Just when I thought I could take a break for Christmas, Stephen Downes threw me a curved ball, saying that he doesn’t think the Storyboarding OOC that Brenda Padilla and I are planning to run in the new year is actually open. Here is my reply to Stephen.
Hi Stephen. It seems I gave you the idea that the Storyboarding OOC is closed. It’s not – or at least it’s not intended to be. There are three aspects of my blog post that could have created this wrong impression: firstly I noted that the OOC will be offered via the CourseSites platform, which requires participants to sign in with a password and enrol on the course. I agree with you that the fact that the course activities take place in a logged-in environment limits openness for the duration of this iteration of the course; however, as I explained to Wayne in a different post, we are going to great lengths to ensure that *all* the content of the OOC, plus as much content generated by participants as they want to share, will be available openly in all senses of the word. In fact, the content is currently being developed in the open via a series of Google Docs, which can be accessed via the storyboard for the OOC itself. (Warning – in the spirit of what Wayne calls radical transparency, the storyboard and related resources are work in progress and are changing/evolving daily.) I think this point probably deals with the heart of your criticism, and hopefully you are reassured now that at least the course content and the navigational pathway through the OOC are totally open.
Secondly, I said that the OOC is not intended to be massive. The reason for this is not because it is not open, but because as two academics acting in our individual capacities without institutional backing and without certificate-awarding powers, we don’t expect to attract masses of participants (although we would not mind if we did). We are doing this on an experimental basis, and we hope that after the first iteration, all the course resources, including the design of the course in the form of the OOC storyboard, will be reused by other open educators – including those with real MOOC-capacity. One way of looking at the OOC would be to see it as a pilot for future MOOCs. Of course there is a contradiction in trying to run a small pilot for a massive course, since a great many challenges arise when one has thousands of participants that would not arise in a smaller cohort, but by leaving that ‘M’ off the front of the OOC we are attempting to be honest about that.
Thirdly, the question about whether setting up groups is compatible with the spirit of open courses is an interesting one. Gilly Salmon and the Swinburne team experimented with the idea in the Carpe Diem MOOC. As a participant on that MOOC earlier this year, I can say that the structured group experience was helpful and motivating for me, although I was aware that there were issues for some people whose allocated groups did not work out, for a range of reasons. Brenda and I have had some lengthy discussions in the last few weeks about how to create groups that are clearly enough defined that participants to know that they have a “home base” to go to, but also flexible enough for participants to move between groups if they want to, or completely opt out of if they prefer. As it’s quite a big topic, I’ll make it the subject of my next blog post. For now, I’d just like to say that in the Carpe Diem experience, I did not feel that the course was in any way less of a MOOC because of being asked to join a group. This is an aspect of the OOC that we will be asking participants about as part of our research, and we’ll report back on our findings at a later date.
In conclusion, I very much appreciate the feedback and I do accept that there are degrees of openness. However, I hope for now that I have gone some way towards persuading you that by using the term OOC we are not “polluting” the concept of MOOCs. By using the term OOC we were simply trying to say that we are aiming for openness, and equally that we’re not aiming for massiveness. The first of these aims is an absolute principle, but the second is more of a prediction. If by some fluke we get thousands of participants on the OOC, we will be happy to rename it a MOOC, but I don’t believe it would be appropriate to rename it an OC or a MOC (without the ‘O’ for open) as you’ve suggested!