These are some of my ramblings on various lively discussion board forums while engaged in Duke University’s xMOOC entitled “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education” led by Dr. Cathy Davidson, co-founder of Hastac. I did not take the weekly quizzes  which many participants were acing without watching the video lectures and where most of the right answers were choice (d) all of the above. I also did not write essays which were peer reviewed in a Mooc of 16,000, nor did I participate in the final and ongoing project of “Building a University From Scratch”. I also did not pay for the Signature Track Option which would have given me a Certificate of Completion.

Of the listed course objectives, I found only the first to have impacted my thinking. The takeaway value of the course for me was the opportunity to engage in provocative dialogue in some of the discussion threads; however, the organization of the discussion forums on the Coursera platform is in need of redesign.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how and why we inherited the Industrial Age educational systems.
  • Think deeply about the requirements of the world we live in now.
  • Discover new ideas, methods, competencies, and subject matter.
  • Share our pathways to successful innovation with others around the world. Together, we can change schools, classrooms, institutions, learning–and maybe ourselves!

Sample Discussion Topic Headings Started by Students in the Course

How do I get attention?

 Janet:  The Coursera platform is the problem with this course. I also find the forum posts in the Coursera and edX courses daunting! This one is however a bit better than a course I have just finished with edX.

my office


Janet: The chart I posted is the chart of a connectivist Mooc called Open Online Experience or  #OOE13. The connectivist Moocs rely on blog postings for participant assimilation of course content, or the participants actually make up the course content and in that way there really is no ‘leader’ or star prof at the center and no predetermined course outcomes; although, a team is driving and monitoring the tech ‘behind the camera’ and co-mentoring in the program much the way the TA’s do in this course. ‘The community is the curriculum’, to quote Dave Cormier.

You’ll notice that the hub of the cMoocs (on my chart) was a WordPress site into which blogs, twitter feeds, Google hangouts, G+ discussions were fed. The cMoocs are completely open!

This course uses a Coursera platform and is essentially closed (password protected); It would be interesting to see a visual for the ‘architecture’ of this course. I don’t think this course is teaching us about being open educators. Also, managing 16,000 participants couldn’t be an easy task!! Perhaps it is a bit too massive?

I think it is important to know how to create on the internet, and that for me, at this time, is the most important thing to learn as an evolving open educator.

Making a contribution is exactly why I became involved in co- creating #ooe13. It’s been a lot of xtra work on top of my regular teaching duties but totally worth it and I’ve learned a lot. Our program which copied formats of other cMoocs ran several themes relevant to open ed practices with synchronous and asynchronous sessions each week or month. We had live events with guest speakers like Doug Belshaw who spoke about Open Badges. If you joined the live session you could ask Q’s of the speaker. If you missed the live sessions, you could access them on You Tube at your convenience. We held weekly Twitter chats on subthemes each week which also helped keep the program cohesive. Google hangouts too for those who wanted to connect in real time. I had never openly blogged before these cMoocs, but I have found that my own writing and the commentary I ( hopefully) get has been the key to my ‘unlearning’ of old practices and adaptations to new ways of communicating. You have to learn how to use SoMe for ed not by reading about it but by engaging with it, actively- as it all has a tendency to be very fluid and ever- changing. I’m not sure how much of a real contribution to open ed we can make in this course beyond crowd-sourcing ideas for Duke Univ. Or Hastac. I like making contributions at the local level, so I contribute my work to my univ in various ways- but participate in Mooc culture, widely.


Janet:  In answer to many of the recent posts on this discussion board:

An eye opening read on disruptive innovation is Clayton Christensen  ‘Disrupting Class’

Readers of Christensen’s works will understand the bigger picture of what is happening to HE, globally. Changes to labor management within universities (adjunct vs tenure) are included in the technology / internet revolution we are undergoing. Universities have only recently begun to feel the ‘heat’ whereas other sectors of our lives have already made many of the tech transitions. Notice that this course has implemented a software (mentioned by Dr. Davidson- I forget the name of it) for marking essays-this is the future! In some cases, adaptive technology may do a better job than a professor of individualizing the learning experience for the student.
It is curious to me that Coursera and EdX rely so heavily on star professors for content delivery of their courses (lecture capture, basically). I’ve also taken an Edx “Justice” course by Prof. Sandel and the format is the same. These Moocs (Coursera, EdX) are termed xMoocs, while other  more decentralized Moocs are called cMoocs=c is for connectivism, and the cMoocs offer a more decentralized model of online learning, using the community as curriculum-the learning occurs through the engagement of participants- dialogues, blogging, resource development and sharing.
I am using myself as my own guinea pig and taking many different types of Moocs to see how I learn and how the Moocs are structured. So far, what I value the most in any Mooc is the interactions I have with fellow Moocers. I think it is very possible to have a networked community online which replaces the classroom experience of a f2f learning community. I really believe that university instruction these days must adapt to the use of tech and the internet-even if in blended modes.

Thank you, Anonymous, for posting your article! Enjoyed it!

If you have the time, watch this World Economic Forum Roundtable on the Value of a Higher Ed Degree.

Adjuncts vs Professors

Janet: Hi Alex-A relatively new liberal arts university in Squamish BC, Quest University applies what you term ‘clinical’ faculty roles-multiple year contracts available after the initial probationary period. If anyone listened to the CBC podcast I posted, the overspecialization of fields within universities is problematic for long-term faculty employment prospects, but some fields such as Schools of Business are doing well and hiring right into tenure track. The Humanities have suffered the most across the board in NA for the proliferation of contract faculty hires. In Canada, 50% of the faculty in all universities are contract faculty.

Here is a relevant quote:  “American higher education is in transition and if there ever was a ‘golden age” for faculty, it is probably behind us…”

*Also see my blog post on the topic of the role of faculty.

What Do You Think About the Signature Track? I’m Not Sure and Would Love to Hear What You Think You

Quote: “One characteristic will define the highly skilled workers of the coming decades: geographical and virtual mobility. These prized employees will know how to network, they will create billions of pieces of content to be shared on social media channels, and many will actively manage their “reputation capital”. These men and women will be technologically savvy, mentally flexible and committed to learning new skills and reinventing themselves to achieve meaningful careers.”

I don’t know whether my post is helpful to the thinking here, but I found this quote in the 2011 World Economic Forum Report on “Global Talent Risk”. Thought it summed up the reasoning behind programs such as #OOE13 , #EtMooc , #xplrpln, #DS106 , #Rhizo14 , #teachtheweb,  #FutureEd. I do think it is important to credential people (maybe badges?) who participate in these online c or x Moocs at any level (even ‘lurkers’ who are Mooc beginners).

I have now taken all of these programs, can say I have actively participated- but have no credentials, yet I have really learned about ‘virtual mobility’, have expanded my PLN, ‘created on the web’, and have read & offered many insightful posts (all public- on G+, Twitter, blogs). Yes, I have learned as I slowly reinvent myself as a teacher or open educator. Oh, I did get one badge from Wide World Ed (U. of Athabasca, Canada).

Will all quizzes be like this? *SPOILER ALERT*


I also took the EdX ‘Justice’ course-was my first xMooc. I really enjoyed Prof. Sandel’s lectures (philosophy is my bckgrnd, so was a nice refresher); found the quizzes challenging as well, but passed them and received my Cert. I have used a few of the lectures (avail. on You Tube) in my English courses.

Also, just finished another EdX course on ‘The Letters of Apostle Paul’-Harvard-top notch Prof-very academic content, good critical inquiry / historical focus, and some cool tools like collaborative annotations using Poetry Genius for all the readings. No quizzes-only discussion forums (How could you get’ right’ or ‘wrong’ answers interpreting Biblical text?). Some very interesting interviews offered in the course with leading researchers of antiquity and ancient text. I took the course for my own life-long learning, just curious-not for theological reasons.

Refund Higher Ed: make teaching a political issue

Janet: Teaching in British Columbia IS a political issue and has been for a very long time. There is a palpable assault on the teaching profession here!! The BCTF has recently won a landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of its collective bargaining rights to class composition and size-issues stripped from their contract over 10 years ago by the BC Liberal Party. The ruling reinstates class conditions K-12 before the teachers’ contracts were stripped of their rights in 2002. Yet, the Liberal govt. chooses to challenge the ruling in an appeal.
Higher ed has felt the sting too of this assault with increasing ‘accountability measures’ on faculty and a burgeoning and well paid admin. and 0 – negligible wage increases for faculty for nearly 10 years!!

 A side effect of being in the system for a long time is that, unwittingly, you become very savvy of the inner workings of the university and understand it as an organization which seeks to perpetuate itself. You learn this by serving on many different committees as a tenured prof. who ‘owns’ a stake in the survival of the department or Faculty you work for. Adjuncts don’t share in this opportunity, on average. Administrators and university presidents seem to be more mobile in their positions and often act free agents in terms of their personal attachments to the particular institution.

Here is a good session with Charlie Rose on the MOOC Phenomenon.