“where are the teachers”? “where are the videos”?

These two very early questions from the #edcmooc discussion board seem to be related. There is clearly already a Coursera (or perhaps an xMOOC?) structure and aesthetic which means that the expectation is for these courses to be designed around video lectures. Because ours isn’t, it’s proving difficult for some experienced MOOC participants to “read” the presence of the teachers.

This issue – of online teacher presence – is one that has interested me for a number of years (see this paper that Hamish and I wrote for one take on this). Most recently, Amy Collier and I have been having regular conversations about all kinds of MOOC and online education type topics, and we keep returning to the question of online course design, and the way in which this does (and doesn’t) represent the metaphorical body of the online teacher. The way the teacher is usually represented in the xMOOC seems to be quite specific, and rather constrained (to the size of a video window, really). The teacher’s role, in my view, includes the teacher’s frustrations, discoveries and adventures in shaping curriculum, and in making sometimes rather incalcitrant VLE platforms (in which I’d include Coursera) express their “philosophy and belief in action“. But this may not be a widely shared understanding of the teacher in the MOOC.

A number of participants have commented on the networked, web-friendly and distributed nature of this MOOC, and are seeing this as a strength of our approach. I agree, and I am extremely impressed with the creativity and generosity emerging from the #edcmooc network. So, I wonder: in what ways might the activity of the network be understood as teaching? To consider that, we need to consider the history of the MOOC and its roots in connectivist approaches which locate learning in the network. So, is there teaching in the network, too? What is it that the network is teaching?

Jen Ross

13 thoughts on ““where are the teachers”? “where are the videos”?

  1. Pingback: Feel the fear, and do it anyway #edcmooc | Teaching 'E-learning and Digital Cultures'

  2. Jen
    I note in your paper with Hamish your various terms for a non-teacher, in attempts to take the authoritarianism etc out of it. My current favourite is ‘curator’ as it implies expertise without the elitism, and the idea of ‘collecting and interpreting the best’. As you can guess I am in favour of the concept of a ‘teacher’ It is a noble profession, but that is not to say that i need to be ‘lectured’ or even ‘tutored’ or ‘mentored’. Nor do I just want to be left to my own judgements and efforts. I DO like to go to interactive curated places and if the curator gives me their insights, so much the better. In fact I insist on it.

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  4. hi Sandra – thanks for your comment! I think that your metaphor of the curator is useful in that it preserves the idea that the teacher has responsibility for content and some role in interpretation. I wonder if it might risk losing the sense of responsibility that the teacher has for their students, though? The curator (in a museum, say) need never know the ‘visitors’ they are curating for, or know if or how what they are presenting is being understood – is that a problem, in an education context? (perhaps it isn’t, if we’re talking about MOOCs… this is something I am still thinking about.)

  5. jar – been writing some papers on “teacher presence” as well. Like curator idea as well. I believe machines will be able to provide some sense of teacher presence in the same way I see the footprints of edcmoocteam within the text on edcmooc pages in Coursera – once I started reading edcmoocteam blog, I can even spot a few places that I’m pretty sure one of the team had major input. Interesting idea that teacher presence may become a mash-up of man and machine.

  6. Mash-up of man and machine? Love the concept. Works well in medicine of course. And i think it is likely that MOOCS, along with R&D effort of major corporates will come up with something exciting over the next few years….to the disgust of academics probably. See excerpt below. ( I guess this makes me ‘idealistically utopian’, but really, i am so worried about kids who get left behind that I really am ‘desperately hopeful’. )

    excerpts below from http://w

    “MOOCs’ …ambitions for data mining go well beyond tutoring. Thrun says that we’ve only seen “the tip of the iceberg.” What particularly excites him and other computer scientists about free online classes is that thanks to their unprecedented scale, they can generate the immense quantities of data required for effective machine learning. Koller says that Coursera has set up its system with intensive data collection and analysis in mind. Every variable in a course is tracked. When a student pauses a video or increases its playback speed, that choice is captured in the Coursera database. The same thing happens when a student answers a quiz question, revises an assignment, or comments in a forum. Every action, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, becomes grist for the statistical mill.

  7. hi Tom and Sandra – just in case you haven’t seen it, this paper is really good on what the teacher’s role in a distributed, networked MOOC might look like. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1041/2025

    I’d like to read your work on the mashup teacher, Tom – could you give a link? And I love the idea of our footprints on the MOOC – I am sure you are right about that.

    Sandra, I think what is happening in the US in terms of access to higher education is a possible future that we in the UK need to be very, very aware of. I share your cautious optimism about the possibilities for online education.

  8. Jen
    thanks for that paper. Interesting and I think it is very thoughtful. You might be interested in a blog i wrote elaborating on this topic (not an academic paper) based on my EDC MOOC experience together with experience of another MOOC.
    See it at
    http://sandrakmilligan@wordpress.com. Its called ‘mash-up of man and machine’ or similar.

    (I coudn’t figure out how to get the blog into the course newsletter. The instruction page is broken from me and I ran out of time.)

    Tom the idea for the blog came from your wonderful idea of ‘mash-up of man and machine’ which i was much taken with. Was it original? or did you get it from somewhere. You will notice that i said it was your idea. i woudl like to read your paper too..

  9. “teachers who want to ecshew the guru scene” – lovely description. Really thought provoking post, Sandra – many thanks for linking to it. I am comfortable with the idea of teaching as a mashup of people, technologies and practices – I would think of this as taking a ‘sociomaterial’ approach to the idea of education. (I *think* this resource is open access, if this is something anyone wants to follow up on – https://dspace.stir.ac.uk/handle/1893/3630 ).

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  11. Pingback: Reflections on the #edcmooc (Part 2) | Wayne Barry

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