I have broken some new ground, a MOOC PR.

For the first time, I watched a complete week’s worth of video, an hour for a Coursera course (I always feel like adding an extra sera again, “course sera sera, what ever will be will be…). I want to give the Future of Education: blah blah blah a fair shake, if only for the caliber of other people in there. And I am have hopes that Cathy Davidson is going to pull out all the stops to make it less like the other ones I have tried signed up for visited once.

Maybe I bordered on troll-dom, but I kind of giggled at the idea of a “Movement” being associated with the word “Massive”

I have my system set up with an Airport Express that I can play sounds from my laptop through a nice pair of Harmon Kardon Sound Sticks, so I was able to listen to the intro and the first week’s videos. There is no doubt Cathy is excited, and has a nice office, and lots of books. She is enthusiastic, and we see her having fun as she goes. And she promised not to do a lot of video lecture– well must be next week.

I got a good sense of her perspective, and the framing of how she was going to guide the history of education. The framing of the previous information ages was nicely woven together. It’s probably my own preferred style of information getting, but I did not really get an hours worth of content from an hour’s worth of video. But it is important to have that presence, and it does help a lot of people new to this, new to her work, to hear her set up the course and philosophy in person.

Yet, it really was a lecture. And that is what I come to expect from Coursera, even broken up into chunklets. As Bryan Alexander noted, she is trying to contrast herself against the xMOOC crows and hoping to reinvent the form, but she gave zero nods to what has been down already in the last five years of cMOOCs. They are the Rodney Dangerfield of MOOCs, they get No Respect.

At least there were no silly quizzes- the last Coursera course (sera sera) I was in, the first quix was something like, “True or False, there will be a quiz each week”. This time I am not making up stuff.

At least the FutureEd one has open ended questions. I was curious when in one I entered a one word response (“Everything”) and was told it was incorrect.

Wow, what AI!

Until I tried this:



Silly me. One word, incorrect. Two words, SUCCESS!

Something was nibbling away at me- at least four times she referred explicitly to the start of the Internet age as being this seminal event on April 22, 1993:

Today we’re going to be talking about the fourth information age beginning April 22, 1993, when the University of Illinois there and scientists decided in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission and in fact Al Gore that the internet was something too big and too important for scientists, the government, policy makers, and other academics. And they should be available to the world April 22nd is the official day. So basically we’re talking about 20 years ago that suddenly the internet should become available to anyone with an internet connection.

I am prepared to be totally called out, but from what I know, and can look up, is that what happened on April 22, 1993 was this:


Al Gore, The FCC, and not even scientists were involved. The first graphical web browser was designed by students at the National Center for Super Computing Applications, as the vision that the hypertext web that existed already, would be more useful as a graphical application.

Certainly this was a powerful moment (I got my first taste in October 1993), and we might not be here doing this were it not for that Mosaic experience. It was certainly monument worthy


Or maybe it was April 30, 1993 when CERN released the World Wide Web software, which had been around since 1989, into the public domain.

My hunch is Cathy is alluding to the handover of the management of the internet from the National Science Foundation (NSF-NET) into private industry, but from what I could see, this occurred over a period from 1993-1995.

What to me defines our internet age, If I could just, in 50 words or less, say what defines our information age, is the astonishing ability to have an idea, to go to my computer, to write that idea, and have it received by anyone else in the world who has access to an internet connection.

I would agree with this being the power of the web we have come to know. But that is not what it was in 1993– Mosaic opened up the web as a place that internet accessing public could explore, but getting content onto the web was not that easy. Few had access to a web server (I plugged a Mac SE/30 into the Maricopa Community Colleges network and set up a server in October 1993, but no one knew anything to say that was not allowed). And that idea had been around a long time before, email truly offered that way to message and connect to anyone. And there is a long rich history of BBSes in the 1980s operated by citizens. Do we roll it back to the Wizards Who Stayed up Late? To the designers of the ARPANET? To the birth of the modern personal computer?

I agree that the Internet age is an important one and worthy of putting out there as the fourth Information Age; I just do not agree (or even see the point) of pinning it to an exact date.

My quibbling is done. This means I am listening 😉

I am eager to see how things unfold in the FutureEd MOOC, especially as it hopefully moves soon into the more collaborative activities. But I do expect my MOOC fatigue to kick in at any ti————-

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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. Thanks Alan. I agree the history part is less than accurate. And there is this underlying concept of “information ages,” crises, and ruptures that sets us up for the premise of the course: that we are on the cusp/in the midst of significant change in education. Perhaps. I suppose I am willing to play the believing game with the course for a while and see where it leads.

  2. Good review, dog. I appreciate you digging into the dates, which intrigued me.

    I, too, poked the quiz tool, and apparently entered incorrect information. Which led me to skip them.

    So have cMOOCs become the online work that dare not speak its name?

  3. Hi Alan and Friends, these are great comments and I will link this blog to the Coursera class for a more detailed, accurate, insider view. Historian Robert Darnton came up with the four Information Ages (although he’s added the Codex as a fifth) and I could make cases for others–several people have–but the point, as with any 30,000 feet historiography, is to get people thinking in the long view of our own historical moment. Because I want change to the educational status quo, I find it helpful to think in terms of how educational institutions have changed in the past in order to make a story of how change happens, in order to help it to happen. That’s the “movement” part.

    Unfortunately, the format of the weeks continues to be mostly lectures and reviews. I went with that because there is a subset of MOOC participants who really loves it. I don’t deviate from the lecture format in any thing like the way Al Filreis does at Penn and many others–or that my own online open learning network HASTAC does in its various Forums and projects and has since 2002. The movement part comes by building on the MOOC. Sometimes it’s a project. Each week we have a collaborative project. Last week it was class constitution/manifesto/code of conduct for a virtual community; on Monday, we’ll put it up on RapGenius and on Bob Stein’s beta SocialBook to encourage two different kinds of annotation and collaborative reading. The coming week is an international timeline, wiki-based, of educational innovation. There is no such resource now.

    But the real “movement” part is because about 50 or 60 classes, working groups, reading groups, discussion groups, planning groups, etc, including a consortium of people at 40 European universities, a virtual group of some 50 deans of students, and campus-based groups in Thailand, India, China, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and other places are using the videos as a jumping off place for their own initiatives. We’re encouraging them to publicize what they are doing. Here’s the infographic of some of those other sites:

    And here’s the link to the list of all the projects we’re doing coming out of the MOOC, including porting Coursera content to other open, free networks

    I am a consistent critic of multiple-choice standardized summative testing, in my research and writing and in the MOOC. But that’s the format thousands want. So at the very least I try to turn every test into a summary and therefore a study guide–there is no (intentionally) false information on any quiz. You can say which applies or does not apply but all the information should be valid and useful (since research shows people tend to remember false information on quizzes as true: a great example of bad learning model begetting bad learning).

    I am no more fond of lectures now than I ever was. My own classes are student-created, project-based, peer-graded even. Here, the massive part was of interest because of all the voices it would inspire. The movement is because people ARE using the structure of the MOOC (even the simple part of meeting once a week for six weeks to talk educational change–whether they are participating in the MOOC or not). So far corporate, for-profits have been seen as the only source of educational innovation. Not true. I want this to be students and faculty and interested, passionate, concerned others thinking about what comes next.

    I’ll probably reblog this comment on HASTAC and send people to your superb blog. I definitely think of correction as a form of attention. And I’m happy I listened to you as attentively as you did to me. With admiration and thanks, Cathy Davidson aka CatintheStack

    1. Color me overwhelmed, Cathy. You have that part of internet history as direct experience to speak of it, and I do not argue with any of what you describe as laying the grounds for Mosaic 1.0– and it for me, as a budding educational technologist, it changed everything.

      This experience does have me thinking about students who are new to this environment, and probably do not know how or even lack the initiative to advocate to have their voices heard. This is the downside of the gains of a massive course is that individuals might feel lost in the crowd.

      Thanks, and this is rather extra-ordinary effort on your part that I have not seen in any coursera experience.

      1. Nice! I signed up for Cathy’s MOOC for many of the same reasons Alan did. I was curious, particularly given recent reports from Penn and Michigan documenting dismal completion rates and declining engagement among completers reported in MIT Technology Review

        If anybody was going to push the interactive limits in Coursera is is Cathy. But I admit that I was happy to replace NPR in my Sunday morning coffee ritual with Cathy’s four videos. I am getting ready to head over to the discussion groups now and see what is happening. I am guessing the Cathy will find a way to use the brilliant staff and online tools and community that they have built at HASTAC to bypass the apparently problematic discussion forums at Coursera.

        Whether or not they can address the concern that Alan raises about newcomers is an important question. Maybe they should have a big fat link to a heavily moderated place for newcomers where a small number of experienced users can answer their questions and get them started.

    1. I only wish I had a video of that crazy CuSeeMe project! We must have been so amezad that it worked that we forgot to capture the moment. Seriously, this was high tech in the not-too-distant past.How can I screw up an RSS feed? Let me count the ways . . . first, off, I included this link to the category when I signed up: Was hoping that would point the reader to this category specifically.Obviously not, so I’ll do some more troubleshooting/guessing . . .Thanks for stopping by . . .

  4. Thanks, alan – I have put something similar in my ‘essay’ for this week. I am also trying to give this one a fair chance, and am trying to complete the tasks, whether or not they have meaning for me. I wrote that I have tried to unlearn being the centre of attention in my classroom. Can you have a MOOC without this concept, though?

    Now I can’t post this comment as the system suggests that it may be too short (bit like those video questions). Is that irony?

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