More on MOOCs and Being Awesome Instead | iterating toward openness

David Wiley nicely wraps up MOOCs, and why they’re important even if much of the hype is just marketing drivel spouted by elite institutions:

For a complex tangle of political reasons, “the people in power” are currently paying a tremendous amount of attention to issues relating to access to education, and the role of the cost of education in regulating that access. MOOCs have popularized and significantly advanced the conversation regarding both universal and free. The general public is beginning to believe that technology may have the near-term potential to provide a genuine solution to the problem of making education both universal and free. We can take advantage of the space MOOCs have created in the public conversation to introduce and advance the idea of truly open educational resources to people who are unfamiliar with it.

The comparison I made above between MOOCs and learning objects was a carefully chosen one. I believe that MOOCs will run – are already running – up against the reusability paradox. I believe people will eventually come to realize the pedagogical restrictions that are inseparably connected with the copyright and Terms of Use restrictions of MOOCs. As with the learning object mania of yesteryear, diehards will stick around but the rest of the world will move on as the experiment fails. If we message correctly before that happens, we can create a general understanding that much of what is frustrating about MOOCs to faculty, students, and others would be solved by the simple application of an open license (the same way an open license can resolve the reusability paradox).

MOOCs have carried the ball a significant way down the field toward universal access to free, high quality education. We should be grateful for the work they’ve done on behalf of that goal. The primary risk we have to guard against now is someone hanging out the “Mission Accomplished” banner. MOOCs are not openly licensed, and consequently will struggle with issues of quality and will never become part of the educational infrastructure that enables truly breakthrough advances. MOOCs get us one step closer to the goal, but we need to continue advocating for true openness in order to create the space in which those advances can happen.

via David Wiley: More on MOOCs and Being Awesome Instead | iterating toward openness.

Exactly. MOOCs themselves aren’t the answer. I’m not even sure what the question is. But, despite mis-steps and corporate branding red herrings, we are now more open than we were before. That’s the important part. MOOCs are just a MacGuffin, a device to keep the plot moving.

As David has been saying for years: iterating toward openness.

on hype cycles and easy answers

David Kernohan published a revised edtech hype cycle, rightly pointing out that it’s not a cycle, and that “progression” to the “plateau of productivity” is not a foregone conclusion. Here’s David’s EduBeardStroke Parabola 2013:

EduBeardStroke Parabola

I’ve seen the Gartner Hype Cycle used quite a bit – I’ve even used it myself on campus briefings and reports. It’s never sat well with me, but I couldn’t articulate why. I mean, Gartner hires The Experts to Make Sense of Things. And this is how they do it. And people understand the simplifications and generalizations, and feel comforted that Everything Will Be OK.

David raises some excellent points. Go read his post.

The Hype Cycle does a few things:

  1. it (over)simplifies a concept, reducing it to a single point on a (curvy) line. The only variable is its position on the (curvy) x-axis. And it implies that time (which is the typical x-axis) is all that’s needed. Invent a new shiny thing. Put a dot on the line. And wait. Continue waiting. BOOM! It’s moved through The Cycle, and is now resting happily on The Plateau of Productivity. Awesome! The reason people don’t adopt something early on is because they are dullards who just don’t get how awesome things are. And those that adopt it later are merely sheep who finally wised up and incorporated the inevitable product of time marching on.
  2. it implies a single shared context. that Shiny Thing #1 is the same thing for everyone, and has the same impact and risks and costs and benefits. That everyone is moving, lock step, together through the inevitable march of time as Shiny Things progress through The Hype Cycle until they reach the point where an organization (it’s always an organization or institution or company – no individuals need apply) is comfortable enough with the risk:benefit ratio and decides to incorporate the inevitable. But this is bullshit. Every organization has a unique context. And individuals matter.
  3. it provides the Easy Answer. Gartner is in the business of selling reports on extremely complicated or chaotic fields – Big Data, Higher Education, etc… – in order to help organizations and companies to understand change. Buy the report, get the latest Hype Cycle, and you’ll see at a glance where things are at, and what your organization or company needs to do. But easy answers aren’t useful. They placate the CYA MBA crowd who mumble things like “due diligence” and “mitigating risk” etc… while not providing an actual analysis of what these changes mean to their own organization or company. Nope. Gartner said it’s not quite at the peak of inflated expectations, so we have at least 6 months before we have to allocate budget resources to addressing it… – this is the kind of thing Scott points out with his comment on David’s post – it’s probably the biggest danger of this kind of thing. All we need to do is buy access to a report, put a dot on a (curvy) line, and BOOM hey, presto! we’re innovating! we’re adapting to change! To the presentation circuit!

Look at something like Learning Object Repositories – according to The Hype Cycle, that is now a mature/old concept. It should be grazing in the Plateau of Productivity by now. Except for most people, it’s a non-concept any more. So, does it drop back to the Trough of Disillusionment? Does it drop off the curve entirely at some point? Or is it Productivity Plateau for the folks that can actually use something like a repository? Which context wins?

So. What to do when the crowd-that-is-paid-better-than-me uses The Hype Cycle as gospel when describing innovation and the state of the art? Yeah. I don’t know, either. But I’m more likely to include a reference to Kernohan’s fantastic Parabola than I am to use the Hype Cycle. Again.