We have plunged into the flow of the opening of education. …[but] this river of learning is not unbounded… (Betha Gutsche, EDCMOOC forum)
Betha’s post has helped me to articulate the sense I have that an opening education (Campbell, 2012) is not limitless or unstructured. An opening is a way through to somewhere, but it’s also, in itself, a place. What Christine might call a liminal place. It is here rather than somewhere else. And, depending on where you are and where you need to go, it might or might not be a good starting point.
One reason that matters is because it suggests that an opening isn’t an opening (or not the right opening) for everyone. If this is true of MOOCs, it might help us think about the concept of ‘retention‘. Perhaps we should ask about who stays in a MOOC, not “who is motivated enough?”, or “are MOOCs overhyped?”, but “for whom is this course an opening?”.
To pose this question might highlight new responsibilities for teachers and researchers in this area. For instance, if it turns out that MOOCs tend to be openings mostly for those who are already educationally privileged, we need to consider carefully what this means for the mission of the MOOC, which is typically framed quite differently.
On the level of the individual, we might also help MOOC participants to consider if the opening is in the right place (or appearing at the right time) for them. It can be understandably hard for people to see themselves as ‘dropouts’, even when it is clear to them that the course is not working for them. Maybe we need a ‘trial period’ (a money-back guarantee? :-)) for the MOOC, where people can check it out before they make a psychological commitment that might feel hard to back down from. A big “loitering allowed” sign by the opening…