Slip Sliding Away: The Open in MOOC

Looking through Stephen Downes’ list of MOOCs today, I saw that there’s a MOOC using almost exactly the same name as the open online course I began teaching this past winter. Compare my Introduction to Openness in Education from Winter 2012, which will be offered again in Winter 2013 and every winter term for the foreseeable future, and Rory McGreal and George Siemens’s Openness in Education being offered as I type (Fall 2012).

After pausing a moment to wonder about why they chose that particular name for their course, and how it might create confusion with the course I will offer at BYU again as soon as the AU course ends, I thought “Well, at least I can go see what they’re doing and see how it compares to my course. I bet there’s great stuff they’re doing that I can learn and benefit from.”

Except that I can’t.

I’ve clicked every link in the left-hand nav on I even registered for the course to see if that would magically unlock the content somehow. Nothing. The closest I came was finding a list of topics with no associated content. After another 15 minutes of digging through the site, I found this in the Newsletter Archives, part way down into what appears to be the first newsletter sent out to students:

“You will receive an email later today with readings and resources for Week 1.”

So… not only is this supposed to be a MOOC, but it’s supposed to be a MOOC about openness in education, and there is literally no content on the website. Apparently (though I’ve yet to confirm that this works, either) the only way to access the materials for this massive “open” online course on openness is to subscribe to a mailing list.


I’ve already complained in the past about the “xMOOCs” not using openly licensed materials, and consequently not qualifying as massive OPEN online courses in my mind. But I never thought I’d see a cMOOC – one on openness, no less, – that required a person to register before they could wait for the course’s content to be mailed to them.

I feel extraordinarily strongly that you should not have to register or give away any information about yourself to have full access to all the content of anything that wants to describe itself as an open online course (whether “massive” or not).

Maybe I’m just dense, and the course materials are all right there on the website. But I can’t find them. And I like to think of myself as a relatively sophisticated user. Is this a new “feature” of gRSShopper, the de fact cMOOC platform?

What is happening to “open?”

5 thoughts on “Slip Sliding Away: The Open in MOOC”

  1. I’m not running the course, though of course I’m handling the technical aspects of the platform. Typically we would have a separate page full of content – links, etc. – for each week, but they didn’t want that. As Jennifer suggests, it may be that there isn’t any content.

    Certainly the course newsletters can be accessed as they are issued each day through the archives, and a lot of content will accumulate through those. There’s also the RSS. But it is not ideal and I would have preferred something more up front. But, as I say, it’s not my course.

    I agree with this: “I feel extraordinarily strongly that you should not have to register or
    give away any information about yourself to have full access to all the
    content of anything that wants to describe itself as an open online
    course (whether ‘massive’ or not).”

  2. David – I agree that Open Content is watching from the sidelines in the current mad rush to the dominant model of the moment. We all know that the model that works in the long run is organic and open with reuse and remix as its core principles. In time those ideas will come back to the fore and when they do, they will be greatly improved because the large-scale-open-enrollment-courses-without-open-content (LSOECWOCs) will have taught us the kind of content that is well suited to reuse and repurposing. And students will have voted with their feet and decided what kind of content works for them. Open always wins in the end – the only question is how long it will take and what we can learn from the current experiments.

  3. I believe this is my seventh connectivist mooc now and it took a little while to start receiving the facilitators’ content and the aggregation of participants’ content through the gRSShopper newsletter, which I attribute to the usual start-up issues and troubleshooting that happens with most new courses.

    What is very cool so far is that the course seems to be relying *very* heavily on user-generated content. The facilitators have offered a few readings as starting points for discussion and, as far as I can tell, there are no live/synchronous sessions scheduled by the facilitators. It’s really up to us as participants to decide what to do with the facilitators’ content (if anything), to develop our own live sessions if we want to and to share our resources as we see fit. That shift in power/control/effort is going to rattle more than a few people, I bet!

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