xMOOCs = OCW + Cohorts

I’m still going through the process of cleaning up some old posts damaged by the database, and tonight I found this one I wrote on OpenCourseWare from 2009:

Rise of the Cohort, Educational and Otherwise

Posted on January 9, 2009 

“Cohort” is a term used in sociology and education that refers to a group of people that experience a certain set of events simultaneously as they move through time.  Cohort isn’t a perfect term, but I wonder if we are coming to a point where we need a term that gets rid of the meddlesome baggage associated with a class, but preserves the idea that there’s a particular type of peer instruction that benefits from everybody being on the same lesson at the same time.


There’s some blue sky stuff in there about Netflix and radio as well as OCW, but the basic premise is that OCW would benefit from a cohort that could discuss the content as it is rolled out week by week via some serialization mechanism. 

What I think is missed in the hoopla about xMOOCs is — if you look at this long term — this is precisely what has happened. Right now, as we look at the first pass of these courses we are looking at new video, new pieces, etc. We think of it as a new course being “run”. But these courses will start to be rerun soon, and at that point it is basically OCW with a cohort. 

And in many cases, literally old OCW with a cohort experience wrapped around it. I was loooking at the coursera offerings the other day, and was surprised how many of them are actually older OCW projects which are getting a bit of a spit polish, dropped in an LMS, and serialized. See for example the Obesity Economics course in Coursera, and then check out the OCW site

What does this mean? I’m not quite sure, actually. You know, besides the fact I was right ;)

I think the most obvious implication is that when xMOOCs are seen as serialized OCW + cohorts one realizes how quickly Coursera is going to be able to build a catalog…a second implication might be that you don’t need Coursera to do this for you — if Tony Hirst was serializing this stuff in 2009 with a couple hacked scripts, you could probably do this fairly easily in 2012….

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4 Comments on “xMOOCs = OCW + Cohorts”

  1. [...] so, this might not be a problem except that, contrary to popular opinion, xMOOCs are an evolution of OER not online education. As a matter of fact, many Coursera courses consist largely of materials [...]

  2. [...] so, this might not be a problem except that, contrary to popular opinion, xMOOCs are an evolution of OER, not online education, and decisions like this do not just affect the bottom line of Coursera, but [...]

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