A Typology of MOOCS

A Typology of MOOCS

Richard Colby (University of Denver, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1718-4.ch001
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Abstract

Writing instruction MOOCs up until this point have tended to follow what has become expected of a MOOC in that they convey content first and foremost, or they have attempted to translate a traditional classroom space into an online space. While there is nothing inherently wrong with such practices, this chapter argues that there are opportunities for us to rethink the possibilities of an online space for writing instruction by considering what the benefits and drawbacks of three current MOOC models while also proposing two more. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future MOOC iterations.
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Introduction

Massive Open Online Courses have generated a fair amount of both hype and critique. The narrative is familiar. As Steven Krause described in the 2014 epilogue to the edited collection Invasion of the MOOCs, in November 2012, Laura Pappano declared in The New York Times that it was the year of the MOOC, and by November 2013, MOOC guru and Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun in an interview with Fast Company stated, “I was realizing, we don't educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product” (Chafkin, 2013). And just as quickly as a failed startup or disappointing Kickstarter campaign, MOOCs disruptive reign was over.

Or was it.

During that moment of promise and since, three notable composition MOOCs appeared:

  • Georgia Tech (Coursera) First Year Composition 2.0.

  • The Ohio State University (Coursera) Writing II: Rhetorical Composing.

  • Duke University (Coursera) English Composition 1: Achieving Expertise.

At the 2014 Conference on College Composition and Communication, Karen Head, Rebecca Burnett, Kay Halasek, and Denise Comer spoke about their experiences designing and teaching these MOOCs, reflecting on how well (or not) each followed the CCCC position statement on online writing instruction (CCCC, 2013), as well as tweaks to work through the constraints of the Coursera software. These courses used a model of direct instruction usually through videos, followed by discussion, writing practice, then peer review and peer grading (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

A common model of writing instruction

Many MOOCs convey content first and foremost, or, they have attempted to translate a traditional classroom space into an online space. While there is nothing inherently wrong with such practices, I argue that there are opportunities for us to rethink the possibilities of an online space for writing instruction by considering what the benefits and drawbacks of five MOOC models.

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Background

Georgia Tech’s, Ohio State’s, and Duke’s MOOCs are reasonable examples of how to structure delivery of online writing instruction. However, were they “good” writing courses? I’m not going to claim these MOOCs are or aren’t “good” because for the last ten years, I have taught over sixty sections of writing over 10 week terms to a relatively small number of students in face-to-face writing classes, with fairly challenging and play-tested assignments, pedagogically responsive scaffolding, and a combination of peer and instructor review and evaluation, culminating in a reflective portfolio assessment, and I could not say with any certainty whether the outcomes of student learning and retention come next year would be better or worse than those from these MOOCs. We like to think it is better, but the evidence is rarely conclusive. As Edward White (1989) states, “there is no replicated design in existence for demonstrating that any writing instructional program in fact improves student writing, if we define writing in a sophisticated way” (p. 198).

Key Terms in this Chapter

DOCC: Distributed Open Collaborative Course that connects other courses, locally and online, to a central node for conversation and action.

POOC: The Participatory Open Online Course moves the subject and object of the activity system from MOOC site to student to community engagement.

xMOOC: The x is for eXtended course, or classroom extended online. The term is often applied to the earliest of open courses. They reach massive audiences through the online presentation of course content.

cMOOC: The “c” in cMOOC stands for connectivism. As Haber (2013) describes it, “in a cMOOC environment the participants in the course act as both teachers and students, sharing information and engaging in a joint teaching and learning experience through intense interaction facilitated by technology.” The cMOOC is not a central repository of knowledge, but a primary conduit that connects a diverse network of learners.

Mood: Open online Domain of writing and writing instruction that serves as a general resource but that is also responsive to input from its users.

iMOOC: An “interactive” MOOC that blends instruction with practice and persistent feedback loops.

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