Audrey Watters on History: Intermezzo

In this shorter piece, I want to express my support with Audrey Watters. In het blog [Expletive Deleted] Ed-tech #Edinnovation, she reacts to what she describes as Wikiality or truth by consensus rather than by fact.

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Watters quotes Khan, who gives a description in which noting changes between 1892 and 2010: “static to the present day”.

Having written on the pre-academic educational systems in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany I understand why colleagues in this field will sigh and wish it to be true. I don’t know how education changed (or not) outside Europe, but here we have had a movement from knowledge towards competences and back. The changes in pedagogical techniques were accompanied by almost yearly system changes. A report of the Dutch Tweede Kamer concluded in 2008 that much risks were taken.

Yet, as we have seen often enough, history is (re)written by the victors. I agree with Watters that it is shamefully that pioneers like Wiley, Downes and Siemens are not given the credits they earn. But beyond the earning of Noble prices for education, I’m worried about the future. The original designers of Moocs and OER are interested in the distribution of free materials, in offering new opportunities to learners. The modern suppliers of Moocs, as Khan, Koller and Ng or Thun seem to have different models in mind. Being externally financed start-ups, they will have to deliver a return on investment in time. Question is if the winner will take all?

Lenin with Trotsky

Lenin without Trotsky: rewritten history
















Part of the discussion in Wikipedia – Moocs:

Early MOOCs [edit]

The opening paragraph of this section makes the claim that “David Wiley taught what ostensibly was the first MOOC, or proto-MOOC, at Utah State University in August 2007.” There is no reference for this, and the description is simply of a free course that was open to people around the world. This, by itself, does not make it a MOOC. And, if that description is enough for it to be taken as a MOOC, then it certainly does not make it the first. (Using a meaningless concept such as “proto-MOOC” could apply to any form of web-based instruction.) For the statement to be taken seriously, far more independent information and references need to be supplied, otherwise it smacks of someone retrospectively laying claim to something, and should be removed. Kmasters0 (talk) 17:07, 6 November 2012 (UTC)

Removal of Paragraph [edit]

It has been three weeks since I suggested that this paragraph be removed, and there have been no arguments against it. I have removed it, but have copied here, so that, if there is a valid counter-argument (see points above), it can be restored:

David Wiley taught what ostensibly was the first MOOC, or proto-MOOC, at Utah State University in August 2007. This was a graduate course in open education that was opened to participation by anyone around the world. What would otherwise have been a class of only five graduate students became a group of over 50 people in eight countries.

Kmasters0 (talk) 12:27, 27 November 2012 (UTC)

I suggest in the future, when questioning content, you also:

put a {{Cn-span|text=}} around the content in question.

make a good-faith effort to contact the editor(s) who added it, and any who made substantial changes to it. (You didn’t mention doing this above.)

refrain from making uncited comments like “, otherwise it smacks of someone retrospectively laying claim to something, and should be removed”. It takes away from the other points you made, creates bad will with other editors, and smacks of disdain for other editors.

Yours for a better encyclopedia.Lentower (talk) 15:50, 27 November 2012 (UTC)

Yes, you’re right – I apologise. I really meant to note that, as it stood without a reference, it could look like this claim, and would be open to accusations of that; I wasn’t trying to say that was the case, but I can see how it could be read that way. Sorry, no disrespect intended. Kmasters0 (talk) 10:11, 28 November 2012 (UTC)

The reason the Wiley course was in the article was that it was referenced as an influence by both George Siemens and myself in our creation of the first MOOC.For example, I cite it in ‘The MOOC Guide’ which a reference of early MOOCs – see I would recommend reinserting it.

Downes 18 April 2013

Moocs and the Bottom of the Pyramid

Moocs, Massive Open Online Courses, are provided for free to large amount of participants. Tuition and assessment are peer based. They are not really Open Educational Resources as they are only offered in certain periods and the materials are not available for (re)use in different educational situations.

As a economist, I realize that what irritates me is the way these courses are labeled massive by those who offer them. A course becomes massive because a lot of people participate in the open version, not because the teacher decides to offer a massive course as Steve Downs says in the introduction to the Change Mooc. Some course have a proven track record, Artificial Intelligence of Stanford has been a success, so have the courses of George Siemens and Stephan Downes on Higher Education. Perhaps other open online courses have been less successful (in numbers of students), but also less prominent in the publicity. Of course, Moocs and other online courses will be criticized for offering a Tata Nano versus the classroom BMW (Amanda Ripley in Time US).

George Siemens’ interview on MOOCs and Open Education by Andreia Inamorato

The free offering of courses from outstanding universities as MIT, Stanford and others make good quality education available in places where otherwise no education would be accessible. Furthermore, the massive character of these courses open the possibility of applying a “Bottom of the Pyramid” kind of financing for education.

One of the more interesting business models of Moocs is the supply of a paid-for degree course, together with a free non-degree version without expert tuition. Adding to this the possibility of asking a small fee for a certificate stating that the person has participated in the program, and the possibility to sell the program to third parties, these opportunities broaden the global participation, educating the bottom of the pyramid. For example, Sui Fai John Mak shows on his blog a figure consisting of three kind of markets he expects to emerge from the present Moocs (see below).

Yet another way the philosophy of the Moocs can be combined with the philosophy of Prahalad is by asking yourself what kind of education these people need. Is it possible to rework online distance courses in such a way that institutes in the neighborhood can build programs around these ODL’s so students can take formal assignments and get formal degrees. The combination in thinking about delivering to the point courses at affordable fee, compensating the costs through the amount of students and working together with local organizations for the formal recognition of the degree.

Of course such a development has the danger of unification of education in it, the McDonaldization; “MOOC’s may provide access to a world-class education, but the product is prepackaged and standardized. And, because it is readily available, it risks diminishing both the diversification of the higher-education sector and the advancement of globally engaged students and institutions”. If Moocs become the baseline in education in developing countries, the content of education will become the same everywhere.

When there are a large amount of people interested in participating in these kind of courses, the development costs per student will be very low, whereas other institutions can use the course to offer a degree based on the Mooc, tutoring and local assessment. Again, this makes education available for people who cannot afford regular education. Another observation of Amanda Ripley, based on her experiences in Pakistan was that “ at this stage, most MOOCs work well for students who are self-motivated and already fairly well educated. Worldwide, the poorest students still don’t have the background (or the Internet bandwidth) to participate in a major way” . In the TimesHangout, Amanda Ripley remarks that it are only the higher income students in developing countries can afford to participate in Moocs.

Concluding, in themselves Moocs will not solve the differences in education level around the world. There are too much problems concerning these online courses, associated with the low success rates of students, the lack of formal degrees. But also problems with the potential participants, as a lack of money for broadband internet and other income related problems and institutional problems, for example when Pakistan closed down YouTube blocking an anti-Muslim movie, they also blocked the access of 217 students to the massive, open online physics course (again according to Ripley).

However, I think that Moocs and other ODL-courses can be instrumental in providing education in places where otherwise no good quality education is available (whether in developing or developed countries). If it will be a success depends on the conditions which will be created locally. If other institutions adopt the Moocs, if governments are supportive of these kind of educational materials it is possible that this kind of education can provide a stimulus to better education. On the side of the Moocs, they could be made available around the year as open educational resources instead of just an additional outlet for existing education.