for transferring this knowledge and skill to virtual platforms and for this reason alone their potential should not be dismissed.