February 4, 2016

MOOCs might be overrated but how could they still be turned into useful instruments of...?

             There are multiple ways − beyond the more traditional concepts of sheer acquiring of academic credit respectively proving academic qualification related to higher education − in that MOOCs could improve education!
A first, rather direct, impact MOOCs could have on education is knowledge and experience that is produced through the adoption and analysis of online platforms on large(-r) scales. Whereas electronic learning and management tools (e.g. moodle) deployed on the institutional level of a classic university or another campus-based institution of higher education allow a high degree of customization to institutional educational realms they tend to be poorly adapted to the needs of (open) online education frameworks. Hence they fail to be good sources of feedback for the introduction and improvement of more flexible models of education and knowledge production that rely less on regular physical on-campus presence and strict curricular timelines then on individual paces and discipline of and in learning − respectively (re-)producing knowledge.
            It is more than questionable that campus based institutions should be taken up as models of higher education − especially the ways in which academic credit is attributed to students and scholars through these − when developing tools for (open) online education and learning, as we have to expect that pedagogics are largely different in online multimodal educational settings when compared to traditional on-campus teacher student settings.
This directly leads me to the second type of settings where I see huge potentialities of MOOCs, which are forms of collaborative learning that are not aiming at guaranteeing academic qualification to its co-learners through accumulative gathering of credit points, but are foremost interested in building up spaces of interactive teaching and learning. I am in the strong belief that cloud based learning platforms and programs are much more apt at enabling inter- and transdisciplinary learning environments, that instead of reiterating the meritocracy (and maybe mediocracy) of traditional universities and educational systems are aiming at furthering knowledge production and its structuring environments without taking formal qualification and graduation schema as an entry point and prohibitive gate.
            Although I am working and still trying to be educated at a traditional university, which proudly presents its inherited history of 650 years of investigating and teaching, I prefer learning and teaching environments that are able to overcome disciplinary boundaries and academic hierarchies of the traditional university. Thus I would really welcome and enjoy getting involved in a problem/question oriented MOOC that focuses on collaborative knowledge production and enhancement of individual perspectives towards specific (types) of questions. Nevertheless I had a look into some edX courses, in order to get a better understanding of what ought to be so special about education at the US universities of high(-est) prestige, which led me to kind of the same conclusion than Daniel (2012): Access to and prestige related to programs and degrees is much more distinctive than it is the case for the quality of teaching materials, graduation requirements or (online) pedagogics!

stiif is currently working @ University of Vienna's Bibliometric Department and is part of the u:cris team. Extra-occupational he is taking part in the Master Program Science-Technology-Society @ University of Vienna. He is formemost interested in the praxeology of knowledge production in institutions of higher education.  


  1. You pose some interesting suggestions of how MOOCs could be transformed into new forms of online learning.
    I would like to add to this discussion some thoughts about how I think MOOCs could be transformed into something I would like to participate in myself:

    This MOOC would be one that is not shaped as a course with a fixed number of topics that are discussed one after the other in fixed sessions. This MOOC would allow the participant to chose topics and themes out of a list. In this way participants would be able to concentrate on issues they are particularly interested in and to avoid others that are not of their interest.
    This would open up the learning process, but would still provide some structure in form of an overview of relevant issues of one topic.
    Maybe this new format could also be inspired by concepts of Montessori education, which works in a similar way.

    1. Bernhard, I completely agree! Freedom of choice in education would of course help in creating learning and training spaces that are more open.