Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offer anyone with Internet access the chance to study at a top university for free (Dias, Diniz & Hadjileontiadis 2014 p.178). The development of MOOCs is rooted in the cyber-libertarian ideals of openness, autonomy, freedom and connectivity (Dias, Diniz & Hadjileontiadis 2014 p.178). Early connectivist MOOCs (cMOOCs) tended to have a decentralised, network-based structure focusing on empowering and engaging learners in various activities of knowledge creation and social network learning (Margaryan, Bianco & Littlejohn 2015, p.77). However, when leading universities adopted the idea, MOOCs became hyper-centralised and content-based, emphasising a more traditional learning approach of “knowledge duplication” through instructor-provided content (Margaryan, Bianco & Littlejohn 2015, p.77).
The cMOOCs movement reflects cyber-libertarian John Perry Barlow’s (1996) warning to governments that the “global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.” Traditional academia needed to deal with the threat of a new, innovative pedagogic approach ideally suited to the network age. Unfortunately, these principles of sharing, network openness and connectivism were ultimately overthrown for the hierarchical educational model. Not only has Barlow now lost his cyber utopian dream of an innovative, open and independent cyberspace, but students in the network society lament the loss of a more interactive, engaging learning experience.
Barlow, JP 2014, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’, Electronic Frontier Foundation, accessed 16 August 2015, <https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html>.
Dias, SB, Diniz, JA & Hadjileontiadis, LJ 2014, Towards an Intelligent Learning Management System Under Blended Learning: Trends, Profiles and Modeling Perspectives, Springer International Publishing, Heidelberg.
Margaryan, A, Bianco, M & Littlejohn, A 2015, ‘Instructional quality of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)’, Computers and Education, vol.80, p.77-83.