This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

xMOOC pros and cons

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    Video lecture -The xMOOC approach of video lectures (with “special effects”!) is very appropriate for my online learners who are referred to videos as resources, but I think videos would also liven up the general materials. They are also used in f2f, where learners can come back and retrieve them whenever they want. This makes a richer experience and reduce costs. But you don’t need to re-invent the wheel – nearly everything you could want to say is already on Vimeo or YouTube!

    Processes of learning -The xMOOC idea of seeking out learning is also positive. But it is more led by the “correct” content – ie: assessed quizzes each week and during the videos are instantly machine graded, so there’s no real room for divergent thinking. cMOOCs are much more open in that sense. So I wouldn’t use quizzes like this in graphics, which needs to adapt to new ideas and concepts at all times. But forum spaces are great for discussing ideas.

    Free resources – I’ve been doing some (free) xMOOCs and I haven’t yet come across them using extra free software or open resources – they seem to make their own (very well!). But I would like to point all my learners to these open resources for their continuous professional development. xMOOCs don’t seem to cater for after you’ve left the MOOC and while they are just as process-led as content-led there doesn’t seem to be room to emphasise the processes and transfer of skills.

    Tutor presence – I would not want to remove tutor presence from either my f2f or online teaching (though my online learners have the choice of independent or tutor-supported versions of the projects). Perhaps I am biased – but tutors can do a lot of good in support and information. Yet they could also drive good students away from clash of personality. Not sure where I stand in the tutor issue. But I do think xMOOCS, by the video lectures and introductions, do make the professors seem like superiors rather than resources. The fact that you have to signto say you are aware that there’ll be no tutor contact just emphasisies their remoteness. (Does that matter?? Not sure).

    Cost-cutting – In general I am suspicious of all cost-cutting in education. So the drive to make everything as cheap (?) as possible perhaps leads to one-size-fits-all. But then the ethos of the times is that the learners personalise their learning…..This is OK if they are at the stage of self-direction that they can do this. I’m wondering how far down the age-scale MOOCs etc will go. I’ve no problem with discovery learning for younger learners but just want to make sure that costs aren’t used as an excuse for fobbing learners off. If you are going to use a business model then user experience is everything.
    Sancha (@GraphDesProject)

    David Jennings

    I think that’s a really good analysis, Sancha – thanks.

    I understand your suspicion about cost-cutting in education. But there is still a need for low-cost education in some areas. Maybe if you frame it in terms of getting education into places where it otherwise doesn’t reach, the ‘cheapness’ doesn’t seem so suspect. Thus Sugata Mitra talks about encouraging self-organised learning in places where good teachers just won’t go (from rural India to Middlesborough sink estates). Or think about getting higher education back up and running in Haiti.

    Personally, my hunch is that the kinds of innovations developed in those areas may have things we learn from in ‘mainstream’ contexts. But even in their own right getting education into such places seems worthwhile. Are there any areas (perhaps less dramatic) that your own teaching doesn’t currently reach but could do if there were a low-cost means of making it available?


    Hello David,


    Yes, I totally agree that many places need “cheaper” education. I have no issue with this. Perhaps global education needs a complete re-think as I do support the principle of free education for all and always have done.


    There are many ways that this can be done to make it effective, especially online. It is more the idea of “cost-cutting” as a practice that I object to, in the sense of cutting corners, cutting back and making-do.




    Also, who is going to provide all of this education – I mean who will pay for “experts” to create courses or will “courses” just be – to refer to your other analogy – like libraries or even less structured? Unless some body, like governments, pays for all of the MOOCs and equivalents who are the tutors who will make the courses for no payment (course developers have to make a living). Seems we are back to a fundamental issue about the state and education. Then that raises issues in itself about content and accountability (just ask the world’s homeschoolers!).

    Another thought – perhaps we could abolish formal education and everyone or any age could be a homeschooler…………….????



    David Jennings

    Funny, isn’t it, how we start off with seemingly simple, practical questions like the applicability of video lectures, or how to make higher education a little less expensive, and within a handful of exchanges we’re on to a complete re-think of global education and homeschooling for all?!

    I know it’s a red rag to a bull in some quarters even to mention Wikipedia, but who pays for the “experts” to create that? Might future courses be curated guides through openly available online resources (this is effectively the Saylor model)? There’s a complex ecosystem at work here, and the answer to who pays is correspondingly complex, including:

    • public funds in R&D and governance that originally set up the net and many of its cornerstone technologies
    • public institutions looking at new ways to fulfil their goals (from OU to MIT to your local 1992 uni)
    • private corporations and advertising (Google and the start-ups that wan’t to be the ‘next Google’ etc)
    • private individuals and hobbyists with spare time (millions of Wikipedians, organised by their complex and evolving governance models)
    • billionaires motivated by philanthropy and/or egotism (Saylor etc)

    I appreciate you mentions of homeschooling are off the cuff, but there may be some interesting developments there. The online resources to make home education more viable have grown beyond all recognition in the past 10-15 years, and the practice is growing by 15% a year according to some estimates because you no longer have to be so ‘hardcore’ and devote your whole life to it. I have a few friends who are homeschoolers (actually they mostly call themselves home educators – school = yuk!). Here’s an interview with one of them.

    Sorry, you’ve got more of a personal opinion from me there, rather than a typical tutor question-and-challenge response, but I hope you don’t mind!



    No, that’s fine. I too have been involved with homeschooling – my elder son was “unschooled” and he taught himself design and music (music from scratch) – he is now a grauduate designer and succesful musician. I also make projects for the homeschooled. I also homeschooled myself through parts of my (school) education as my school was useless. So, yes I weas being off the cuff, but with a grain of seriousness.


    I’ve noticed that in US home education, and indeed whispers of it in mainstream education, that they are looking to provide accreditation for all kinds of none “school” events, as well as more regular ones. I’d like to see a situation where anyone (any age) can educate themselves and keep a kind of CPD/accreditation record of it.  Then we can all learn what we want to and use that.


    One of my main queries is how do we prove our knowledge and skills to employers? I’m NOT saying that all education is just for employment……but you do have to have specific skill sets of specific communities of practice. How do we arrange industry to accommodate our personal learning?


    Also, if we go as far as homeschooling everyone, how will parents work if kids are at home “educating”. We’d (hypothetically) abolish or abandon formal education only for private businesses to set up baby sitting places for all ages, inc teens, and they’d want to keep people occupied so they’d be providing “education”. The more I think about this the more it unravels.




    PS: Thanks for the link – very interesting and familiar! I also like the idea that home educators are “anarchists” (sic). I read a research paper that stressed that the only similarity between the 100 or so UK home educating families that were interviewed was that once they had taken the decision to home educate the families gradually became more radical, also choosing different diets, voting differently and so on. It seems the jump from “normal” to doing it yourself opens many political doors.

    I think that when I’m attempting to “teach” (or provide opportunities for learning, let’s say) that I hope my learners are beginning to do it themselves and getting a little bit radical too.


    James Kerr


    In the past, employers who saw college degrees were relatively certain that person was well-educated and an expert in their area.  Currently, it seems as though even though individuals may have degrees, employers put more emphasis and resources into making you “prove it”.  It’s not that far of a leap to see a time when employers do more rigorous assessments of knowledge, skills, and abilities themselves, and open learners will have the opportunity to display their certificates and prove their mettle right alongside the degreed folks.  When that happens, what is the value of a degree?  With the push to have everyone degreed, it’s not a valuable indicator any longer.  Associate degrees are devalued.  Bachelor’s degrees are devalued.  We are reaching the point where Master’s and even some Doctorates are a “dime a dozen” and devalued.  I don’t think it is so much a question of what will happen when credentialing and open education certificates are embraced by employers, but what will happen when degrees are valueless?


    James Kerr

    P.S. No offense meant to all my degreed colleagues.  Please take none.  Observational and anecdotal musings only.

    David Jennings

    All good stuff, Sancha, Jim (and everyone), and “putting the world to rights” discussions are perfectly valid…

    … just to remind you that the other thing this week on ocTEL invites you to do – and which Sancha started in kicking off this thread – is to consider what kinds of enhancement might be possible for your own practice, why, and how?

    Here endeth the tutor intervention 😉

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