I’ve achieved serious word count detailing the history of the MOOC acronym: we call connectivist-inspired courses and AI-inspired courses MOOCs because the acronym was introduced via popular media as a signatory for online course contents grouped in units and hosted by a well-known educational outlet. I’ve also spent a lot of time looking at what we mean when we use these acronyms: MOOC is less about a thing/model and more of an attitude or sociocultural phenomenon denoting changes in how dominant society views the purpose of education and what technological entrepreneurial thought considers an efficient means of providing such an education.
There’s not as much verbiage on why MOOC won out over Thrun’s original phrasing (distributed learning), or why a seemingly many developers are dead-set on marketing their courses by manipulating a part of the MOOC acronym or tying their work to a software versioning archetype. There’s a history of connectivist MOOCs utilizing MOOC as a suffix to promote a specific environment (ETMOOC, DALMOOC, mobiMOOC), and an argument that this appropriation of MOOC has a tie to course catalogs and titles (such as DS106 or CCK08), and the use of social media making for hashtag community moving forward (i.e., #rhizo15). These are not changes to the acronym but amendments, a nod to the history coming before it and the importance of the society around their raison d’etre.
The acronyms noted above are not amendments but changes, a utilitarian effort to create platform meaning by noting the difference between this *new* model and the MOOC model. A SPOC is a Small Private Online Course (could be better than MOOCs!). A LOOC is a Little Open Online Course (could be better than MOOCs!). A BOOC is a Big Open Online Course (could be better than MOOCs!). You get the picture…manipulating the core of the MOOC acronym creates a change in how the model is presented as operational.
If the MOOC is as much a signatory on an educational phenomenon as it is a descriptor or a specific kind of model, the mutation of the acronym is not a furthering of a learning system for maximum efficiency/efficacy/solutionism, but rather a further entrenchment of that very phenomenon it says needs amendment. BOOC, DOOC, LOOC and the rest are not rejections of MOOC but negotiations of MOOC for the benefit of a new developer — it is the EdTech equivalent of calling something the Uber of _________ or AirBnB for __________. When Sebastian Thrun and Anant Agarwal bemoan where they were when they first became interested in digital education, the importance of MOOC is never questioned. That’s an interesting path to negotiate; it allows MOOC developers to say their product was lousy before in terms of their new roll-out. From the lens of acronyms as supporting rather than disrupting the existing paradigm, the roll-out of LOOC, DOOC or MOOC 4.0 is no different in its core purpose or feature than the earlier lousy product.
It is popular to decry the preponderance of those who design fandango MOOC acronyms as charlatans masquerading in educational technology; it is evident to those ingrained in scholastic educational technology the emergence of nodes such as GROOC are ridiculous, and there is little outlet to vent frustration than posting sarcastic/humorous/caustic characters in Twitter. There is something deeper than profiteers entering the marketplace, however. LOOC, GROOC, BOOC all agree not only on the validity of MOOC but on what it constitutes as a structure, and while they developers may not be able to fully articulate what that means from a sociocultural perspective, the thought of education as a private good towards greater careers in a technological workplace of lifelong learning is a space most if not all would gravitate towards.
Agreement on terms and definitions within education is not easy to come by. My dissertation studies found academics had a much more difficult time agreeing upon terms and protocols than those with a background outside of academia, resulting in political and developmental educational discussions being largely driven outside of academia. This echoes a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article by Jeffrey Young finding difficulty within academia of defining terminology, most notably agreeing on the definitions set forth by technology outfits. While educators struggle to rectify whether personalization means *a personal touch* or *algorithmic enhancement of CAI to suit the specifics of how a person responds to stimulus*, such terms find agreement outside academe. At best, academia starts several steps behind the debate, all the while screaming, “Wait, I don’t agree with how we are describing this!”
I’ve heard people suggest we create a taxonomy of terms, but such efforts have been tried before and have failed. I think the call is to recognize the negotiation of language, that our definition is not Universal or Right. Yes, it might not make sense at first blush that personalization can mean something in terms of human-computer interaction, but that definition is standard in a field with ties to education. The person who says personalization, who says GROOC, who says MOOC 4.0 does not know less than the person who took George Siemens’ CCK08 and was around MOOCs when they were filled by 2000 educators with Internet connectivity and can-do attitudes. Their domain of expertise may be different, and by engaging through a mutation of the MOOC acronym there is evidence as to their approach to the topic. They are here, however, and they are engaged enough to get press for their educational solution. And that’s an opportunity to bring our subculture definitions to the table.
Posted on: September 4, 2015admin