SPOCS are just another name for..

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Have you heard the news?  The latest news when it comes to online courses brought forth from some of the biggest universities around?

Nope, it isn’t MOOCs, because you know that was so many people taking these courses with this amazing content that was linear in design.  To solve that, ..err. not the linear part, rather the masses of humans taking these courses, the SPOCS are here to the rescue.

Or are they?


What are they?

  • Small private online courses
  • Free
  • Same linear format
  • Less humans being able to take the courses – premise is that there would be an application process, which according to many would open up the idea of credits and fees.

Why would you want to take a SPOC

That is the question isn’t it? Because some of the biggest universities in the world are jumping into the fray. No wait, that is is not it – although it adds the “exclusivity” club.

Perhaps it is having an application process tied to free courses that will fuel the feeling that these SPOCS are better and more enlightening than those nasty MOOCs.

Or maybe it is the idea that SPOCs open the door for more engagement  and interaction, since they reduce the number of learners.

Will SPOCS follow the path of MOOC data?

SPOCS are getting a lot of press coverage but what is missing from such coverage is the lack of who is going to be eligible to take these online free courses? Recent data (from one study) identified the typical MOOC student.

Someone who has a college degree. Great. No, I mean that, because if we streamline this down to the next step, than these individuals will be the ones who get the honor of taking a SPOC course from some university, which uses an application process defined by God’s know what. It smells to me.

Where is the “opportunity” for all? Because here is the thing, those who “pass” the application process will get to enter a “free” course, which at some latter point, the vision of a SPOC is to charge a fee for this honor of a course. Sure, you might get a college credit – but where exactly? And how this work, exactly? Do, I get one from Harvard? Can I apply it at Harvard?

My guess is no.

What would I do

It’s going to sound radical because it goes against everything that is happening now in colleges and universities around the world. It creates a fun, learning experience which is affordable to all without some bull of an “application” process of worthiness. It enables to approaches of learning for all.

God forbid we allow this to happen in learning today.

Here is my take

First, a consortium of colleges are put together. And they are located all over the world.
Secondly, they devise multiple curriculum paths (perhaps they offer just one path to start with to achieve a degree)
Next, they offer two options.

Option A: 100% free for anyone who can take a course or courses within this consortium. The courses are asych. based – I know a novel concept.

Option B: Students from around the world can decide to select a curriculum/learning path towards a degree from this consortium – and this consortium by the way has a name to it. The student can take courses from whichever university they want and switch to different universities within the consortium to work to the degree.

They (the students) pay one set free – one time to be in this option. It’s affordable and does not require someone to get financial aid. Each course is inexpensive – perhaps $10 or $20 per course. The fee by credit hours is chucked out the window. Heck, you could assign points to each course – and spin it into some type of gamification angle.

The students have four years to complete the degree program, albeit the way it is setup, it would be much shorter.

Each course is asynch. based and are devised to be engaging and fun (the big bad word in today’s university setting). The student can jump around to each module within the course and devise their own path (since the curriculum path would offer various branching options).

At the end of each module, there is a real world scenario tied to it, so that the learner will apply what they just learned to it. There is no “assessment at the end”.

At the end of the “course” which would contain multiple modules, they complete a final real life scenario with either achieving the credits or not (i.e. pass or not). Again, if you go by points, it is more points that the other.

In order to “acquire the points” in the gamification scenario. But here is the thing, the learner does not have to follow a module by module methodology. Nope, they get to bounce around.

Shocking right? Now before you say, how can the achieve those points/credits for the course without having to complete each scenario/module, ask yourself what is happening right now and has in the past occurred in classrooms at the college/university level?

Do students attend every class? If the class does not nail someone for not attending (i.e. a mandatory and if you miss X number of times, you get docked), does everyone for every class show up?

In many courses the answer is no. And when you have a test, have you had students who pass it, with minimally showing up or just showing up for the last class, where you provide a “study guide” in preparation for the exam?

Then they learn from the guide and pass the test, in some cases this is accomplished multiple times – i.e. mid term and final?

I can’t speak for everyone but I pulled that when I was in college. There were plenty of courses, that I did not attend every session, but only showed up for the class prior to the exam (the following class) to get the study guide. Then from that went into the mid term and passed it. Oh, and got plenty of “A” and “B” in doing so. Both on the tests and in the class.

So, how is the online approach any different? In fact I surmise you will see more people going through my approach then the typical classroom experience.

What to add some additional YOWSA factor? Create each course to have modules that are no more than 10 minutes in length if someone asks how long it is? You may find people taking days to complete it or they may focus on just one section and then bolt, never to be seen again, until that final scenario – even by passing each module scenario.

Perhaps you add some “learning chunks” along the way.

But it is all asych. and fun is attached to it.

Fun + University learning= Sacrilegious

I can’t tell you the number of college courses that bored me to tears. There were a lot. How many of your current or past students who did attend – stare off into space or do something else or play around with their smartphone or ipad? How many just zoned right out?

I think quite a few. Why? Because the class was freakin boring and dull. Yes, you were boring. I said it. You either followed the textbook or you didn’t and if you didn’t, you could off gone off tangents and had people write so much stuff down or type into their computers or tablets, that the next great novel was in the works – as in thousands of words.

Listen there are plenty of great educators/professors/instructors et al (and the above does not apply to them), but there are plenty who are experts in their subject fields but should not be near a classroom. They are lords of research, and in some cases do not want to teach nor have to – so you get a grad student who is either good or downright crummy.

And as an added bonus, you pay a lot for this grand honor.

Fun and engagement in learning is often taboo (again, not everyone is in this group). You can’t have fun, because this is serious learning at the university level. That is bad.

I say, why? Why does this have to be boring and dull? Why do students have to pay outrageous fees for someone who should never be in a classroom or really doesn’t want to teach, so they make it an exercise in sleep?

I’m not saying every higher ed educator follows this premise, so don’t blast me on that, but again, look back to your days of college/grad school and think of those who fell into this bucket?

Bottom Line

SPOCs will eventually create a process where not everyone is treated equally. It is invitable. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to create an elite approach to learning, nor should it.

If you want that, then apply directly to these universities and go through their “online experience” as an enrolled student, paying their fees for the high value they come with them (say Harvard for example).

However, as you can see there are alternatives.

The question then is are you willing to try? To take a chance?

Because right now, most universities and colleges are not.

After all, where is the fun in that?

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