The purpose of a MOOC? Google and societal well-being
This entry is part of a reflective series of posts/questions relating to online learning, MOOCs, and openness.
MOOCS are everywhere nowadays. Coursera, Udacity, EdX, the connectivist MOOCs (e.g., #ds106, Change11), etc, depending on what lens one is using to examine them, are generating hope, excitement, uneasiness, and frustration. An important question that one needs to ask is: What is the purpose of a MOOC?
MOOCS have different purposes. For example, some MOOCs are built on the idea of democratizing education and enhancing societal well being. See Curt Bonk’s MOOC types, targets, and intents for additional MOOC purposes.
Other MOOCs are built on the idea of improving a specific skills. Today’s EdSurge newsletter included the following note:
GOOGLE’S FIRST MOOC comes in the form of a “Power Searching with Google” course consisting of six 50-minute classes on how to search “beyond the ten blue links.” Classes just started and at last count, over 100,000 people have already registered. Google promises to go way beyond the 101 stuff and dive into advanced features. We’re ready: we’ve been a little stumped at finding a query “to search exclusively in the Harvard University website to find pages that mention clowns.”
Let’s unpack this a bit. What is the purpose of this MOOC? This MOOC will help users make better use of google’s search capabilities. It will also help Google experiment with offering MOOC-type courses and reinforce consumer loyalty.
How does the Google MOOC fare with regards to enhancing societal well-being? Rather than offering courses to teach users how to search better, I would have rather seen Google develop online courses specifically aimed at reducing societal inequalities and enhancing well-being. I would have rather seen a course on “using our tools for speaking out against oppressive regimes” or “using our tools to facilitate the development of community in your neighborhood” or “using our tools to design and develop your own online class.”
I hope that this course is not the last that we see from Google, and that rather than focusing on teaching users a specific skill set, future courses focus on supporting the development of societal well-being.