I return from my digital summer silence slightly before the start of the school year (in which I’ll be running a student Wiki project for the first time in my Freshman Writing Seminar!) thanks to Hybrid Pedagogy’s MOOC of MOOCs, a meta exercise in thinking through the implications of MOOCs with a special eye towards how critical pedagogy might help redefine the largely traditional pedagogical methods that have defined the truly massive courses offered by Coursera, Udacity, and edX (see my first take on these MOOCs here).
One of the readings for the first day of the one-week class was George Siemens’s “What Is the Theory that Underpins Our MOOCs?” In his article, Siemens argues for a connectivist and integrative approach to MOOCs in which the course is “learner-formed” and concerned with paying careful attention to “what part of the knowledge network impacts other parts.” As someone who is strongly committed to increasing student agency in the classroom, I’m immediately drawn towards such a model for the MOOC.
However, one issue that has always plagued me about pedagogical models that encourage students to build learning networks and sift through vast collections of online resources is time. Simply put, the lecture-centered MOOC—for all of its drawbacks—offers students the ability to cover material in a short period of time. For many of the non-traditional students who have the most to gain from the explosion of MOOCs, time is money and they often have little of either. How can a progressive pedagogy that seeks to increase student involvement and agency also respond to the material conditions that draw students to MOOCs in general and particularly to MOOCs of the Udacity variety, which market themselves largely on their ability to help students cultivate marketable skills (and, in Udacity’s latest move, to even begin to connect them with potential employers)?