The question of representation: Have MOOCs adressed really central educational challenges?

March 10, 2014

Thomas Ryberg posted a link on Twitter which made me aware of this great interview “A free education online: too good to be true? – video debate” with (among other) Diana Laurillard who asks the central question: Have MOOCs adressed really central educational challenges?

During the interview – which I recommend seeing – the problem of representation is adressed: who and what is being represented when, how and where, when dealing with MOOCs? The interview also points at the importance of acknowledging local and distributed learning – both as ways to adress equality.

The interview goes straight to the core of educational challenges and how they may actually also become enlarged rather than decreased with current MOOC workings.

I have enrolled in the ongoing Scientific Humanities and Carpe Diem MOOC. Both are designed and run by key figures within their respective knowledge areas: Science and Technology Studies (Bruno Latour) and eLearning Design (Gilly Salmon). This is one of the reasons why I have enrolled.

I have wondered about the fundamental differences between these two MOOC courses and the university courses – I was familiar with – run by the Institute of Education and Pedagogy (DPU/Aarhus University) where I worked during 2002-2012 as a researcher and university teacher. These two MOOC courses have one prominent figure who’s ideas are widely disseminated and maybe (I am in the middst of these courses – so I do not know how they will end) their ideas are not disputed or really up for discussion?

The university courses I have been teaching previously, have all had this commen denominator: a fundamental acknowledgement of knowledge being produced through several scientific approaches to a matter, which of course deeply influences what becomes the matter. The courses I have taught, have all taken point of departure in a strong emphasis on the historical and cultural foundations of knowledge.

Of course it is possible also in university to take a special course relating to a particular methodology or subject area. However, the above mentioned interview made me think, that when we talk about localized and distributed learning, it is important also to keep in mind, what may become the new power relations of knowledge, as we are shifting out and adding to the platformations of our historical ways of distributing knowledge.

Thomas Ryberg (in his Twitter comment) and the interview mentioned above bring forward important concerns regarding the politics of knowledge: for instance, the issue of developing countries and their knowledge forms (currently) being underrepresented and perhaps even repressed. Also, if videobased instructions become the new acknowledged way of education, what kinds of societal concequences would that bring about? What if governments and/or citizens were to start believing that key figures from certain elite universities possess better knowledge than their own professors and university teachers?

There is a lot of really important relationships and a lot of politics to take into consideration when working with MOOCs.

We need NOT TO FORGET the allways important question of REPRESENTATION!

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