Some MOOCs Just Aren't MOOCs

moocThere has been a backlash against MOOCs the past year as they have made inroads into higher education. I believe a lot of that is fear - fear by professors about lost jobs and fear by colleges of lost tuitions. Project that fear to the future and it is a fear about the end of universities and degrees being the dominant form of post-secondary education.

I agree with Stephen Downes when he says that, "You can almost feel the glee in this Chronicle article as it reports on the failure of a plan to offer credit via an $89 MOOC-related exam for a course that usually costs $1050."  Is The Chronicle looking for the anti-MOOC stories now?

MOOCs were meant to be free (that's part of the Open), so when you see a price on taking one, you want to know about the return on that investment. That particular course awards "credit" but that credit that isn't transferable. You would need to apply it to a degree program at the MOOC provider, Colorado State University-Global Campus. That sounds to me more like a marketing scheme than a MOOC.

The fact that no students applied for the course is the big message of the Chronicle article, but maybe the big message should be that this is not what MOOCs are meant to be and that is why it failed.

A School in the Cloud: Self Organized Learning Environments

I watched Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize winning talk which is both about a school in the cloud and about Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE). It made me think of so many projects I have worked on over the years, like teaching or learning on p2pu and other open networks. Schools in the cloud.

In his talk, he asks us to help me design the School in the Cloud, a learning lab in India, where children can explore and learn from each other using resources and mentoring from the cloud. This is what he calls a Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE).

He is seeking educational partners to help design and build the physical building that will house his School in the Cloud, where students will try out a range of cloud-based, scalable approaches to self-directed learning.

TED offers a SOLE toolkit that might help you contribute to a global network of educators and retired teachers who can support and engage the children through the web.

This not about credits and degree programs. Like the original idea of MOOCs, it is about engaging communities, parents, schools and afterschool programs worldwide, to transform the way kids learn.

This requires facilitators and the SOLE model relies on educators to model curiosity, prompt questions, and support the learners through the process.

Where are the typical incentives that exist for teachers? A job, a salary, personal feedback and face-to-face relationships with students? They don't exist, at least not in the form you knew in school.

Can you deal with that?

Social Media ROI

This week I have been working with a new client on their social media strategy. More about them in future posts, but even though they are an educational non-profit, they are interested in their return on investment (ROI) from using social media.

Businesses have learned in the past five years that social networking is a powerful platform. Their market research shows that their customers are using social media and that it affects their buying. The problem has been showing the ROI from companies getting into the space. How does adding another 25,000 followers on twitter or Facebook impact sales? More importantly, DOES it impact sales at all? 

In phase one of the social media explosion, companies didn't really see why they needed to be in the space. It looked like a fad. In phase two, they saw their competitors moving into the space and figured they had better be there too or be seen as old-fashioned. In this phase there was (and still is for some companies) an “If we build it, they will come" attitude. But then they didn't come. Or the company wasn't sure if they had come because of the social media.

Once MySpace was big. Then Facebook overwhelmed it. Now, MySpace is trying to swim back up to the surface. They need to show people that they are something other than Facebook, not a replacement for it. Google Plus took that attitude too, saying "We're not Facebook and we don't want to be." Critics might say that's because neither of them can be Facebook at this point. Supporters would say that there is room for other networks as long as they serve different needs.

Yahoo was once Google, in that it was the place to search. But that was before google became Google. Now, with CEO Marissa Mayer calling the shots, they are looking at purchases like Tumblr which would add 107 million microblogs and another 15 billion pageviews a month to Yahoo. For companies like Yahoo, Google and Facebook (who are media and advertising companies now), that means a lot to ROI. But Yahoo is also looking at being cool again.   The marketing folks will look at the numbers and see that users stay longer on Tumblr than on Facebook and get excited. They will tell you that Yahoo users are an aging audience. That's not good for advertisers. It was said that Tumblr would cost a billion dollars. Facebook bought Instagram last year for about $715 million. Not chump change, so you better get some ROI from that.

Then there is the ROI of your personal social media. What do you get from being on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Connecting with old friends, keeping up with casual acquaintances, finding out what people are talking about, making professional connections, self-promotion, jobs, staying up on new things, trends, and just trying to stay cool as you age? 

I use a site called SlideShare to post presentations that I create and give. It's a way to archive them, share them (via links and embeds) with people at an event and with people who didn't attend the event, and it has social tools so that people can follow your work and you can follow people who interest you. There is a lot of backslapping and hat tipping in social media. You show me yours and I'll show you mine.

Slideshare sends me weekly stats about my uploads. It tells me that my slides have had 133,00 views. 150 have favorited them and 1000 people have downloaded them.  Several presentations on Moodle (that are now out of date) keep getting views and are up to almost 60,000. One on open textbooks had 40 views this past week added to its 2000 earlier ones. My most recent upload on engagement has almost 400 views. The site links to my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and I get followers and make contacts by way of those presentations.

So what is my return on this little social investment? As with companies, it's about building reputation, community and attention. Those are tough things to put a $ on, even though we know thay have value that is at least partially monetary.