cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Johan Rd

When will that MOOC[cow] finally hump over the Gartner peak and slide down to its valley of disillusionment? Is it after the last article published the cites the birth of MOOCism to the Stanford AI class? Might there actually be something out there beyond the EdXCourseraUdacity complex?

Continuing the MOOC Mythology is a media created idea that it represents some sort of single entity answer, a fix for something allegedly broken. What is missing is the realization that open courses are experiments, and as Steven Johnson points out in Where Good Ideas Come From, that said ideas come from making mistakes:

… error is not simply a phase you have to suffer through on the way to genius. Error often creates a path thatr leads you out of your comfortable assumptions. [Lee] de Forest was wrong about the utility of a gas as a detector, but he kept probing at the edges of that error, until he hot upon something that was genuinely useful Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.

And there might be a bit much too glee and cluck-cluck I told you so over Coursera’s wobbles with a course that an instructor quit over frustrations with lack of student engagement or the Georgia Tech Fundamentals of Online Education (FOE) that failed to deal with a fundamental of online education (which became a foe).

These are no more marks of failure for online education than over countless courses that fail and fumble that we never hear about because they fizzle inside walls we do not see.

This is a failure to see MOOCs as a space to experiment and as some sort of cheap answer to how education works (or doesn’t depending on your press card). At the same time, just folding up the FOE course and not rolling with it, using it as an opportunity to learn from a mistake, that is a fatal choice. What better a way to show that technology is not infallible, that as teachers, creators we can rise above a bad experience? What is the lesson taught in giving up? (that is an optional essay left for the reader)

Last year when Jim and I were teaching ds106, in te first week, nearly all of our student’s blogs were hacked. Did we fold? Did we sweep it under the carpet? No, we made it part of the course.

Somewhere out here, the Coursera Film class I enrolled in is maybe into week 3. I’ve not checked in since the first week, and am well on my way to be among the 98% who Sign Up But Don’t Last a Week. And yes, I am responsible for my own not learning. But for a course design not to be doing much deal with this effect, is a serious flaw.

In any “real” course, the instructor, the institution has a stake in students succeeding, and are proactive in reaching out to students who stop coming to class. Right? For all of their humping of Big Data and touting Just The Enrollment Numbers, the Big Three are missing out seriously on using their own data to be smarter about supporting learners, even if it is an automated email bot. But right now, the model is totally a Field of Dreams approach. And the ending here has no Hollywood Magic.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Stuck in Customs

Beyond the reach of the Times, the Atlantic, the Chronicle of Higher Education, beyond the bright lights of the TED stage, out where venture capital funders and Friedman do not dirty their oxford shoes, are places where the real experimentation and groundbreaking is happening. This is being done by people motivated by making learning happen better, not more cheaply or more massively, or more trendily. These are just few I know of.

I am sure there are more out there.

Pedagogy First

pedagogy first

Lisa Lane is a tireless leader for this effort to help teachers become versatile in online teaching. The platform is not funded by gobs of Gates Money or some custom software, Lisa and her crew keep a wordpress site running with her own roll of scotch tape, and use a variety of web based tools to facilitate the class (It is one thing I do glance at in Facebook).

The Program for Online Teaching Certificate Class, an open online class, will begin again in September 2013.. The class is free, offered by the Program for Online Teaching (not an accredited institution), run by volunteer faculty and participants, and open to everyone. We offer a certificate for those who fulfill the syllabus requirements, and open participation for anyone not interested in the certificate…

Our in-house program differs considerably from other certification programs in that it emphasizes pedagogy over tool use. Our philosophy is that technology tools should always be at the command of the instructor’s pedagogy, and not the other way around. It is similar to other programs in that it requires significant time spent working in the online environment itself.

PHUBU: Phonar For Us By Us
I wrote last summer about Jonathan Worth’s open photography course efforts at Coventry University, both phonar and picbod being examples closes to ds106 in being rooted with a class but extending their reach far via the invitation for people around he world to participate in the classes projects, and partaking of the impressive list of professional photographers Jonathan taps into.


An amazing and perhaps in hindsight, not unsurprising thing happened, the Coventry students who had experienced this form of class demanded a similar format for their final program requirement:

Phonar ended 2012 like a supertanker trying to stop at traffic lights. Messily and with significant momentum. So much momentum in fact that the same students who you’ve seen submit to the will-of-open in both phonar2012 and picbod have demanded that their next class be open too. But better; designed by them, for them and supported by those people formally referred to as “˜teachers’.

So what does this mean? It means that most of the projects you’ve seen grow in #phonar2012 will evolve (in some cases mutate) into Final Major Projects in 2013…

Phonar for Us By Us (#Phubu) will run in Google communities and has been designed by the students. The program is structured to be a live and open workshop which everyone can take part in. They’ve ditched one onsite member of staff in favour of re-allocating those resources to hire three off-site mentors and a series of guest speakers (which you can book one-on-one time with). The Google community/website is to act as a pinboard and support network for us all ““ which means we’d love for you to come along with us on this next leg of the journey.

Is this not astounding? In your garden variety MegaBuck MOOC, 98% of the people are never heard from again; here the students not only finished, they said, we want more. They demanded an open course. If I was in some sort of media business, I’d be all over this story.

But can anything exemplify more the experimental spirit than the crew at Coventry has done here? Did they say, “Sorry that is not in our business plan?” No they picked up and said, “Yeah man, let’s do it.”


The Educational Technology and Media MOOC being steered by Alec Couros is way on the edge of the spectrum of being a “course” it is way more community. Forging the usual “This is the Way Courses Have Been Done Since The Plow Was Invented” pace of a new topic a week, the structure is topics being spread over a 2 week period. Participants tap in to different parts of it, via twitter, a Google Community, and their own blogs that are syndicated into the main site.


The course is developed with a weak “˜centre’. While will provide a level of aggregation, detail, and direction, the majority of interactions are likely to occur within groups & networks, facilitated through various online spaces & services.

Participants are strongly encouraged to develop their own reflective, learning spaces. We’re hoping that every learner in creates and maintains their own blog for continuous reflection, creativity, and resource sharing.

Sharing and network participation are essential for the success of all learners in . Thus, we’ll be needing you to share your knowledge, to support and encourage others, and to participate in meaningful conversations.

Together, we”ll make a valuable learning experience for all participants.

The reach of the class has been impressive, both in numbers and geography, but mostly in that a good number, maybe even the majority, are people who are not the usual bunch of ed tech heat seekers; there a many practicing teachers taking their first steps into being part of an online networked experience.

Oh, and pretty much all of the teaching is done by volunteers for each section, not some single YaleHarvardMITStanford prof with a video camera. Nor did this cost 50 thousand clams to create.

And you cannot feel like you dropped out of ETMOOC since you can drop in anywhere. The spirit of welcome, inclusiveness here is infectious.

Introduction to Guitar

Bryan Jackson has already run an open high school class in philosophy, and now he is opening up his guitar class at Gleneagle Secondary school in Vancouver. In a basic hosted WordPress web site, he has a place for his high school students and anyone else interested to post their recordings, videos, and writings about elearning to play guitar. There is a loose curriculum, but open participants can jump in and out easily.

And a semantic distinction, it is not a class that teaches guitar but one where you can learn guitar.

intro to guitar

If you’re a guitar player who’s just starting out, or a seasoned six string slinger who is looking to document and share what they’ve come to know about their instrument and making music, we’d love to have just a bit of information to start out.

Interested non-credit online participants are welcome to register as authors on the blog by filling out the form below; from there you can comment on existing posts, or submit an artifact of your own learning (or instruction) as your own assignment. There are no minimums, and no apologies for open-online learners in Introduction to Guitar: do as much or as little as you like.

Already people are sharing stories of their guitars, taking tracks recorded by one participant and layering their accompaniment on top.

How much easier could it be to open up a course? A free hosted platform, invite people in? Who needs $6,000,000?

Leuphana Digital School

I know of almsot nothing about this except having stumbled on it via a mention in twitter. Just look at the tagline “global learning in teams”.


This new program introduces a fresh, unique approach to collaborative learning ““ a university project open to participants from all over the world, regardless of where they live and what they do. Participants are working in multi-disciplinary teams. Leading scholars and experts guide and support teams in creating their own vision of an “˜Ideal City of the 21st Century’.

Our first online course has started. More participants than ever expected are working on their concepts for an Ideal City. You still have the chance to register as a Supporter for our first open online course. Supporters have access to the content in our Library and can participate in all forum discussions, but are not part of the assignment cycles. Join peers from more than 100 countries and support them in their project to plan and conceive their own Ideal City.

Again, I have no idea what is happening in this class, but the idea that they are not just in an open class, but working on real projects, says to me this is of interest.

Anyone got some inside info on this class?


Did you think I would really forget to mention maybe the most important example (to me)?

ds106 1

I tried to write about in EDUCUASE the key feature of ds106, unlike every other MOOC on the block, is that there is no single ds106 experience. It is not a single course. There is the class taught at UMW (mine), but others at University of Michigan, Kansas State University, and York College/CUNY plus the open participants who pick and choose what they want to do within ds106.

In my mind, this is a networked structure that is of the same stuff the web is made of, and more web like way of growing than duplication/replication. I’ve not really heard anyone else that seems to think that is important, ds106 is barely mentioned by our colleagues writing the Big Book o’ MOOC.

I guess ds106 just some sort of corner freak show. It is certainly not fodder for Serious Thought.

And I like that.

Because I know my students this semester and others in ds106 are kicking some creative butt. They are making the web, not just slurping it.

All of the examples I pulled above seem to be more questions of the form of online learning, not magic bullet answers, that is the place of experiments. And that’s where the big ideas will come from.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. This is an inspiring collection to see #introguitar alongside, Alan – thanks for the links and introductions to some new communities, and a few I’d heard about but hadn’t bumped into. What all of these models seem to have in common, I think, is that they’ve tapped into that simple & elegant “truth” of the possibility of the web. Who needs $6,000,000? Exactly.

    But if this is the company we’re keeping in this corner freak show, I’ll take it!

  2. I have a blog post for #ETMOOC I would like to write, but I keep getting distracted.
    More so than any other MOOC I find the #ETMOOCers are not only linking to outside resources, but linking to other #ETMOOCers who are linking to outside resources in slightly connected topics.
    The community is strong in this one.

  3. One course that deserves at least an honourable mention with respect to pre-MOOC history is Augustine: The Seminar that ran in 1994. The course leader was James O’Donnell and ran out of the Uni. of Pennsylvania via a LISTSERV (see for some pointers). A face to face beginning graduate course was opened up to the internet and some 500 online ‘students’ took part in the CMC seminar – one of several early experiments in using the new technology.

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