Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Enter the LOOC

Look up! by n0nick, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  n0nick

The various forms of more or less free and open education that are uncomforatbly arranged under the term MOOC are constantly evolving and twisting into new forms. I have previously noted the need to adopt a new terminology for the different educational models that are emerging since the term MOOC does not fit all of them. In the past couple of weeks a few new interesting developments have taken place adding new flavours to the mix.

First, Lisa M. Lane has announced that she no longer wishes her open courses to be considered as MOOCs since the term has becomne so misused and misunderstood - see her blog post You Say MOOC, We Don’t (Anymore). Her open online class, Program for online teaching, is a course with a set syllabus and schedule and not an arena for experienced MOOCers or researchers interested in the MOOC phenomenon. It's not even massive and participation is limited.

"We are just an online class. If you’d like to join us, read the textbook, follow the syllabus, and post accordingly, you are heartily welcome. If you want to use us as a venue for your creative development as a networked individual and eschew the class structure and intention, I’d prefer you not join us in the class and I’ll happily interact with you in my networks (because I am a networked individual also and I love your ideas)."

Another development in a similar vein is reported by Inside Higher EdMOOCs' Little Brother. The University of Maine at Presque Isle have launched an interesting new twist to the MOOC formula in the shape of a LOOC (Little Open Online Course). The concept is called the UMPI OpenU Project and involves allowing a linited number of non-paying online students to participate in the university's regular courses. The registered students and non-paying students work through the course together and all receive the full attention of the tutors. The difference is that the non-paying students get no academic credits at the end. However they can decide to register for the course during a limited period and become eligible for credits. If not they can still qualify for credit hours of prior learning.

As with Lane's course, participation is restricted (2-7 non-paying students per course) and the course is a far cry from the original network-based MOOCs. The intention is to let students try out a course in the hope that they will register as "real" students later on, either during the free course or afterwards. Only by registering can you convert your course into the hard currency of academic credits. The initiative is primarily aimed at students in the region and there are no ambitions to go global or massive.

With new variations on the theme appearing almost weekly I suspect it won't be too many days before I write again about MOOCs. But please let's find some new terminology, preferably not in the form of more acronyms.

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