Collective Intelligence Assignment 2 for Digital Narratives Class

With the recent Alberta budget cuts, the Education Minister is requesting a new “more unified post-secondary system”, a collaborative approach to controlling costs, while continuing to ensure accessibility. The education landscape is changing. Henry Jenkin’s believes that schools have not kept pace with the changing media landscape or the ability to exploit the participatory culture it offers.  Could Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) be a step in the right direction? MOOC design fits nicely against Jenkin’s key requirements for participatory learning. MOOC’s are voluntary, free and available online.  A learning community develops around a common interest in a topic. Collaboration and mentorship opportunities emerge as students help each other and a sustained interest in the community motivates completion and a connection beyond the course timeframe.

The three texts I have chosen look at the MOOC as an emerging form of participatory literacy from three different sources.  First, a TedTalks Video from Dr. Daphne Koller,  a professor of Computer Science at Stanford and the co-founder of the online MOOC platform Coursera. Second, a column from The Guardian by Clay Shirky, author, consultant and adjunct professor at New York University who specializes in the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. Third, a short informational video on MOOCs created by Dave Cormier, Web Communication and Innovations Manager at the University of Prince Edward Island (and attributed with coining the term MOOC) and his fellow research team all Ph.D.’s or candidates with appropriate areas of expertise.

Please click on the images to access the chosen texts on my Pinterest board.  A brief analysis of each follows. Here is the my board  Also each text has been embedded in the visuals that follow.

1.  TedTalk Video from Dr. Daphne Koller: What we are learning from online education.

This inspiring presentation uses fact based, credible evidence, moving emotional testimonials and examples to persuade us on MOOCs. Her academic credentials and experience in designing and delivering MOOCs adds to her credibility.  No opposing perspectives are addressed. She pitches MOOCs as a means to provide the fundamental right of education for all. She uses graphs to demonstrate that tuition has increased by 559% since 1985 with less than half of students attaining employment, using that education.  She says MOOCs can improve this by providing the best professors and courses to whoever wants them.  There is no support to indicate that the courses currently being developed or delivered by Coursera are strategic in considering how to address the gaps in employability. Some of her claims are not backed with evidence. For example, she tells how students are using MOOC course certificates to get better jobs and attain actual college credit for completion.  But this is anecdotal and not backed with data. Impressive stats on participation are shared but controversial completion metrics are not.  Her most impressive argument comes in the unprecedented opportunity MOOC course data analysis has in being able to understand human learning and hence improve education.  The video format puts the onus on the viewer to dig deeper on Koller’s arguments.  For example, I searched for the last research paper she displays graphically on the benefits of Active Learning in a Large Physics Classroom.  I found it in the Journal of Science along with two separate published academic criticisms of the research results.

2.  The Guardian article from Clay Shirky: Higher Education: our MP3 is the mooc.

Shirky compares what is happening with the disruption offered by MOOCs in Higher Education as akin to what happened in the Music industry. In critiquing Shirky’s argument it is important to note his expertise and consulting demonstrates a bias towards the internet as a positive revolutionary force to enabling group forming and collaboration. His article takes for granted that MOOCs will positively transform higher education, no other position is considered despite their early days. He makes it appear that Udacity and fellow MOOC providers are the original innovators of online platforms, yet schools like MIT have been offering OpenCourseWare online for free since 2002. He says, “that open courses, even in their nascent state, will be able to raise quality and improve certification faster than traditional institutions can lower cost or increase enrollment.” This is a hopeful statement but not one that he has evidence with which to defend the quality or improved process of learning.  It is also an aggressive claim given that MOOCs are still emerging on the backs of investors, their future business models yet to be confirmed.  To become viable, what will be the model? Corporate sponsorship? Will the consideration be the exchange of participant’s data? When the viable model emerges will it discourage enrollment? Shirky criticizes the for-profit Kaplan college system for poor education and increasing debt. Shirky’s writing also segments higher education into elite and non-elite status, he assumes his Yale education and its big lecture classes are superior to the education that 75% of American’s are getting at “mediocre colleges”.  As a business student I attended a local college and then transferred to a more prestigious university program to complete a degree.  For me, there is no question that the college education was superior in terms of overall value and learning. Shirky is a highly regarded writer but this piece is speculative and opinion based. Shirky’s  Blog version of this article.

3.  YouTube Video: Dave Cormier: What is a Mooc?


This video uses simple line drawing animation to effectively inform the viewer on MOOC benefits by differentiating them from traditional learning.  Informative but assumes the viewer has a certain level of digital literacy describing them as open, participatory, distributed and using symbols like the twitter bird, blog posts and tag icons. Emphasizes there is no single path to learning and that students learn from each other. This develops life long learning networks that can continue long after the course is over.  The video presents an informative yet wholly positive perspective.  Some information could cause confusion, “participants are not asked to complete assignments but to engage with each other and material all over the web . . .” This is not an accurate statement for all MOOCs as this author’s research colleague, Dr. Siemens has provided credit for MOOCs as he explains in this interview with Harold Rheingold. The issues and concerns that MOOCs present, is not considered in this video.  It is an effective, but simplified conceptual presentation. My biggest critique is not apparent with an initial viewing. In researching the authors and credits at the end of the video I learned it is one of four videos created and embedded in the researchers grant funded paper, The Mooc Model for Digital Practice. Which is responding to the Federal Governments consulting paper Building Critical Skill for Tomorrow.  This video is helpful on its own but there is a lost opportunity in that comments could have been posted in YouTube to connect viewer who is interested in more information to the original research paper it was created for, in addition to its three additional companion videos. A concluding URL in the last frame of the video offering more information would be ideal.


Cormier, D. (Producer & Writer). 2010. What is a mooc? [Video]. Retrieved from

Deslauriers, L., & Wieman, C. E. (2011). Response. Science, 333(6047), 1221.

Jenkins, H. (2006, October 20). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century (part one) [Web log message]. Retrieved from

McAuley, A., Stewart, B., Siemens, G. & Cormier, D. (2010). The Mooc Model for Digital practice. Retrieved from

TedtalksDirector. (Producer). 2012.  Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education [Video]. Retrieved from

Jenkins, H. (2006, October 20). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: media education for the 21st century (part one) [Web log message]. Retrieved from

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