MOOCs and the Elite Edupunk Way

Stephen Downes discusses a "great rebranding" that is apparently taking place with regard to the concept of MOOCs:

MOOCs were not designed to serve the missions of the elite colleges and universities. They were designed to undermine them, and make those missions obsolete. 
Yes there has been a great rebranding and co-option of the concept of the MOOC over the last couple of years. The near-instant response from the elites, almost unprecedented in my experience, is a recognition of the deeply subversive intent and design of the original MOOCs (which they would like very much to erase from history).
David Wiley responds:
Don’t mistake lust for fame with forethought. The current mania around MOOCs has nothing to do with strategic neutralization of a potential threat to higher education’s business model and everything to do with needing to be in the New York Times. Assuming the prior gives way too much credit where it isn’t due – twice. First, to the leadership of schools who have jumped speedily on the MOOC bandwagon. And second, to the creators of the MOOC approach who by implication have supposedly devised a method so brilliant as to be capable of destroying formal higher education (which, apparently, is to be lauded).
My take:

When David organized what was once called the first "proto-MOOC" at USU back in 2007, I remember thinking how cool it would be to participate in a course with fellow students from around the world.* I did not enroll, but chose instead to follow David's lead. Therefore, because I too wanted to test the boundaries of what might be accomplished using modern networking technologies, Robin Ellis and I offered to provide an after-school professional development course on Social Software in the Classroom to every interested person on the planet.

While I can't speak for David, my purpose in designing a pre-MOOC open online course was not to undermine the missions of any elite colleges or universities. Harvard and Stanford never crossed my mind.

Rather, I wanted to experience the cultural thrill of exposing my teachers to the attitudes and patterns of thought possessed by educators from around the world. I wanted to see if the Internet could really be used to build a productive community of practice. I wanted to see if it was actually possible to create an immersive learning environment that didn't require physical presence. And ultimately, I really wanted to do it for free: that is, free access to participants using free publishing/delivery tools, freely accesible to all. When all was said and done, we learned that nothing in life is truly free, just like we're also learning today that the same might be said of "open." (Is nothing in life truly open, or is everything really some shade of open? The jury's still out on that one.)

To be clear, Stephen's assertion of a great MOOC re-branding smacks of Edupunk (2008-2011, RIP). In spite of the first-sentence claim in the Edupunk Bible that this favorite movement died in 2011, Edupunk's rebellious redolence and distaste for all things formal can still be felt throughout online conversations today. Yes, the Edupunk spirit lives on; promulgated by Stephen and obviously flourishing among those who enjoy life in the "Schools Are Broken" fringes of society. To me, there is very little difference between the "We can do things on our own, who needs institutions?!?" attitude of an Edupunk, and the "We can do things on our own, who needs everyone else?!?" attitude of most private schools. Both attitudes are elitist, and ultimately in both sibling camps, some people win while other people lose. Perhaps in the end, it really is a dog-eat-dog world, as the fight for an educated populace continues to be trounced from nearly every possible angle.

Let the record show, nonetheless, that there were explorers in the days of pre-MOOC open online learning who simply wanted another quality method for all people to learn.


* Last November, Wikipedia user Kmasters0 (account no longer exists) removed the paragraph describing David's efforts from the Wikipedia article on Massive open online courses. Can you help me understand why?

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