Can we talk about how MOOCZilla is our friend, not our enemy when it comes to the future of higher education? While this awkward lizard may not be the most accessible or equitable lizard out there, he’s a lot better than Debt Kong or Inflated Grade-ra (please don’t actually try to hold me to my metaphors).
But, in the midst of edX growing, Arizona St going digital first year and Starbucks caffeinated, do we really yet know what it means for the physical meat space campus? I brought this up at last years ACUI annual conference (insert shameful self-plug here), and I think it merits much more discussion within our associations and very much in ACUI.
I’m on a group email that fields most of the event questions for campus users and outside organizations, and this exchange, answered by my space colleagues who handle much of the main event space reservations, showcases what we are looking at down the line.
Now, the chapel is a special case, and is available to only the MIT community for use, but expand this idea a bit, and we really really need to be looking at: how do we get ahead of the curve and offer the opportunities for interpersonal connection and learning that our physical spaces provide to our online users?
How does our on-campus work and the college union ideal/out-of-classroom experience translate online to ~10k+ learners that complete per course?
The MOOC language, once they were roundly mocked and ridiculed for their epic drop out rates, shifted, calling participants ‘learners’ rather than ‘students,’ underlining the fact that overwhelmingly, MOOCers (MOOCies?) were coming to MOOCs for specific bits of knowledge, rather than say, the entire 8 week course. And that’s fine.
I am a MOOC statistic. I cannot get it done in a MOOC. I need to be sitting in the classroom, having a history prof drone on at me. That’s how I learn. That’s what I love. But am I anti-MOOC. Naw. Nope. Think they’re great… if we can figure them out and do them better.
So then, how are we going to shift, as space managers and event advisers? Yes, I know our staffs are working 50 or 60 hour weeks. Yes, I know we don’t even have enough space as it is. Yes, I know we got bumped down the capital planning list again so students can get their Dunkies right by their lab. But, if we don’t talk about this now, we are going to be left behind, and the next iteration of the college union idea will be gone before we can even grasp it. We will be left in the dust by the rest of the academic world (which is really hard to do), and once again, faculty members will call you names in the coffee line in the morning (I have absolutely no proof that that actually happens, please don’t hurt me Professor.)
Should MOOCers be able to reserve space and have events… ehhh, probably not, maybe, all signs point to no. But you better believe we should be partnering with our MOOC friends to offer on-campus experiences that may supplement in some way the learning going on for some of the most engaged learners out there.
Got a wood shop, Hobby Shop, or maker space – partner with a product design MOOC and offer the chance for some meat space learning just as we would offer it to a product design class happening in the academic building on our campus.
Got a huge alumni base? Create the Uber of out-of-classroom experiences, and offer mentorship opportunities, meetups, or coffee chats led by them, meeting MOOCers where they are at in Moscow, Beijing, or Denver.
Have an event happening on campus that relates to the poli sci MOOC being offered through the edX network? Offer some seats to local MOOCers in your area, to get them engaged with the content beyond their screen even further and engaged with your physical campus. Who knows, maybe they’ll attend one day?
Yes. There are risks. Yes. The inherent inequalities of MOOCs still persist. Yes. This ish will probably blow your budget out of the water… kasploosh.
But, can we please, for the love of Internet Explorer, talk about this? MOOCZilla lies relatively dormant for now. We need to have a plan for when it wakes back up. We’ve gotten through the hissy-fit phase of “MOOCs will change the world, but they suck, but everyone learns, but they don’t actually, but lets send internet balloons to communities that don’t even have safe drinking water…” and so on.
MOOCs are being challenged to be better (see edX getting slammed for harassment, security, and disability access), and so are we (see fraternity and sorority life discussions, admin bloat, what place do trigger warnings have in an experience where exploring difficult topics is relatively the safest it could be). We can learn together, we can grow together, we can offer the union community building experience to our digital learners while enhancing the out-of-classroom experience right here on our own meat space campuses.
Or we can just hang out and wait for the admin bloat scapegoat phase to come back in style. No srsly, I freaking loved that 6 month period. Totallllllly awesome.