Distributed Flips, Pacing, and MOOCs as OCW

Article in the NY Times today, detailing more distributed flips. What I find interesting is this paragraph:

The blended course, teaching Python computer programming, is being tried at both Bunker Hill and MassBay Community College, but at different paces. The Bunker Hill class moves slowly, taking two weeks on each week of M.I.T. material. MassBay, whose students have more computer background, matches the M.I.T. pace.

And of course neither one syncs up with the actually MIT cohort.

This is exactly what Amy Collier, Helen Chen, and I found in our research. The differences in student background, prerequisites, and school schedule make following along with a broader MOOC cohort really problematic. So what is happening is that schools are not using them as MOOCs. The emerging success story of “MOOCs in the institution” ends up being primarily a success story of Open Educational Resources coming into their own.

And in fact, the people using the material  conceive of their use in exactly that way:

“The students were immediately engaged in the course, and they love the instant feedback online, the green checkmark when they get the right answer,” said Harold Riggs, who teaches the MassBay class. “M.I.T.’s really added ambition in this course. It’s not just teaching Python, it’s teaching computational thinking. I can still do things my own way, but it’s like getting a very good textbook.

I really want to get on some relatively high rooftops in a densely populated Mountain View neighborhood and scream this. Because there are actually rather sizable implications to this, once we see that this use is really a variant of traditional OCW/OER more than an extension of either cMOOCs or xMOOCs. It should change how we think about student forums in these efforts, about student data, and real-time instructor feedback. It suggests that localized versions, run independently on a separate LMS, might have a ready-made following. It opens the opportunity for distributed maintenance of the course materials, and allows for the possibility of “overspecified” courseware, which, much like a textbook, contains more material than any single given instructor can use to provide for course customization.

Frankly, it turns a lot of assumptions on their head. But as long as we are still referring to these experiences as MOOCs, we’re not going to see it. Because that “massive” element isn’t actually there — the students are part of no global cohort (though perhaps are part of a heavily asynchronous global community around the content).

There’s no massive in these MOOCs, and that’s fine, but let’s deal with the implications of that. Until we do, there are opportunities that we are missing, and drawbacks we are sweeping under the rug. We should deal with both.



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