Comment on Comparing xMOOCs and cMOOCs: philosophy and practice by Jenny Mackness

October 20, 2014 Jenny Mackness

Tony – thanks for your reply. I agree that there’s a lot of literature on effective and best online teaching and learning practices, but until recently all this has been related to small closed online courses. In the past, I have done a lot of teaching and learning in such courses and so I’m familiar with what is widely considered to be best practices in relation to these.

But the ‘massive’ of MOOCs means that not all these practices will transfer although a very good attempt has been made by some xMOOCs, e.g. Coursera’s Modern and Contemporary American poetry course which is hugely successful and which I have taken, and Edinburgh University’s EDCMOOC which I have not taken, but I have read the related research papers.

It seems to me that both these MOOCs (and there must be more that I am not aware of) have considered carefully how best practices will scale. However, whilst of course as educators we should always strive for best practice (however this may be individually interpreted), I think the original cMOOCs were looking for *new* practices. They were experimenting, which necessarily, I think, means that not everything in the first instance could always be good or best practice, simply because it’s an untested practice.

Given that these original cMOOCs were looking for new practices, I’m not sure how helpful it is to judge them against old practices. On the other hand, as has been noted by some researchers recently, educators need to be ethical, meaning they need to be aware of their duty of care and be committed to ‘doing no harm’. It seems to me that perhaps what we need to be considering is not whether the “new” practices measure up to past best practices, but whether in looking for new practices, any harm has been done, and if so, what are the implications of this harm.

What I am seeing is not that MOOC designers are forcing ineffective design on all online learning, but rather that they are either looking for ways to scale best practices (in the case of xMOOCs) or to find ‘new’ practices in the case of cMOOCs (disrupt existing systems).

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