… what happened to the idea of free education for all?

Too Many Opportunities

making the impossible possible?

I thought the idea was to engage the unengaged in education? To provide opportunities for those that need it most? I thought it was about bringing people together and create new and exciting opportunities for exchange, learning, development, collaboration and experimentation?

Help is only a friend away.

finding each other

What happened to altruism? What happened to academic freedom? Are businesses taking over academia? Are we sold anachronistic ideas in new packages and are for some strange reason mesmerised by these?

I thought we agreed that transmission of information is kaputt. Doesn’t work! Dead! I thought we said it is not about content! We are drowning in stuff!

Social Media Information Overload

information overload?

What is blinding us and why? What are we afraid of?

Massive Container Freighter Ship MSC TOMOKO PANAMA in the Santa Barbara Channel  8400 TEU

all contained!

Is there too much noise about MOOCs? Are all MOOCs MOOCs? And why MOOCs? Is the MOOC acronym loosing its original meaning? Has it lost it already? I am wondering and am looking a bit closer at the individual concepts and letters this acronym stands for… and share some thoughts and questions here to enable perhaps a wider dialoge and debate.

Massive – yes, some of them have been as far as registrations is concerned. But even not so massive ones were quickly labeled as such. MOOCs became trendy! The ‘M’ I guess is quite handy… could also mean, mini, micro,  medium etc. But do we need the ‘M’ in MOOCs? From MOOC to OOC

Open – yes, some of them have been truly open, probably the first ones, the now called cMOOCs. These days we find MOOCs that are called open but are really half-open, or not that open at all. Open as in free to join? Open as in free to pay? And what about free to use, re-use and re-purpose? We seem to be moving away from open as in open educational practice. Small print and restrictions, provide providers, big money dreams? What do we really mean by the ‘O’ in MOOCs? Do we need this ‘O’? From OOC to OC

Online – yes, the offer is online but is learning happening only online? We still go to libraries, we still meet people, we still learn in the workplace and in practice. We learn in the physical world. Learning is a mix of individual and collective experiences in different places, spaces and times. So are we talking about blended? Do online courses present blended learning opportunities? And if this is the case, what about the second ‘O’ in MOOCs? Could this be scrapped also? From OC to C

Course – there seems to be a debate about this as well, in the context of MOOCs. Some claim that completion rates are irrelevant in the context of MOOCs because individuals pick certain aspects of a MOOC and their engagement is more targeted or focused at specific events and/or resources. I thought we were talking about courses? A course has certain characteristics. We start a course, we engage or not, in a course and we complete a course, or not. This is at least my understanding. … if we no longer talking about courses in the context of MOOCs and feel that completion rates are indeed irrelevant, why do we keep calling them courses? And if these creations are something else, do we need the ‘C’ in MOOCs? Does this need to be replaced too? From C to ?

So what is left? Not much from the orginal MOOC. Are we leading or experience already the signs of massive commercialisation of education? Massive business dreams?

What happened to open educational practices? What happened to bringing people together, learn together? Collaborate? Discover together? What happened to the idea of free education for all? I hope you will help me discuss this further and gain a deeper understanding of what we all experience.

COOL FISh… #opened #mooc #phdchat

… is born and will be out in the sea very soon… swimming against the stream…


During the academic year 2010/11, I organised a trial bringing together PgCert sudents studying towards a teaching qualificiation in Higher Education from different institutions in the UK. They had the opportunity to learn collaboratively online using Problem-Based Learning supported by PBL facilitators. This was an open experiment and part of my MSc thesis in Blended and Online Education which I was studying at the time at the Edinburgh Napier University. I learnt so much from this, especially thanks to the difficulties we experienced. Who says we don’t learn anything when things go wrong or when we make mistakes?

And while there were many times when I was unsure that this would work, in the end I have to say that it was a success as learners didn’t give up and completed the experiment successfully and facilitators went away also having learnt from this experience. Soon after completing my studies and while I was presenting some of my findings of this trial for the first time during the Celebrating the Past and Embracing the Future: Evolution and Innovation in Problem-Based Learning, 30-31 March 2011, I was fortunate to meet a colleague from Sweden who showed real interest in my work. I started flirting with the idea of creating an open course based on lessons learnt from that trial. A module has been over a year ago and is become the playground of my PhD research which I started at Edinburgh Napier University. This all sounds scary at the moment and a huge task to undertake… especially as this area of open learning seems to develop rapidly and it is hard to keep up with what is happening around the globe.  How will I keep up??? You might have noticed that I am avoiding calling our course a MOOC. There are many conversations happening at the moment (and I started curating some of the open courses stories here) and everybody seems to want to be a MOOCer. How long are they going to last? How long will MOOCs be called MOOCs? How will these courses evolve? We are all experimenting with novel ideas and I find this fascinating and very healthy! So many learning educators around the world who see themselves as co-learners, co-researchers, co-experimenters!


Cloning ideas or evolving?

We don’t call our open course a MOOC. It is an open course, a course that is open for all might not be everybody’s cup of tea. Does the word ‘massive’ itself attract the masses? But what brings the masses and why do turn so many away so quickly? We, my colleague from Sweden and I, are now getting ready to offer our open course around Flexible, Distance and Online Learning as a pilot in a few weeks using a Collaborative Open Learning approach and our FISh PBL framework.  In September 13 we will be offering it as an accredited module. We think, that our course will be very different from the cMOOCs and the xMOOCs and other MOOC-type courses. There are so many of them now available. More recently, I am observing some course design variation. The global learners and their needs are considered perhaps more and educators are learning from what hasn’t worked so well so far. We are re-thinking engagement and learning strategies. Content driven MOOCs seem to be out there, many of them. Do they in some way resemble an anachronistic picture of education? Do they, to some extend, do what we ask teachers not to do in the traditional face-to-face classroom? Is this time travel into the past? And while MOOCs are open and free for all, how attractive is this offer for all types of learners?


One bowl for all?

Our COOL FISh design is going to be a cross-institutional experiment where learners have the opportunity to learn collaboratively in small PBL groups using their own authentic stories, supported by PBL facilitators.  The context of the learners will define and shape learning and knowledge co-construction. We are not suggesting that our way is the only way. One size definitely doesn’t fit all!!! We are experimenting with an alternative learning design to engage learners who are perhaps not networked learners yet. We would like to utilise their curiosity to learn through creating opportunities for contextualised collaborative enquiries. We are developing a framework to make learning in open courses more attractive for them and putting it to the test through active experimentation.

What are your thoughts on this?

We are now live and are open for registrations. #FDOL131 starts on the 11 of February 13. Will you join us? Find out more here.