10 years since the Year of the MOOC

Ah, 2012, Brexit and Trump were but ill-conceived jokes, and we were all bopping along to Carly Rae Jepsen on our way to see Skyfall. And MOOCs, they were everywhere. Suddenly online learning was hot news, and the New York Times declared it “the Year of the MOOC”. Heady days.

So, a decade on, after all those promises, that hype, investment, huge learner enrolments, and endless thought pieces, where are we with MOOCs? It’s a good question, and one my colleagues Katy Jordan and Fereshte Goshtasbpour have gone some way to answering in a special collection of JIME.

They have republished 25 articles from the JIME archives, spanning the entire period. This in itself is interesting, to resurface and repackage content with a more historical perspective. But what is really valuable I think is the editorial they have written to accompany these articles, which analyses some of the trends. I recommend you read it all, but here are some key snippets:

“Pappano’s article was published in the fourth quarter of 2012 (November), just before levels of interest in MOOCs in news articles reached its peak, which followed in the first quarter of 2013. Over the next two years, interest levels fell at a steady rate

” While the early news articles reflected an obsession with metrics and scale – a fascination with the sheer numbers of students signing up – those early figures are completely dwarfed by the numbers of users now associated with the major platforms.

They identify 11 major themes in the JIME MOOC papers:

These are grouped into four major clusters:  situating MOOCs; MOOCs and languages; learning design and roles; and accessibility and inclusion.

They conclude on a fairly positive note, saying:

the recent focus on the use of MOOCs to facilitate social inclusion and promote social justice, it seems that one way that these courses will continue to support education is to help equity and equality be it in addressing the needs of learners with disability, widening access and participation, giving marginalised group such as refugees access to education and the opportunity to develop their skills to help their independence and voice.

Someone suggested to me that repackaging old articles is not what a proper journal should do. Which means I want to do it all the more, I mean what’s the point in having a small scale in-house journal if you can’t use it for innovation? But actually, I think it’s exactly what we should do with journals, particularly in ed tech, where there is a tendency to forget our recent history. in my Metaphors book there is a chapter on the Digital Mudlark, where I make the claim that educational technologists are like mudlarks coming in after a large tide (like the Year of the MOOC) has passed and salvaging interesting artefacts. The analysis and collection by Katy and Fereshte is an excellent example of this practice.

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