15 May 2013

MOOC war is it?

Remember, MOOCs have become a manufactured consent.

I'm not at all surprised to hear the accusation that revisionists have been sanitising the Wikipedia article on MOOCs - taking out the references to the early developers. It was recently revealed here in Australia, that this may be common practice for public relations service now.

Actually, I was quite hurt when the MOOC article was started on Wikipedia, neglecting to take the history that up until then was being recorded in the Networked Learning article. Hurt, but not surprised.

These accusations need looking into.

Brian pointed to an edit by Kmasters0 (note this link goes to the difference, not the version). Kmasters0 left the following comment to their edit:

"Removal of para dealing with Dave Wiley's proto-MOOC. See talk page for more detials". 

The talk page thread carries an interesting message for us in the education world.

"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)"

Looking at Kmasters0 contributions, I see no reason to suspect their work as untoward, or part of a conspiracy to revise the history of MOOCs. They were simply upholding Wikipedia standards. If anything, Kmasters0' contribution points to the lack of 'credible' literature that was and is being produced that might help preserve that known history. It also shows that the education sector is completely absent of contribution to Wikipedia articles on things in their field.

Just take a quick look at the quality and contribution of the articles for some of the major buzz word concepts we've all been part of this last decade or more:

  • Flexible learning - Little more than a stub article, no substantial contribution since 2009, no discussion
  • Blended learning - reverted back to a stub due to such poor quality, a trickle of contribution, very littel discussion
  • Online learning - redirects to eLearning without challenge. A substantial article however, with very active contributions, little to no discussion however.
  • Learning Management System - A reasonably substantial article. Some discussion. Barely an edit in 2013 or 2012Informal learning
  • M-Learning - a very strange way to construct an article. Low levels of contribution, with a recent flurry from FeatherPluma.
  • Inquiry-based learning- Needs considerable work before it's even useful. Barely a peep on the talk page. Hardly a contribution all year.
  • Connectivism - Still in draft form with some odd structure applied. Hardly anything added in 2013 or 12. No substantial discussion since 2011
  • Networked learning - Pretty good, if I do say so myself. Am I the only one here who has something to offer this article! Discussion page is practically all me, as is the edit history, and I haven't touched it since 2012.

Do you get the point I'm trying to make? Who among us, that spend considerable time commenting on the commentary through our blogs, Slideshares, Youtubes and the like, take an hour out of each day to check and help improve the Wikipedia articles relating to our work? Who out there, when asked to create a hand out to use as a resource in some staff training session, thinks to edit and use the Wikipedia articles? I try to do it in every place I've worked, but remain the only one I know!

The work of Public Relations professions, seeking to manage the message on any number of things through Wikipedia is unsurprising. If that practice continues to grow, soon they'll overwhelm the capacity of volunteers to control their activities, in fact I bet they have overwhelmed them in many areas already. If we in and around the profession can't see reason to make contribution to the most important reference text part of everyday practice, then we deserve to have our history rewritten for us.

Wikipedia articles inform 'credible' publications, and 'credible' publications are used to refine Wikipedia articles. Can you see where that vicious cycle leads?


mweller said...

It's a good point - we're a researcher at the OU who is doing just this - see for example: http://people.kmi.open.ac.uk/knight/2013/05/an-invititation-to-the-massive-online-open-course-mooc-wikipedia-page/

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks for linking me to this post. Good to see. I left the following comment in the discussion there:

I’m wondering, and you touch on it, as a thing gets more and more contested the ‘quality’ of the citation used to support a claim in Wikipedia becomes more prime. The trouble with MOOCs, and most educational developments I’d say, is that the early history and the underlying principles aren’t easily found in the ‘credible’ literature. It's all primary sources like blog posts. You rightly say that we need to direct our attention toward publishing better papers to those ‘reputable’ peer reviewed outlets. But that’s not as simple as it sounds. Here we enter the issue of hegenomy and established power that the original MOOCs sought to demonstrate. It also touches the paid editing issue commonly debated in English and German Wikipedia – were paid editor power extends to the ability to see work published in the ‘credible’ outlets that Wikipedia would cite.

MOOCs is small fry on this issue with Wikipedia writing, one I’m willing to assume good faith with. But Climate Change, 9/11 and other high stakes issues, I assume public relations big money editing and established bias.

llane said...

I did try to help in 2011, writing substantial content for the very sketchy original entry, and got slammed for it. I had linked to all the extant courses as documentation and was accurate in the history, putting in all the early developers (I'm a historian and was an enrolled student in the Siemens/Downes CCK08 and later MOOCs). Revisionist history is always interesting.

Alan said...

I can't raise my hand, and admit that as much as I respect and acknowledge the role of Wikipedia, I;'ve remained in the sidelines.

But I am up to taking in the challenge, you make a compelling case of contributing to the greater good.

Trip Kirkpatrick said...

By which you mean: http://xkcd.com/978/

Leigh Blackall said...

It took me a while, but I got something of a paper through on a reasonably reputable channel (Ascilite): http://leighblackall.blogspot.com.au/2014/11/open-online-courses-and-massively.html