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Strange Bedfellows?! What can MOOCs learn from Distance Education

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The explosion of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in 2012 represents a landmark case in the history of educational technology because never before has there been so much interest by political, economical and educational stakeholders. Many major media outlets have accompanied the emergence of MOOCs and contributed to the hype by coining catch phrases such as “The Campus Tsunami” (Brooks, 2012).

However, such stark claims should be put into perspective, in fact, linked to the Distance Education (DE) community, which is – as the title of this chapter suggests – closely related to MOOCs1. It can be argued that MOOCs do nothing more than to reinforce old beliefs about what it means to reach and teach the masses. On the contrary, DE has built a reputation dating back to the 18th century with many different learning approaches (and media) being tested resulting in a huge body of knowledge on how people learn in this special setting (Moore & Kearsley, 1996).

While for the last five years the emergence of MOOCs has hit the general educational landscape with much impact, DE has surprisingly been completely left out of the discussion because the MOOC debate mostly takes place outside of DE and can be described as a development of face-to-face teaching universities discovering the world of mass education at a distance. Therefore, a systematic investigation concerning the potentials of DE models and practices for MOOCS is missing and it is the purpose of the present chapter to bring these two “strange bedfellows” into an informed conversation.

In what follows, we first review Distance Education with regard to the factors that have contributed to its constitution as an academic discipline. In the second part we will discuss how MOOCs can be utilised within a DE ecosystem and present empirical data from (1) a traditional DE course at the FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany and (2) two MOOCs offered by the same university. Finally, we will discuss what MOOCs can learn from DE.

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Strange Bedfellows?! What can MOOCs learn from Distance Education

  1. 1. Strange Bedfellows?! What can MOOCs learn from Distance Education? Markus Deimann, Alexander Lipka & Theo Bastiaens FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany
  2. 2. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/GustaveDore_She_was_astonished_to_see_how_her_grandmother_looked.jpg
  3. 3. The MOOC Explosion
  4. 4. MOOCs as a form of distance education
  5. 5. FernUniversität as a MOOC provider? • Massive: > 85,000 students (e.g. Psychology: 15,011 • Open: :=( formal certification needed • Online: LMS, Social Media Tools, Virtual Classroom • Course: BA-, MA- and PhD Programes from Humanities, Social Science, Law, Information Science, Business Administration
  6. 6. History of Distance Education 1926 1840
  7. 7. Three Generations of DE • Correspondance: Printed materials sent via postal service; mediated communication • Telecommunications: electronic transmission of communication (radio, telephone); personalisation of communication • Computer (multimedia): „E-Learning“
  8. 8. „(...) technology sets the beat and creates the music, while the pedagogy defines the moves” –Anderson & Dron, 2011, p. 81
  9. 9. Founding director, FernUniversität in Hagen, 1974 DE as a system sui generis
  10. 10. DE and MOOCs: Distant siblings with a joint future ? • Massive attraction can downplay pedagogical and philosophical aspects of learning at a distance • rapid development interfere with substantial theoretical development • strong political pressure can undermine values of MOOCs (neoliberal framing)
  11. 11. (Tentative) Results • Attrition rate in the MOOCs is much higher than in the MA course • Participation per capita in the MA course is higher and more stable than in the MOOCs • ==> structured DE course provides more incentives for participation and discourage lurking
  12. 12. Conclusions • Instructional Design-based approach is beneficial for learning at a distance • special attention for media selection: central hub and periphery • critical inquiry needed (e.g. assumptions about human learning; financing)
  13. 13. Thank you very much for the attention! More information available at: ! • http://markusmind.wordpress.com/ publikationen Or contact me on Twitter: @mdeimann

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