MOOC 2.0

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MOOC 2.0

Mobile Learning for the Have-Lots & Have-Nots

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About MOOC 2.0

As Web 2.0 is to the World Wide Web (Web 2.0, 2013), I wanted to suggest a new version of massively open online courses, one outside of elite platforms.

MOOC 2.0 does not refer to updates to any technical specification, but rather to ways we reach and teach end-users who’re poor or of color.

when it became clear to me that many people were being left out, literally, by design.

MOOC 2.0 was/is my response to my first official MOOC course in Coursera.

I couldn’t wait to take the course. Don’t ask me, why, but part of I felt like I was…accepted by Stanford (even though they made it clear this was not Stanford)..It was 1987 (last year). I’d just been accepted to Stanford (it was open enrollment). My acceptance letter (email) came in a single thin crisp, white envelope (Microsoft Office). I opened it (clicked on it), held it arm’s-length in front me. I started to read it. On the very first line was the word “Terrific!” (today’s date), followed by “Congratulations, Corey (Welcome)”..we are pleased to offer you admission (thanks for joining)to the class of 1991. You are one of only, I think the number was 1,100 (11,000). I found out during orientation week that none of us and all of us were special; I was still “Terrific” and every recruiters knew every students name — our God-given one and the one that showed us they cared.

Two years ago at our 20th year reunion, memories were fading, but we still we could name most of each other. Of course, no one had a hard time remembering Cory Booker’s name (and this time no mistook one for the other).

My Coursera had a “brand-name” professor. That’s what drew me to the course — his expertise on the subject. (Truth be told that was one of the best things about going to Stanford.) In his videos he came off as smart and at-ease, forward and rational in his thinking, intellectual in a way that invited you in, not sized you up. Even if you couldn’t talk to him, you could still take to him.

Yet, something,— some thing was missing from the class, but what? Orientation (or something Orientation-ish)? Check. Icebreaker? Check. Syllabus? Check. Outcomes? Check.Relevant readings? Discussion topics? Check. Assignments? Check. Gradebook? Check. Help button? Check. Cool software? Check. Check. Oh, yeah lecture? Check.

Hardly anybody in education (especially not “progressives” or futurists”) will admit this these days, but me — I love, love, love a good lecture. Give me rock-star or no-name, new or know-it-all classroom entertainers — professors who can make great stories out of the least likely subjects.

They remind me of my great-, great-, great-grandmother, who I remember. I remember because I recall sitting at her feet when she told stories.

I remember how dark she was, real dark, and wrinkly. The stark contrast between her teeth and skin, and the her Bible. The “pop” and “fizz” of the bubbles rising over her gums in the glass, her teeth sinking slowly, like a ship. That what’s the grownups said, “She gonna sink your ship,” but they meant something other than teeth.

It meant that great granny was about to get to the good part. Except, it was only good for the ones who weren’t left standing with granny holding open their secret in her hand. It scared me sometimes, but since there was still light outside, I was less concerned about the things “done in the dark coming into the light.” I watched granny’s mouth with as much anticipation as the adults. When she got close to saying it, she’d suck her gums and draw back her breath. They waited to hear her name names of two people who had no business being mentioned in the same sentence. I waited for what followed — the ping that punctuated her the end of her sentence when she spit the black tar she’d been chewing straight out of her, right smack in the tin she kept steady at her feet. Check!

I was in the middle of watching one of the recorded lectures when great granny showed up again with her snuff can. I tried to recall the particulars of her tale. Was it one day or two scenes or a whole summer mixed together? I don’t know, but it was sure something just to know her!

And that’s when it hit me, what was missing, why I was so bothered by then by the course. It wasn’t that Coursera wasn’t good; it was that Coursera reminded me of everything that was/is bad in education.

What was missing? People. My course had thousands; the whole joint was built to handle tens of millions, and you could tell a lot of thinking went into crowd control. People who know me, know I don’t go near places where there’s likely to be a huge crowd. I’d rather stay home.

And that’s what was missing. There was no one in Coursera and no place in education where you can find: home.

Some people don’t get into the kind of teaching and learning that I like — the kind of teaching and learning that draws in and draws on everyone’s home life; where I know your name, your momma’s name, your daddy, your man or your kids and you know mine; the kind of learning that says “Let me see what you’re working with. How can I take what you got and get you to know this?”; the kind of teaching and learning that says, “This is what I need you to know at the end of this class. I’m open to different ways to get to it.”; the kind of teaching and learning that says, “I need you to learn this and learn it this way because in reality, in business in the working world that’s how it’s done, but in here, it’s not just ‘one shot and you’re done’, in here if you’re having problems, I’ll let you do it over and over until you it you. That’s my promise.”; The kind of teaching and learning that doesn’t treat students’ problems as non-factors or excuses or merely an amped-up component of sophisticated equation; the kind of teaching and learning that doesn’t treat people’s problems as “I’m sorry, that’s your own problem” but as an opportunity to get better and better at teaching and learning, a chance to re-connect with home, and where home is not just conceived of as a place with people and things inside it, but our true selves seen inside-out.

That’s what Coursera and all the MOOCs I’ve seen, seem to be missing. But that’s me.

But it’s not. Unfortunately, that’s a lot first generation, first time in college, low-income, no-income, minority, majority-minority, people of color, call them what you want — a lot of them — a lot of us — are not getting those needs met in college.

It says something about how we treat faculty too, how we underserve the ones called to serve, pretend not to need them with our technology.

I’ve been a student, teacher and administrator at every level of our education system and there’s three things I’ve come to know for sure:

1. Institutions don’t pay faculty what they’re worth.
2. Faculty then can’t give students what they need — personal attention.
3. So students often don’t get what they came for — a piece of the American Dream in the form of a college degree.

I’m not mad at Coursera. I’m disappointed. I thought something or someone coming out of Stanford would know that by now, especially if they knew everything our class went through that first year..and because that place felt like home. I thought there would be more attention to “home” not just the tens of thousands of (race-less, classless) people inside them and locked out by  (institutional, sociocultural) design.

I started MOOC 2.0, so I wouldn’t get mad (and have that the be the predictable, stereotypical, way people read me). I started MOOC 2.0 the same reason I joined Teach for America — as a dare to myself, a personal response to Eleanor Roosevelt’s challenge: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

I don’t know if I can create college courses that can be delivered and completed entirely through text messaging, but God willing, I’ll find a way. MOOC 2.0 serves as a record — a very personal record — of what I hope becomes a collaborative effort of how-to use the high impact, low-tech technology of text messaging to help faculty and students be successful at home.

And if I’m lucky, God-willing still, MOOC 2.0 will also serve as my dissertation — the school’s first digital dissertation — assuming I manage to stay.

If you’re in or just curious and want to follow the story read on…


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