Friday 8 May 2015

Blogphilosophy on the #MOOC for credit Global Freshman Academy #GFA

Last week EdX and the Arizona State University sent out a press release. In short they both started the Global Freshman Academy, linking university credits with MOOCs on a major MOOC platform. First reaction: THIS IS GREAT. Second reaction: let me look at the video… *watching* … well, not fully convinced about this initiative.

In two weeks time I will have the opportunity to join Anand Agarwal talking at the eMOOCs conference mid May 2015, which makes it a perfect time to reflect upon this ‘new’ opportunity of offering credits to first year graduates at a small fee.  For it is clear that Anand – among others – is a man with a clear educational mission, and I admire that, but … it takes a neighborhood (the globe) to really make a change happen, and as such reflection must happen by the people for the people, not by the few under the cloak of the many. That is why that although I like the idea of providing open education against small fees to all is a good thing, yet it needs to be supported by citizens and universities of the North and South.

Just like everything, education is a societal system. At this moment, and mainly due to technology and an increased mobility, the national and/or regional educational realities are disrupted.  Or at least, the Northern educational systems feels disrupted, in many regions education has never been fully rolled out, so in a way it has always been in a state of disruption. The disruption is mostly voiced as a result of ‘safe educational institutes’ suddenly feeling less comfortable, because where at first local people went to regional universities, all of a sudden online learning (en masse) suddenly risks to disrupt student numbers. As a student, you can choose to go to other universities simply by joining online curricula... if you are living in the North, have the capacities to learn that specific type of content (time, skills, ....). 

And although the world is still a quilt of different societies, slowly but surely there is this tendency to move towards a global ‘best’, whatever that might mean, I am guessing it means education provided by the one's in power (which is not that different from current education, possibly). For global – it seems to me – is used in a very market driven view when it comes to education. Multiple research has shown that radio lessons make an immense difference in strengthening education, but money currently does not go towards that proven educational option, but to the new, fancy MOOC-related options of online learning. So global is not meant to be local or grassroots supported, but Northern made, southern consumed.

This is the promo video of the Global Freshman Academy, and it clearly builds on the idea of education for all, a worthwhile cause, but even now still struggling with even getting primary education for all realized. 

I like the idea of universal education. I am an proponent of education, and a true believer in the empowerment of education. But this also means that education should be culturally aware, contextualized, and long-term. Long-term meaning that education provides a durable basis for children that will allow them to increase lives opportunities for their (future) children and families. If education is only used as a short-term money patch… I just find it too cynical to support. There is a long standing proverb: the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the GFA might just be that… well intended educational initiatives might not always result in the goal they were built for.

Four critiques after watching the video 
“Can you imagine a world where everyone has access to higher education?”: Is the start of the video. Well I can, but I also realise that if everyone follows the same courses, the declining job market might just be more inundated that it already is. We now face increased older populations and declining job market – so less jobs even if you graduate. So providing higher education for all, might result in a bubble. What needs to be done is education for a long lasting, happy, balanced life amidst all of us global citizens. Utopia, but feasable in my mind. Think Star Trek, think solidarity and spreading material resources to allow everyone to live a prosperous life with respect for all, nature included.

“Most students that start college, do not graduate”: now here is something interesting, in the same video the message of ‘we are successful’ is given next to ‘the same uni that gives you this video also was not able to provide full graduation success’. Of course not, as many young people are still searching for what they want, what they are good at, … and they face their own demons at times related to learning, self-esteem and self-efficacy. Students are also not always equipped to deal with learning, and more so if they have a background with parents and siblings not knowing how to approach learning in those particular circumstances. 

“Take moocs without an application process”: although this sounds nice and is nice (I myself being without a degree up until 2 years ago – meaning 20 years of professional work without an official paper), the bottom line of education is primary/secondary education for all. Taking MOOCs is – at this point in time – still very elite in terms of language, content provided, teaching approaches used… The idea is superb, and allowing credits for a small fee (small being a globally relative concept) is of interest, but does it really amount to a better world, or is it only going to reshuffle knowledge regions? With people braindraining regions with less opportunities to locations where there seems to be more chances?

“deep learning experience that humans have ever been able to develop”: two remarks: the cultural biased idea, and the fact that MOOCs at present do not always (ahum, read only infrequently) offer deep learning experiences. On the cultural aspect of that sentence: no, I do not take that as a fact, of course there is scale added to current online education, but deep learning has been, and is being done, across continents. Good education is not limited to a region, it is limited to our human boundaries/capacities. There are good teachers all over the world, those who seem to be born to educate and lift spirits up to new heights. 

Societal system change and true partnerships
Bringing about change never happens overnight (well, unless it is use of technology it seems, but looking at human, mind-set change). If we want higher ed to lead to change, we need to change what all of us can do after we graduate. Lack of jobs, unequal pay, reduced job diversity as a result from increased automation… all of this points towards the need of setting up a new society. No longer aimed at production and work, but at creativity, self-regulation of life, balancing resources to allow a global population to enjoy life, and not having to fight for it in a literal or virtual sense. 

Not saying anything about the fact that credits for freshman might be a tough nut to crack for global credit agreement (and that it feels as though the norm is pushing their system onto other educational systems), I see it as a pity that it starts from a non-participative approach. Where education should by nature be participative.

There are benefits deriving from MOOCs, but we need to make sure that all of society is also rethought, and changed to improve all of our lives. 

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