Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promise and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses is one of the first collections of essays about the phenomenon of “Massive Online Open Courses.” Unlike accounts in the mainstream media and educational press, Invasion of the MOOCs is not written from the perspective of removed administrators, would-be education entrepreneurs/venture capitalists, or political pundits. Rather, this collection of essays comes from faculty who developed and taught MOOCs in 2012 and 2013, students who participated in those MOOCs, and academics and observers who have first hand experience with MOOCs and higher education. These twenty-one essays reflect the complexity of the very definition of what is (and what might in the near future be) a “MOOC,” along with perspectives and opinions that move far beyond the polarizing debate about MOOCs that has occupied the media in previous accounts. Toward that end, Invasion of the MOOCs reflects a wide variety of impressions about MOOCs from the most recent past and projects possibilities about MOOCs for the not so distant future.
Although it focuses on the situation in the USA, this is a collection of essays that should command wider interest. Not all of the arguments are novel, in fact, most have surfaced in one form or another in blogs, essays, reports, etc. However, this freely downloadable book places them in context and provides the authors room to argue somewhat more extensively than, say, a blog post would have allowed them. The papers are of varying quality, some more interesting than others, most recounting experiences with a particular instance of a MOOC - such as a course on writing. The introductory essay that sets the stage and the closing essay that wraps up the discussion are the exceptions, along with a few others that discuss such notions as usability and feedback.
Singling out a few other essays, a section on privacy in the paper entitled ‘The hidden costs of MOOCs’ caught my attention as it discusses the threat that truly massive MOOCs pose to the professor(s) involved. Changing email address, moving office to a hard-to-find spot in the building may become a necessity in such cases. Another paper I found interesting discusses the user experience of MOOC software, which should make up for the lack of sociability but usually fails to do so (Coursera: Fifty ways to fix the software). ‘Another colonialist tool’ is an essay I also found particularly interesting, perhaps not surprisingly given my own feeling that the claimed democratising potential of MOOCs really is neocolonialism in disguise (http://pbsloep.blogspot.nl/2013/11/moocs-democratising-education-i-am-not.html). Under the title “MOOC assigned’ the idea of a MOOC as a textbook is discussed, that is, as a professor you assign a MOOC to your students and go through the experience of it jointly. This is a format I hadn’t hear of yet, which of course resembles open courseware initiatives but differs in that ‘your’ students mingle with the other ones.
Some key words that appear throughout the book may help to give a sense of what its further coverage: xMOOc, cMOOC, research, history, costing, business model, course design, student ratio, instructor, openness, copyright, feedback, credit, usability, openness.