http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/edtechresearcher/blog-EdTechResearcher02.jpgBy . What exactly is a MOOC? Like most interesting things in this world, the term avoids simple definition. For instance, what constitutes a course? A particular body of knowledge to be delivered? Except maybe in the case of skill-based classes, like a writer's workshop. A start and end date? Except maybe in the case of self-paced, on-demand online courses. Interactions between students and instructors? Except maybe in the case of entirely computer-mediated courses or older correspondence courses. Certification or recognition of completion? Except in courses that don't offer them. A learning experience? That must be too broad, or sitting here reading this post would constitute a course. If we can't even define exactly what a course is, how can we possibly hope to provide a clear sense of what constitutes a Massive Open Online Course?
One thing that people then do, in the ambiguous space left by our inadequate ability to precisely define, is to use analogies. We define things by comparing them to other things. In popular discourse of MOOCs, two dominant analogies seem to have emerged in making sense of MOOCs: MOOCs as textbooks and MOOCs as courses. Consider the open letter to Harvard professor Michael Sandel published by the San Jose State University Philosophy Department. The letter explains why the philosophy department refuses to pilot Sandel's JusticeX course. Read more...