Preparing for a Clash of MOOCs

ETMOOC LogoWhile I am absolutely loving my experience with ETMOOC, I am about to try my first run at an xMOOC. Tomorrow, I will begin a HarvardX course, HLS1x: Copyright. I am excited.

Copyright is a topic that I have been chasing on my own for a few years now and one where I think that educators must have greater command. It seems professionally irresponsible to remain ignorant on the subject anymore. Moreover, while I like Creative Commons, I reject it as the safe and easy option as it is routinely presented in the edtech arena.

On the most fundamental level educators need to now more about copyright not only to help ourselves and students avoid infringement, but exercise our rights to fair use and resist the longstanding encroachment on that provision. I have long admired the work of Renee Hobbs and her Media Education Lab, now at University of Rhode Island. For any educators keen on learning about copyright, I recommend you start there. Yet, this Harvardx class will be a much deeper dive into the subject than Hobbs’ must-read Copyright Clarity. It is a course being offered via the Harvard Law School for one. Plus, the list of guest speakers is impressive, including the likes of Lawrence Lessig and Shepard Fairey among others.

In spite of my excitement, I must admit that I have developed a bias for the cMOOC variety. Of course that is what I know best, having engaged in about six or seven of them with varying degrees of success. So I am reserving some judgement but wanted to start some comparing them for my own understanding as much as anyone else’s.

ETMOOC is fostering such a magnificent community of open-thinking educators from all teaching levels and tech savviness. Loosely connected as a “course,” it is warm, inviting, and filled with innumerable learning opportunities. It is a grand invitation to self-directed wayfinding in a virtual space that hinges on a hashtag. Focusing on education technology, which is much broader and already begun tangentially addressing the legal concept of copyright, the experiences between the two are already so different.

Diagram: Why MOOC Design

While ETMOOC is completely open and proving to be quite adept at building a massive tent to include all those who wish to  participate, HLS1x: Copyright was subject to a pretty serious winnowing process. Thousands of applications were submitted for only 500 spots. So I guess I got pretty lucky. I certainly feel that way. Upon the invitation letter to join the course, however, there was a four part follow-up to secure the spot, including a 20 minute pre-test.

As one of the 500, I am already subdivided into a section of 20, complete with a juris doctor teaching fellow to lead the group, a bit different from the conspirators of the ETMOOC variety so far as I can tell. I have already received a handful of preparatory messages and documents prior to the class start. At the conclusion of the course, I am invited to take a four hour written examination. If my performance in the discussion forums and on the exam are satisfactory,  I can earn a certificate of completion.

It is a given that these two MOOCs are very different. HLS1x: Copyright is a course that really is primarily about content. ETMOOC is less about content and more about discovery, in a variety of forms. Both are genuine opportunities for deep learning and professional growth. Yet, I can’t help feeling a bias in favor of the xMOOC, even if I might be falling prey to it.

The level of commitment that is being requested in the HarvardX is formal, demanding, and leverages the prestige of Harvard University. It is highly focused on the accrual of knowledge, includes an already potentially intimidating test, and even offers a credential, for whatever that is worth.

All of these factors led me to ask my employer for some professional development recognition upon completing the course, as if I was taking a typical graduate course. Graciously, the decision maker in my district granted the request. However, I cannot imagine that the same administrator would have gone for the similar request regarding a cMOOC. Eventually, I will make a the same plea, but figured this xMOOC wasn’t too far of a departure from the known way of doing the business of education. Plus, living in the Boston area, Harvard has even more clout, helping my pitch.

Still, I wonder which experience will ultimately prove most valuable to me. ETMOOC already strikes me as the kind of experience that may have much longer legs than its scheduled 11 weeks. I am waiting to see what HLS1x: Copyright holds. I will  be interested to see what kind of community is created in the course, especially among the cohort of 20 to which I now belong.

On a side note, part of my cMOOC fancy has to do with my increasing aggravation at how much the mainstream press has for the most part completely disregarded them, instead lauding the revolution of the prestigious and for-profit ventures. Friedman’s piece in today’s New York Times is just another egregious example. It is as if cMOOCs never really existed or at least those reporting aren’t even aware of their existence.

Almost all of the press coverage advances a bias about education that I will have to return to in a separate post. Safe to say, the bias is what influenced my effort to pitch my employer on the xMOOC for credit over the cMOOC. Friedman’s understanding articulated in “Revolution Hits the Universities,” with its courting of Coursera isn’t nearly as revolutionary as Couros, or Siemens, Downes, Cormier, Groom, Levine, and all the other practitioners of this new educational phenomenon. At some point, I hope to press the case that the experience offered in a cMOOC is just as valuable, arguably more so, and just as deserving of consideration for some means of professional development recognition, regardless of whether it is affiliated with a credential granting scheme or university, prestigious or not.

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14 thoughts on “Preparing for a Clash of MOOCs

  1. Alec Couros

    I have yet to fully complete an xMOOC, but I certainly could see it as valuable. This one looks particularly good and I’m betting it could be a great experience. I think, if I were to take it, it’d be much like a cMOOC – dive in and out and take what I need – but, they’re certainly set up much more around consumption models.

    I wish you success with it, and I hope you will blog about it with #etmooc. Thanks very much for this very thoughtful and detailed post!

    Reply
    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author

      Alec:

      Thanks so much for your thoughts. I am planning on blogging about the HarvardX class. I expect I will press to finish, if my employer is going to give me credit after all. Still, if it ends up being a more cMOOC-like experience I will be all the happier. Considering it is free, if I can complete everything it will be a total bonus.

      Cheers,
      Fred

      Reply
  2. Bon

    I’m starting my first xMOOC too…Coursera’s eLearning & Digital Cultures. I will say the instructors are relatively networked and have made a real effort in the pre-course weeks to encourage people TO connect…so we will see. While we’ve been swamped under with flu for two weeks and my actual contributions to #etmooc have been sadly minimal, I’ve been reading and watching, and am interested to see if #edcMOOC actually feels terribly different.

    Reply
    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author

      Bonnie:

      I wish you much luck on the xMOOC experience. The class sounds so cool, although I think the instructors will likely be the biggest determiner on that. Seeing that University of Edinburgh is source, I must admit I am intrigued. Will you be chronicling this adventure? I would love to read about it. Feel better and thanks for the thoughts.

      Cheers,
      Fred

      Reply
  3. Trish McCluskey

    This is a great post Fred and I agree with your concerns about the invisibility of cMoocs in the recent media hype. I too have signed up for a Coursera xMooc this week so will look forward to your ongoing comparative reflections.
    Good luck with both.

    Reply
    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author

      Trish:

      Thanks for the kind words. Interestingly, your use of the word “invisibility” is an intriguing one. Truth is the cMOOCs are invisible on the media front and yet they are so much more visible from a participation perspective. Many cMOOCs leave a legacy on the web that is accessible long after the course has finished. I have yet to hear of an xMOOC that operates similarly, although they may exist. Most of them seem to be all tucked behind the walls of some password protected LMS, which is not terribly Open and makes me question their MOOCiness.

      Cheers,
      Fred

      Reply
  4. Jim Stauffer

    I’m about to take my very first xMOOC as well. Like you, I am eager to feel the difference between that and the cMOOC experience. Are xMOOCs the evil twin they are made out to be? I look forward to reading more of your posts. Unlike your rigorous entrance process, the Coursera registration for the course I’m taking was very open. I believe all who register are accepted.

    A comment on, “the experience offered in a cMOOC is just as valuable, arguably more so, and just as deserving of consideration for some means of professional development recognition”

    I agree. I’m in the process of documenting my cMOOC learning experiences to receive elective credit in a certificate program. Receiving the credential will be valuable, but far more valuable is the impact the cMOOC experience has had on my development as an educator. It has radically changed my practice and my options. Others have noticed. It’s given me enough confidence, and my colleagues enough confidence in me, to attempt the next step.

    I’m working to bring together a geographically separated group of colleagues as a cohort to take the Coursera xMOOC together. I’m proposing to enhance our learning by sharing together in an online discussion/study group. My colleagues see the xMOOC as a “real” course. I see the study group as an opportunity to introduce cMOOC-like experiences by stealth. The best success I could imagine would be to subvert our group to become part of a network as per Stephen Downes’ illustration.

    Reply
    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author

      Jim:

      I wish you luck with the Coursera effort and think it is awesome that you are recruiting colleagues. My recruitment efforts have not yet really worked, although I am not as aggressive as I probably could be. There are couple of people in the school where I work that I think I can get to jump into the fray if the timing is right.

      It seems like we both see that similar bias, wherein the xMOOC is generally perceived as the real course. I certainly feel like that is often true, of course that presupposes that the person has even heard of the term MOOC, which is still not as well known as any of us engaged in them might think. Also, I really like how you framed your experience and development with cMOOCs in such a concise way. I am completely with you on your assessment.

      Thanks for the Illustration I don’t remember seeing that one but love it, especially how messy it looks. That could be the whiteboard in my classroom, actually. I look forward to readin how your experience is going. We can swap war stories.

      Cheers,
      Fred

      Reply
  5. amyburvall

    Totally envious! I wanted to take that course but am involved in #etmooc and #edcmooc with Coursera. Loved your post. I’m such a fan girl of Lessig, Fairey, Groom, and Levine! As a member of “History for Music Lovers” (based on parody)- people always ask me about copyright and fair use. I’m a bit rogue. Have you looked into the Gutenberg Parenthesis?

    Reply
    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author

      Amy:

      I know what you mean about being a fan of those people. They are all what I think of as the Digiterati, particularly of the edtech variety. By the way, I think a lot of us are a bit rogue on the copyright and fair use front, sometimes by choice. I suppose the trouble is too many people are just ignorant, also sometimes by choice. I just don’t like choosing that option generally. So, I am excited. I will try to share as much as I can.

      Thanks for the tip on Gutenberg Parenthesis, I hadn’t heard of it at all and already searching.

      Cheers,
      Fred

      Reply
  6. debseed

    I would imagine that you will take your cMOOC experiences with you and therefore enhance the instructional pedagogy of the xMOOC to the benefit of yourself and your cohort. It would be interesting to see if collaborative learning is encouraged, and if so how readily that is taken up by learners who are ‘instructed’ to work together.

    Reply
    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author

      Deb:

      I think you are right. I am finding it hard to avoid the cMOOC approach from influencing a lot of what I do. In fact, I just wish I had the time to write more and share more stuff. I am working harder at finding the time and reminding myself that my experience might benefit others too, instead of feeling like most people wouldn’t be terribly interested in the same things as me. I am keen to see how if the course is collaborative or simply cooperative too. I am sure I will write about that in future.

      Cheers,
      Fred

      Reply
  7. I Will Connect

    I enjoyed reading your blog and was able to take away some things to think about. I am new to blogging, MOOCing, and only considered copyright considerations as a result of an etmooc session. It will be interesting, for me, new to ALL of this to follow you and see where you land. Thanks for sharing so eloquently.

    Reply
    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author

      Alison:

      Thank you for the kind words. Welcome to the blogging and MOOC communities. I am not sure that you could start with a better kind of experience than ETMOOC. As far as the MOOC movement goes, this one is as about as inviting and accessible as any I have ever seen or taken part. I wish you luck on both fronts. Be patient and kind to yourself. There will be ups and downs, and I think everyone goes through that period of wishing they shared more, wrote more, and staked a bigger space in the community more. Some of us might never leave that period or feeling.

      I am hoping that some of the copyright material will be useful to all. It is so misunderstood. At first glance things are already looking pretty lawyerly, but I am hoping to make my way through as best I can.

      Cheers,
      Fred

      Reply

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