"When not one, but two, Government Ministers start dropping the word ‘MOOC’ into their speeches and tweets, should those of us working in the field of Educational Technology be encouraged or worried? And, furthermore, when part of the rationale for such support is that British education is now part of the Coalition Government’s 2012 Industrial Strategy and some of the collective rhetoric comes close to a chauvinistic claim for the superiority of the British education system, then we seem to be entering into a global skirmish to put a competitive British MOOC into cyberspace."
This extensive and well-argued article takes an unusual stance in that it focusses on Further Education Colleges. Indeed, such a focus is badly needed as MOOCs and FE at first sight seem natural allies. And although the post is UK centric, it is well worth reading.
Cathy Ellis' argument consists of five points. Her first point, lack of funding on formal grounds, sounds specific to the UK, although others might recognise it. Her second is an interesting one, as it goes a long way towards explaining the success of MOOCs: "In the era of YouTube and TED, the ‘teacher as performer’ has taken root, and academics who would previously have stayed in their dusty lecture halls are now clamouring to be on stage. This has bred the era of the ‘rock star’ or ‘celebrity academic’ ...." This leads her to suggest to "Do your own TED-events and create your own YouTube channel".
Third, she advises against 'offshore' MOOC providers. A MOOC platform connected to the local VLE has the advantage of churning out useful data. This does not imply we should dismiss the "'industrial' scale MOOCs", they are "like an amplification of Open Educational Resources' and should be thus used, Cathy argues (4). Finally, MOOCs have done their job if their advent "mobilises leadership and policy makers to engage seriously with Educational Technology and support the sector in providing the conditions for it to flourish."
What the article argues for then, is to mainstream MOOCs: We use the technology to inspire our own teaching, we use the 'industrial' platforms and their content as OERs. Makes sense, if the colleges in HE and FE (and elsewhere) manage to survive the MOOC swell. With the "ever growing commodification of education" - Cathy's own words - this is no certainty, as I have argued elsewhere.