By Clive Young, on 24 February 2013
Reached the final stage of the the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. Four weeks is probably about enough for these things, I’d say! Again difficult to find the time to fully engage especially with the very dispersed online discussion – I had given up this aspect, really – but I did my duty otherwise; viewed the videos, read the papers and submitted my assignment. The best thing though was meeting with the UCL Study group upstairs in the Jeremy Bentham. I think we came to the conclusion that although this had been an interesting experience, EDC was an odd MOOC even by MOOC standards. The esoteric subject matter itself, the relatively ‘open’ organisation, the diffuse self-organising groups, the wildly varying material (videos and opinion pieces mixed with ‘tough’ academic papers) would be challenging for many participants and other MOOCs tried by group members had taken a much more conventionally structured approach.
The subject this week ‘redefining the human‘ was especially engaging, though. The opening film Robbie about the implications of robot sentience was quite moving then two quite philosophical pieces by Nick Bostrom (2005) and Katherine Hayes (2011) arguing the pros and cons of ‘transhumanism‘. As the EDC course guide puts it;
For transhumanists, ‘humanity’ is a temporary, flawed condition: the future of human evolution is in the direction of a post-human future state in which technological progress has freed us from the inconveniences of limited lifespan, sickness, misery and intellectual limitation.
Actually I found Bostrom quite convincing, even having read Hayes clever critique. The education links felt a little casual in comparison, for example Carr (2008)’s Is Google making us stupid? Err… no.
Following my thoughts on the actual engagement in MOOCs, EDC published some stats this week. 42874 people registered, over the previous week about 17% had had some form of contact with the EDC Coursera course site – far higher than I would have thought. The - awful, in my opinion – EDC News Blog Aggregator claimed some 4000 unique visitors. It will be interesting to see how many submit a final assignment, though. Just over 500 submissions (~1% of those registered) to the competition last week. Nevertheless as I argued last week ‘engagement’ isn’t all in a MOOC. Marketing may be just as important, especially in the US, where two-thirds of visitors to the EDCMOOC come from. Only 8% come from the UK!
I’ll return to the MOOC as an educational experience in a later post, but just to finish with this MOOC, one of the recurring themes has been the role of the ‘human’ in technology. I remain optimistic; education will always be a very human process and it is significant that two of the winners of last week’s competition illustrated a very human artefact in education, handwritten course notes (see image above).