What I am doing with MOOCs and why (June 2nd)

I gave a talk on July 2nd about MOOCs. The goal was to explain to interested individuals the different potential futures of MOOCs, informed with the perspective of a mathematician. A lot of what I say is undoubtedly naive, but this was four months ago, an eternity in the MOOC world. And in any case I prefer to be attacked for things I said in a talk setting at my own institution to colleagues rather than things I {reportedly, supposedly} said to students in a closed setting.

The title of my talk was What I am doing with MOOCs and why (apologies for bad sound, one hour).



I gave this talk in anticipation of a conference co-organised the next day with Stanford in Zurich, the first OpenEdX conference. OpenEdX is the platform that powers edx.org. This conference has now become a regular event, with the next one on the Harvard campus. At the time of the conference, 24 separate installation sites were listed on the relevant Github pages, almost all of them in English. Four months later, the project now counts 47 sites all over the world, a significant progress! It also now has 23 different publicly available Xblocks, which are extensions of OpenEdX to customise it to particular needs (only a couple had been released back then). As I explain this in the first 4 minutes of this video, privacy issues are very significant in Switzerland, Europe, Quebec and the United States and motivated me to convene the workshop. This comes right after the Snowden scandals, and it is very hard for large actors outside the USA to trust a service like Amazon Web Services. A positive outcome was that it helped crystallise a need for separate service vendors, which edX then helped to get started. There are now eight different commercial vendors, happily customising the platform to suit new needs. The conference also helped a lot of local startups/nonprofits get a jump start in the MOOC space, such as Blue Planet Life.

A couple days later, I traveled to Delft to the edX Global Forum, to rock the boat there a bit as well. There was a panel on Open Source.

George Siemens' keynote there was very impressive in that it touched on very similar topics to some of my intended goals. I was a bit disappointed however in the answer he gave to a question I asked at the end of his talk. It really did seem like noone had yet practically considered how MOOCs might change entire disciplines for research, or create new ones.