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DIY, MOOCs, Badges, Open Education: How to Tell the Difference Between a Fad and a Trend?

Posted By Administrator, Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013

December 6th, 2012

Now that Coursera has created a business plan, we may be able to call MOOCs a trend and not a fad. The business plan is to sell access to the list of those MOOC enrollees who opt in to companies looking for employees.

You wondered how the MOOC companies could sustain themselves by offering free courses? Well, this new plan is one answer.

The sudden explosion of MOOC mania says many things: first, it could of course just be a phase, but if it is not a phase depending on a particularly bad job market for survival, then what does it say beyond "watch out, higher education"?

As Clay Shirky said at EDUCAUSE, MOOCs are not the way to understand what's going on now: it is better to understand the larger cultural context, that of "openness." Openness is re-shaping all existing knowledge-making processes. MOOCs are only one indicator of the power of openness.

What is really going on with the Coursera business model? Primarily, they are extending the potential learner pool way beyond the young learner who is already enrolled in high school or in a 2-year program. Coursera is plumbing the culture for learners of all ages and situations in all countries; it and the other open-education phenomena are helping to create a learning market orders of magnitude larger than the traditional market.

Something that enlarges the market significantly is not just a fad.

Openness, where learning resources are everywhere and often are free, redefines how education should function. No doubt, existing educational institutions will remain vital and may even transform sufficiently to incorporate openness but will need to allow the academic side, not the business side, re-define learning structures.

There is no doubt that this is the age, also, of eportfolios. Openness in some ways depends on individuals owning eportfolios: away from a standard and consistent curriculum structure, the eportfolio offers a replacement structure. The eportfolio is a "retroactive curriculum": "this is the knowledge structure that resulted from my various unstructured learning experiences." "This is a record of how I discovered knowledge and then ordered it."

This is generally called DIY learning -- do it yourself.

The talk about "dropping out" is now being re-framed as positive, as learners taking charge of their own learning (DIY). Successful people in Silicon Valley wear the "drop out" badge proudly. Dropping out is not for everyone and perhaps for only a very few select people. But this changing cultural view of the necessity of college is in keeping with openness.

DIY demands an eportfolio. If you are creating your own record of achievement, you need your own permanent, cloud-based eportfolio.

The trends toward DIY, badges (micro-credentialing based on peer riview), and MOOCs are all indicators of the move to openness that has roots starting in the 1990s and earlier. I hear educators scoff at badges and MOOCs. But, they are, in fact, important indicators of cultural trends. And, from the perspective of AAEEBL, these trends are pertinent and vital for our work.

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