[Stephen responds](http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=52960) to my previous [post on classblogs](http://www.darcynorman.net/2010/07/22/on-private-classblogs-vs-the-wild-wide-open/):
> My first reaction (as I’m sure it is for many) is that we shouldn’t compel them to do anything. But when you ask the question in the context of formal education, you begin to see how ridiculous it is. Is there anything in education that isn’t compelled? Participation is enforced to the age of 18, college and university courses typically have requirements for graduation. So why should public performance be any different? And – it isn’t! We require singers and actors to perform in public in order to graduate. Lawyers stand in moot court. Interns perform in actual hospitals, apprentices in real garages. Graduate students are frequently reminded that they should have some journal publications to their name. So why the objection to publishing on the web? It’s an irrational objection, when compared with the practices we see everywhere else in education.
My point was not that students should not be expected to perform (of *course* they should), to practice what they’re learning, but rather that public posting of content may not be the most effective or appropriate way to do that. Also, I’m not arguing against Open Content or Open Courseware. They are important, and may serve as a mechanism to help transform education.
A student studying law would perform by preparing and arguing cases. An engineering student might design and build a bridge. A geologist might survey a plot and identify strata and formations. They may all perform, enhance, and extend their learning via discourse with their fellow students.
What I was trying to point out is that these forms of performance aren’t public, and are not permanently archived by third parties. They are also not primarily exercises in content production. How does using public publishing of content fit in? How does moving discussion between and amongst participants in a class into a public venue, with public and permanent archives and no sense of privacy or control serve the educational needs of the class? It may provide opportunities for others to follow along and contribute to the discussion, but we need to think about how the public nature of a wide open discussion platform changes the nature of that discussion, and how it’s used educationally.
And, finally, I was not trying to suggest that students shouldn’t be compelled to do things. Teachers do that every time they assign a grade to an activity. But, when the activities are *public*, and *archived*, etc… (as they are in an open online discussion or blog site) we need to think about what right we have as educators to compel students to perform in such a venue.
Running a “massively open online course” is not a mainstream, normal activity. The participants are automatically self selected and biased – only those students who are predisposed to that kind of course would sign up, and they know the expectations beforehand. How would the experience change if it was a large enrolment introductory chemistry class, where students are told that their laboratory assignments will be submitted and graded publicly on the internet? Or a K12 education class, where student teachers are told their post-class reflections must be public?
I don’t believe my “objection” is irrational. I believe that glossing over the issues of control and power, and of publicity and permanence, is naïve and dangerous, and counter to what we are trying to do as teachers.