IRRODL Special Issue veröffentlicht: European MOOC perspective

Zusammen mit Sebastian Vogt durfte ich die letzten Monate ein Special Issue bei der Online Zeitschrift International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning als Gastherausgeber betreuen. Als Thema wählten wir „Europäische MOOC Perspektive“ und wollten damit an die Debatte andocken, die sich gegen die US-dominierten MOOC-Anbieter wendet. Aber was macht eine europäische Perspektive aus? Genau diese Frage stand im Mittelpunkt unseres Call for Papers:

Over the last months, the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) debate has finally come of age, especially after Sebastian Thrun publicly announced that “we have a lousy product” (Chafkin, 2013), and a series of backlashes have led to the conclusion that MOOCs mostly benefit those learners with a lot of cultural capital. Before this turning point, MOOCs were portrayed as a completely new educational innovation, and its conceptual ancestors such as distance education were ignored. Furthermore, other types of MOOCS such as the those based on the notion of connectivism, advocated by scholars such as Stephen Downes, George Siemens and Rita Kop as well as the work around open content (Wiley & Gurrell, 2009), have been squeezed out of the collective memory.
However, these approaches are located within a certain culture that frames our thinking and acting about pedagogy. More precisely, the open education paradigm (for an overview, Deimann & Sloep, 2013) has been dominated by Anglo-American actors such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which started the global Open Educational Resource (OER) movement a decade ago by opening up their teaching materials to the general public. Similarly, the Open University UK initiated its Open Learning project. And in 201,1 two famous IvyLeague universities, Harvard and Stanford, began to broadcast their lectures that allowed a worldwide audience to participate regardless of their economic, social, or educational status. Inflated with a lot of venture capital, Coursera and Udacity embarked on a mission of providing high quality education to the masses around the globe at affordable prices. Meanwhile, a world-wide MOOC industry emerged and challenged many of higher education’s traditions.
Interestingly, those elite universities are vivid examples of the attempt to capitalize on the rich academic tradition of Europe as manifested, for instance, in the life and career of Charles Eliot (1834 – 1926) who spent two years in Germany and France after returning to America to then become known as the father of American higher education (Christensen & Eyring, 2011). In a similar vein, distance teaching universities (OUUK, FernUniversität in Hagen) reflect a pedagogy that overlaps with many aspects of the MOOC. This pertains, first and foremost, to the insight that teaching and learning at a distance necessitates a special “operating system” that goes beyond large scale distribution of materials via sophisticated technological means but is “geared exclusively to the learning requirements of distance students” (Peters, 2003, p. 90).
Against this background, this special issue attempts to reconcile the much-hyped discourse around (MOOCs) with the European tradition of higher education. The goal is to reconstruct and revive venerable concepts such as (1) “academic charisma” (Clark, 2006), one of the key influential factors for the modern research university that has become closely embedded in a process of bureaucratization and commodification; (2) public lectures, which were once praised as an instrument for science education for adults (Inkster, 1980) before falling prey to the “great university gamble” (McGettigan, 2013); and (3) the role of knowledge, once with value in itself (disinterested knowledge), now degraded as a marketable commodity which is “valued mainly as a crucial capital for successful competition and economic growth, while the democratic and cultural functions …tend to become obscured” (Lundahl, 2014, p. 32) and tie them to the MOOC discourse.
To this end, we are inviting contributions that deal with the following aspects:
– Papers introducing theoretical/conceptual models from the area of open distance education (ODL) that inform the current MOOC debate (e.g. lessons learned)
– Papers aimed at connecting academic traditions and cultures from European and other regions (e.g. aca- demic charisma) to prevalent issues of the MOOC debate (e.g. drop-out, business model)
– Empirical (re)-analysis of MOOC studies against the background of previous knowledge from the ODL field
– Vision papers focusing on emerging trends such as social production of knowledge or “digital solidarity” (Stalder, 2013) that can expand the focus of the current discourse.

Danach trudelten Beiträge bei uns ein und wir nahmen eine Erstprüfung vor und leiteten die ausgewählten Einsendungen an die Reviewer_innen weiter, die in einer großen IRRODL-Datenbank uns zur Verfügung standen. Dieser Schritt war vor allem koordinativ herausfordernd, da nur in den allerseltesten Fällen es keine Beanstandungen („accept“) gab, sondern kleinere oder substantielle Modifikationen. Diese Rückmeldungen gingen an die Autor_innen zurück mit der Bitte um entsprechende Überarbeitung. Diese wurden dann von uns nochmals gesichtet und bei positiver Abnahme an den Produktionsprozess weitergeleitet.
Daraus entstand, worauf wir sehr stolz sind, ein Special Issue mit einer breiten Palette an Diskussionsangeboten, wie MOOCs aus europäischer Sicht zu verstehen sind.

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