Macro, Meta, and Micro-MOOCs

I’ve been quite enjoying Hybrid Pedagogy‘s MOOC MOOC. Advertised as a MOOC about MOOCs, it promises to be a “lively, playful scrutiny and consideration of the Massive Open Online Course.” Of course, some people have already pointed out that the course isn’t technically a MOOC. Rebecca, (@rjhogue) on Twitter, has pointed out that the weekly time format for MOOC MOOC doesn’t really lend well to the creation of content. Apostolous K, an instructional designer from Salem, MA, goes further:

The time allowed for each topic is barely enough to read and reflect, much less have a meaningful conversation and debate about the topic. It seems, to me, that this μMOOC (micro MOOC) is built around the workshop model, where there is a subject matter expert at the helm who directs and supervises a highly intensive learning experience (although very rarely have I gotten a ton out of highly compact workshops, personally speaking). This, to me anyway, seems fundamentally oppositional to what MOOCs are.

Fair enough. But it also seems to me that comparing the experience of the next week to a real MOOC is also missing the point.

Whether MOOC MOOC is a real, micro, fake, or workshop-based MOOC, the real test will be focused on how well this interface brings together different kinds of educators to engage in new discussions about MOOCs. There is something powerful in the idea that – even in the first twenty-four hours of the experiment – we have very different populations engaging in multiple conversations simultaneously and critically adding to the MOOC-experience.

I don’t think Sean, Pete, Jesse, and Robin were kidding when they said that there is something incessant about MOOCs. The MOOC is everywhere.

Let me add to that idea by taking a slightly Derridean turn here, and claim that (at least in this context): “il n’y a pas de hors-MOOC.” There is no-outside MOOC, or there is nothing outside the MOOC. The fact that people are reading articles and responding in discussions on the Canvas interface is part of the MOOC. The blog posts that are emerging and calling the MOOC MOOC “not a real MOOC” are parts of the MOOC. The Twitter conversation happening in a few hours is part of the MOOC. Each time someone mentions the MOOC, interacts with the MOOC, even “lurks” in the MOOC, this action expands the very being of the MOOC.

I realize this claim is somewhat dramatic and probably a more than a little hyperbolic. I haven’t really used that Derrida quote in quite some time, mostly because I don’t believe that everything is reducible to “the text” or “language” or – really – anything. But let me draw out some of the implications of an expanded, distributed, and networked sense of the MOOC MOOCs ontology. In the first article we read for today, “What is the theory that Underpins Our MOOCs?” George Siemens lists connectivist, constructivist, and networked interactions as some of the ideas that guide the best MOOC classrooms.

“In a traditional course,” Siemens argues, “the instructor creates knowledge coherence by bounding the domain of knowledge that the learners will explore: i.e. this is the course text, here are the readings, quizzes will validate that you’ve learned what I think is important, etc. In our MOOCs, we have a sloppier relationship with coherence. I communicate my views of how different elements are related, but then ask learners to explore, deepen, and extend the ideas I/we express with additional narratives/opinions/views.”

In fact, the idea that a single set of content must be broadcasted to a (more or less) coherent but broad number of audience-members is exactly what many people critique about MOOCs. The best MOOCs, in my mind, are designed to foster unique interactions and unpredictable insights. Who cares if everyone reads all of the articles Jesse et al., post each day? That’s not the point. The point is to make something different and to foster suggestive alternatives to the boring broadcast model of MOOC pedagogy currently dominating the headlines. And, if we take that purpose seriously, the MOOC MOOC has already succeeded.