Do we have a choice anymore?

Is it possible to organize or facilitate a unique, creative, free-form, open course (like ds106) and have it live on within a educational institution? Should it even be there? Should the community support what is essentially an online learning community rather than a course? Does a course (learning experience or community) like ds106 belong in a structured environment like a university?  All good questions but I’m not sure they were directly relevant to the potential entrepreneurs who are the core of this Edstartup101.

Lots to think about after the Google Hangout discussions between Jim Groom and David Wiley. Although David and his colleague Richard Culatta tried to focus the discussion on questions of real relevance to the startups that their course is aimed at, Jim Groom, while creative, insightful and a “think outside of the box” kind of guy, is not an entrepreneur. I know people like Jim and have the utmost respect for the creative energy and amazing insights they provide to those lucky enough to work with them or learn from them. However, if this course is to provide useful insights for people who are trying to start up a technology-based, educationally-focused enterprise, Jim’s background and experience are not directly relevant. His distaste for being forced to Kickstarter to fund ds106 and his dislike of having to respond to requests for T-shirts that he (if I’m interpreting him correctly) feels have little to do with teaching and education, mean that he is probably not the best voice to share with people who don’t occupy the somewhat privileged position he has at UMW.

Inspiring as it is to hear two edtech leaders like David and Jim share their experiences with the community of learning, about contributing and building a course based on a passion, about the ability to build relationships within an open, online course model, what I primarily learned from watching the Google Hangout is that there is (and will always be??) an inherent tension that vision and the need to fund that vision,  Jim’s somewhat disdainful comment about the role of MOOCs having “less to do with education and instruction and more to do with reach and profit” reflects the discomfort that many educators feel for the reality that many institutions must deal with — how to pay for the sustainability of the learning experience.

While I truly value the learning that I’ve been able to engage in as I participated in some of the early MOOCs with George Siemens and David Wiley, I still feel that that particular model is valid for certain kinds of learning and certain kinds of learners. I got the sense, from listening to Jim Groom’s vision of an open online course model that he feels all higher education students should be able to share their learning online. I agree to some extent but I also step back and think about the need for people to just learn some of the foundational knowledge that would take too long to grasp in the looser MOOC (older version) model. I think there is still a place for the lecture/demonstration, guided exploration, self-demonstration etc models of teaching and that some things need to be learned in a more hierarchical manner.

Back to what I felt was a core component of Jim’s presentation/discussion – how do we resolve the demands of the “system” for sustainable courses when they are “savagely cutting” education with the needs of educators to educate/facilitate learning rather than beating the bushes for money and keeping the investors happy?  Do we really have a choice? He seems to think we (educators) can choose to just educate and the university should choose to pay for the creative exploration and learning that a rich, committed community of learners will create.

Is that kind of education viable in the future? As our economies stagnate and the world’s economic outlook seems bleaker every day, will we lose the cutting edge, creative, innovative education that Jim and David are talking about? Is the direction that David described, outsourcing everything that is NOT education to some other business or institution, so that educators can focus on what they do best, the only way?

Make yourself a cup of coffee while the tech problems get sorted out at the beginning – worth listening to Jim and David just for another perspective on what’s important about teaching and learning –


About Cloudsyl

Now a mid-Island observer of the Cloud
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