05 March 2013

MOOCs are a Manufactured Consent

I can't take it any more. All this talk about MOOCs (the simple corporate variety), iTunesU, and the glaring and obvious ignorance of robust and sustainable commons-based projects like Wikipedia, Wikibooks and Wikiversity.

The Conversation seems to have captured a very large audience in Australia. Their bi line is "academic rigor, journalistic flare". I see a lot of "flare" to be sure. Rigor and journalism though. Well, they were made extinct in Australia through the 1990s, clinched in 2003.

Dilan Thampapillai has offered his insights on the flaws in copyright governance in the major Corporate MOOCs. It had to be said, I agree. But Dilan makes no mention of the platforms that manage commons-based copyright, and manage it well. He stays with the manufactured consent that MOOCs are a recent phenomenon and that the idea of open education is held to the corporate platforms that have popped up to capitalise. So, while I'm trying to stay mostly silent on these issues - hoping and praying others will step up in Australia, but for some reason this really gets me, and I expect no one will say anything...

Here's my comment to Dilan's article and the subsequent comments to it as of 11am 5th March 2013.

Re "In ANU’s case, it will enable Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt to teach astronomy students from around the world without a fee, and all at the click of a button."

Brian has been able to teach astronomy to people around the world since the Internet was invented. A corporate entity with a simplistic understanding of learning, and as you point out - poor outlook, wasn't needed. Or was it?

I find it perplexing that corporate and profit motive entities find such an easy way into our education system. I remember when iTunesU made their first wave, and asked all the academics being told to get on board to waver their academic freedoms and sign a non-disclosure agreement.

And while all this goes on, long running, vastly more popular and successful, not-for-profit, volunteer-based and sustained, non proprietary alternatives are sidelined and ignored by the likes of The Conversation writers.

Wikipedia is a good example, and next to it is Wikibooks and Wikiversity. Or if you like a more institutional flavour to your MOOC, Wikieducator. Or if you like a more grass roots and community spirited MOOC, try Melbourne Free University or one of the many Free Universities in a city near you, that have been going since Joseph Beuys started the Free University International in the 70s, and Ivan Illich caught the attention of most educators.

But forget all that ancient history. Still with the techno fetishism of today.

If you were to ready to consider Wikipedia, Wikibooks and Wikiversity (and the many other reference text projects administered by the Wikimedia Foundation) then this copyright issue is managed, and managed very well. Furthermore, unlike the corporate entities we seem to bias our attention to, Wikimedia Foundation projects are not-for-profit, openly governed, with budgets published in detail, and with clear and debatable direction. If Australian universities where to give just 1% of their online learning budget to the Wikimedia Foundation, and pump the projects like they do iTunesU and MOOCs, then we'd have open education on a sustainable, commons-based footing. Oh, and if corporate partnerships are what you need, then the copyright is ok for you to take and do it. Not the other way around though. Funny that!

And will someone in the Conversation at least acknowledge that the acronym MOOC was not invented by Coursera, EdX or any of these. It was coined by David Cormier in 2008 - to name the work of Stephen Downes and George Siemens, who were inspired by people working large and open courses on Wikieducator and Wikiversity in 2006 onwards. This is long before The Conversation writers chose to pay attention to corporate adventures using the name.

This new corporatisation of yet another Commons-based initiative, and the willingness of venues like The Conversation writers to sideline obvious origins needs investigating... "Market forces" you might generalise it as. Or if looking for more detail, I would consider it Manufactured Consent.


EduEnthusiast said...

"Techno fetishism". That phrase will stay with me for a long time, and very accurately describes the thrill of the day that has become our collective approach to education. Nice post, Leigh!

Bronwyn hegarty said...

My preference these days is for SMOOCs - small manageable open online courses - this is so that the original intent of offering open education is maintained. For the joy of learning as opposed to a PR exercise which MOOCs seem to have become.

Let the big players take the MOOC concept and play - like anything else they touch, it will soon fall out of fashion....and we can get on with the stuff that matters.

Great post Leigh! What is your next move to help change the trend?

Leigh Blackall said...

you're quite right Bron. Thanks for this reminder. I think the next moves should be to sure up the Commons, and make a site like Wikipedia, that the big box corporates can't compete with. At least, that's what I'm thinking about.

MarkDilley said...

Techno fetishism reminds me of the fabulous work

"Absent Of The Sacred, The Failure Of Technology And Survival Of Indian Nations"

Leigh Blackall said...

Wow Mark, a very enticing book. By the description, it reminds me of Chet Bowers Let Them Eat Data, and The false promises of constructivist theories of learning: a global and ecological critique.