Thursday, June 20, 2013

Massive Open Online Whatever

Alphabet miso. by revbean, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License by revbean

There's a thickening alphabet soup brewing with variations on the three letters MOO. What we're seeing is the potential of massive communities or networks to solve certain problems or offer new opportunities. Exactly how open and massive they are varies considerably and we shouldn't focus on all these often misleading acronyms. Look instead at each concept on its own merits and see what it offers.

The idea presented a couple of weeks ago of using the MOOC concept to offer greater support to doctoral students and provide them with a greater sense of community and access to wider peer review makes a lot of sense, though the details are still to be fully worked out. Now comes an article by Benjamin Ginsberg, Forget MOOCs - Let's use MOOA, where he suggests massive open online administration to share the administrative load on universities. It's really a case of building a community around university administration and pooling resources rather than each institution reinventing the wheel every week, at an enormous cost. By working as a community and sharing smart ideas and best practices can spread more quickly and expensive mistakes could be avoided.

"Ginsberg pointed to the realm of strategic planning. He said that thanks to to the best practices concept, hundreds of schools currently use virtually identical strategic plans. Despite the similarities, however, these plans cost each school hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to develop. The MOOA would formalize the already extant cooperation by developing one plan that could be used by all colleges. Ginsberg estimates that had the MOOA planning concept been in use over the past ten years, schools would have saved more than a half billion dollars."

Ginsberg plans to launch an administrative community Administeria next year and it'll be interesting to see how it is received. There is nothing terribly new about this idea since large communities have been collaborating on the net for many years but the MOOC-hype has brought the power of massive communities to the forefront. 

On a related theme a meeting of global virtual universities has discussed the mainstream MOOC phenomenon: see article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Virtual Universities Abroad Say They Already Deliver ‘Massive’ Courses. There are many online universities in the world who have been running massive and relatively open online courses for years, such as the Virtual University of Pakistan (see their massive YouTube channel) or the African Virtual University, and providing education more suited to their target students than those of the mainstream MOOCs. MOOCs offer new opportunities for learning but it's worth remembering that they are variations on themes that have been present for some time now. Online education is so much more than MOO ....

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