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There's a whole lot of MOOC'en going on! (or: "The Multimedia MOOC")
Monday, May 07, 2012
There's a whole lot of MOOC'en going on!

Seems much is happening in the MOOC (i.e., Massive Open Online Course) world and in open education in general. The field is brimming with VC announcements and partnerships. As these appear, there are juicy debates about what the field is and what it should enable people to do. Of course, some of the debate is coming from those who have had a MOOC-like experience in the past and have concerns about how it is being portrayed today.

Suffice to say, that the field, whatever its name, is hot. Sizzle. Sizzle. Zap. Zap. If you don't watch out, you're gonna get your fingers burned (or so says the Alan Parsons Project a long time ago). Much about open education has been in the news the past week or two, including the announcement of edX. "MIT and Harvard have committed to a combined $60 million ($30 million each) in institutional support, grants and philanthropy to launch the collaboration." Did I hear $60 million? Yes, I did. Of course, edX comes after all the fanfare of other ventures like Udacity, Coursera, etc.

What is interesting or different here from previous news announcements and press releases is that the goal is not just delivery of online courses to the masses or the joint coordination of technologies to offer these online events. In addition to that, MIT and Harvard people also want to conduct research on human learning and the benefits, impact, and delivery methods of online instruction as well. Such "new" research directions and added attention definitely bodes well for those of us in instructional technology, distance learning, educational psychology, and learning sciences; especially those of us in the online learning trenches for the past couple of decades. Perhaps someone will actually read through some of it.

The Multimedia MOOC: Part 1 (News from Cyberspace)
So much to read, watch, and listen to since this month began. Yikes! As I stated in my previous blog post, it is getting extremely difficult to stay abreast of every news item, blog post, or seemingly major announcement. But attempt to keep up, we must.

There are many ways to try to keep up. I list a few of them below. You might notice that in parallel with the edX research focus, they address many senses or ways to learn. Let's start with the obvious area of text on the Web.

#1. Read: First, for those who relish text, there is plenty of that as well. There are articles in Huffington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the NY Times all covering the same event. The Washington Post's article on this story on May 2nd was titled "Harvard, MIT announce new partnership that will offer free online classes." They all pretty much say the same thing--there is a transformation happening in higher education today from all this online and open education material. I am not sure that is the case, or that it is so sudden. However, it is wonderful to see the awareness of open education rise among the general populace.

As the days pass by, op-ed pieces like one by David Brooks in the NY Times appear, The Campus Tsunami. And of course, there is debate about all the press; especially such op-ed pieces. Just read Joshua Kim's response in Inside Higher Education, "David Brooks Confuses MOOCs with Online Learning" which appeared yesterday morning. A few hours later, Wired magazine was commenting about the importance of the research componet in the edX announcement in a blog post, "Harvard-MIT’s edX Brings Research Focus to Cloud Ed." And the comments sections of each article add fuel to the virtual debate and conversation.

#2. Watch: For visual learners, well, there are many YouTube and other videos of this announcement, both long (37:35) and short (2:23). Engaget offers both text and that same short video (MIT and Harvard announce edX web education platform, make online learning cheap and easy, by Michael Gorman, May 2, 2012).

#3. Listen: For those who prefer to earbud learning, there is a piece in NPR on "All Tech Considered" from May 2, 2012: Explosion In Free Online Classes May Change Course Of Higher Education. (Note: In a small update to my original blog post, on May 10, 2012, Inside Higher Education posted an article, "MOOCs and Machines" by Steve Kolowich. Steve also conducted an interesting and informative interview with Candace Thille, director of the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University and a leading advocate of intelligent teaching software. This interview is now available in a 19:49 minute podcast about "massive open online courses, data, and what we may soon know about how students learn.")

#4 Reflect: Article after article after article to skim or read more diligently. Video after video to watch and share with friends. Now mix in the NPR tidbit and other podcasts or blog posts and you have a corpus of knowledge and ideas that is bound to start people discussing,  debating, and generally conversing. And debate and converse they are. This is a true multimedia type of experience--so much text, so much video, and an array of audio commentary, interviews, and speeches. If Harvard or MIT officials really wanted to study human learning, they might start measuring the recall from their various announcements and press releases.

As I told my dean, Dr. Gerardo Gonzalez, this afternoon, "Everyone seems to be weighing in on this. If we are simply reifying the lecture on a more massive scale and giving it the blessing of both MIT and Harvard presidents as well as Stanford, well then, we may be in for a protracted debate. On the other hand, billions of people have no educational option at present. So the comparison of what we offer now to our present select set of graduate and undergraduate students may be an ill-conceived comparison, or, at least, a highly limited one."

Then I added, "For some, a MOOC, and open educational resources of many types, will be the first sign of access to education. For others, it will be a unique chance for professional development in one’s limited schedule. For still others, it will be an opportunity to experience a global community of co-learners. And yet for others, they will use these contents as a means to find new interests, hobbies, and careers. They might go to college after sampling these educational materials. Too many people are focused on the past and on what is happening today. They do not realize yet that we are in the learning century; and, hence, the types and forms of learning are being extended as well as transformed. Most focus on the transformation part and not on the extension part. I prefer to start with a focus on new opportunities and ways to extend learning in unique ways and to enable the billions of people on this planet who previously did not have access to education a chance to learn."

Dean Gonzalez here in the IU School of Education informed me University Business is offering a discount on their UB Tech 2012 conference at the Mirage in Las Vegas next month (Note: This conference used to be called "EduComm"). More specifically, a discount of $200 will be given to anyone who enters their online competition, "Will edX Improve Higher Education?" They are collecting responses to one question (300 words max) on or before May 11th. They also note that: "One grand prize winner will be selected from all responses to win free airfare to UBTech 2012 (up to a $400 value) and 3 nights lodging at the Mirage in Las Vegas." I think you all should enter! Why not...?

So, they ask: "What’s your opinion? Do you believe edX will truly improve education for everyone?" Do you agree that "Everything we know about higher education is being changed by technology?" If you have an opinion, you might give it a stab at it. The Mirage is fabulous. Great pools of cool water and plenty of sun outside to escape any gambling inclinations inside. More importantly, the Beatles Love show is still playing (now celebrating its 5 year anniversary). It's my favorite Vegas show. And UB Tech 2012 looks to have some great speakers, including Temple Grandin who "has been the subject of numerous profiles, books, magazines and radio and television specials." See above link and read why she is so famous and popular. I can also recommend this conference since I keynoted it two years ago when at the Mirage and had a grand time in a lovely corner suite. EduComm (i.e., UB Tech) people know how to run a conference packed with information as well as entertainment.

The Multimedia MOOC: Part 2 (My Personal Contribution)
As I started reflecting on the events for the past week or 2, I realized that I have been contributing to the Multimedia Mooc monster. No, not just with with my 54 page monster emerging learning technologies syllabus, but with various interviews and videos. There are articles to read, videos to watch, and audio files to listen to.

#1 Read. For instance, I told my dean that there are many benefits to all this open education stuff. In fact, back in 2009, I wrote an article for eLearn Magazine with 30 reasons why it is an interesting and important trend, "The World is Open for a Reason: Make that 30 Reasons!." (see also PDF of that article). Among the 30 are 10 reasons why colleges and universities would get involved in open education; 10 reasons why instructors or instructional designers would; and 10 reasons why students or potential learners would use it.

I also informed Dean Gonzalez about the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that I am doing for Blackboard/CourseSites people now. I thought he might like to know why I am still very much in teaching mode despite our spring term grades being turned in yesterday. And I am not just teaching a few students hanging around for the summer. Nope. This course, "Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success," now has over 3,600 enrolled. Dean Gonzalez is Catholic and I think he is saying a prayer for me the next time he goes over to St. Paul's. I hope so anyway given that over 500 people attended the first of five synchronous sessions last week Wednesday. We will have 4 more synchronous sessions during the month of May, each at 4 pm to 6 pm EST. This week, we talk about addressing learning diversity and learner preferences or styles. My Read, Reflect, Display, and Do (R2D2) model is among the focal points for that discussion. There will be dozens of examples shared.

#2 Watch: If interested, anyone can still register for the MOOC. If not sure, perhaps watch my video introduction to the MOOC. Still not sure? Why then, perhaps enroll and watch session #1 from last week in Blackboard Collaborate/Elluminate and see if anything is interesting. That session addressed online motivation and retention with my TEC-VARIETY model. Need more incentive? Well, if you enroll, you will find three free chapters from my upcoming book on online motivation and retention in the MOOC with 30 ideas or activities for online motivation and retention. There are no requirements. Your learning, your interactions, your selection of resources, and your attendance is totally up to you.

#3 Listen (or read): Many people might be wondering what a MOOC really is. Others might wonder why I agreed to do this one. Well, you can listen to an interview, “Audio/Massive Open Online Courses: Taking Learning to a New Level” that I gave a few days ago to Amrit Ahluwalia who is a writer for The Evolllution. If you want the condensed version of that phone interview, you can simply read the 2 page article that Amrit generated from it or flip through The Evolllution.

#4. Reflect: Seems much is happening in this space. Many people are contributing to it. To understand my perspective on MOOCs, you might listen to the longer audio file above or read the shorter article (see link above). You might scroll further up and watch the video introduction I did to help you gain some insights into the MOOC I am doing with Blackboard/CourseSites people. in contrast to some MOOCs that might be aimed at understanding a particular theory or technology trend, this one is more of a professional development experience in how to teach online. You might also read my article with 30 reasons for the emergence of this open education movement. In fact, as I recommended to Dean Gonzalez, you might use some or all of these 30 reasons as a starting point or as talking points for conversations about online courses and programs or strategic planning meetings for this world of openness and sharing. Or perhaps take a look at the free stuff we have posted at my World is Open book Website.

So much happening all over the world. Multimedia can help us learn--text to read, videos to watch, and audio files to listen to. Seems a few short years ago, this was definitely not the norm. But today with bandwidth widening, storage capacity going up while storage costs plummet, and accessibility increasing, there are many learners demanding such multimedia access. Some want animations, some simulations, some audio with their text, and others just want to see it in video format.

We can also access content when hiking, when on a boat, when out on polar ice, or when simply walking down the street or running the Rails for Trails here in lovely Bloomington, Indiana. You can get content when flying above the earth at 30,000+ feet. For instance, you might check out the May issue of Delta Sky Miles Magazine.

Special Issue: The Virtual Classroom: What’s new—and what’s next—in the brave new world of online higher education and corporate training.
Article: "Learning Revolution: The gurus of online higher education make the case for distance learning and weigh on where it’s headed, "by Steve Calechman. (single page view).

I was fortunate to be interviewed for it (see page 101). There were a slew of my colleagues and friends are in this article as well. These e-learning gurus or heavyweights include: Larry Ragan from the Penn State World Campus, Chris Dede from Harvard, Margaret Riel from Pepperdine University, Mark Milliron from Western Governors University (WGU) Texas, Joel Hartmann from the University of Central Florida, and many others. Many of these people have contributed to the online learning world for a decade or two or even longer. To have us all assembled in one issue sure is cool to see. Equally cool is that they included a picture of each of us. It is certainly great to reconnect with all these thoughtful and warm people, even if just in print or in a cyberspace article.

Unlike the MOOC stuff above, there is just text to read--though in both virtual and physical formats. Someday soon, such articles will have QR codes for an augmented reality experience. Taking your iPod, iPhone, Droid, or some other mobile device, you might hover above one of our pics and get an audio file to listen to or a video or animation to watch. Such technology already exists and is finding increasing applications in educational settings. For instance Craig Kapp from NYU often showcases augmented reality with children's books with his company ZooBurst (video). You might also look at the Aurasma Demo for the learning possibilties. Those interested in museum learning, might watch this piece from the BBC last week, "Top Gear presenter James May meets his virtual self."

Anyway, it was great to see Delta becoming aware of the importance and impact of online learning. If you look at the ads on the side, they are not losing any money on this one. After a dozen or so not so great experiences flying Delta and United last year (including times when they could not find the runway), I can now finally say, "Thanks Delta Airlines!"

Unfortunately, I am not flying in May. Please let me know if you see the article when in the air. Happy readings, listenings, and watchings. As you do, you will see that "There's a whole lot of MOOC'en going on!" Yes, there's a whole lot of open ed going on...The world is truly becoming open for learning.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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