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Coursera “History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education” MOOC (6 weeks, starting 27 Jan. 2014)

December 8, 2013
Future Next Exit (Photo by backofthenapkin CC-BY-SA)

Future Next Exit (backofthenapkin CC-BY-SA)

I’ve signed up for a Coursera MOOC called “History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education” (#FutureEd).This isn’t a “normal” Coursera MOOC. The instructor, Cathy N. Davidson (Duke University) is teaching a place-based course (ISIS 640: History and Future of Higher Education) in parallel with the MOOC, and she’s inviting others to form groups (or workshops or courses) to participate in the MOOC as place-based satellite nodes.

This looks like an interesting experiment, and it draws on the experience of DOCC13, the first Distributed Open Collaborative Course, which began in the (North American) fall of 2013 (check out the FemTechNet Whitepaper). Hybrid models that mix online and place-based teaching may be more sustainable (and more pedagogically sound) than the massive MOOCs on their own (or a single, place-based course in isolation).

A  group of us at the University of Otago plan to do this MOOC together. We are forming a discussion group around it and will meet once a week (those who are able to meet). So far, we have about 10 people who want to take part in this way (about a dozen would be ideal). Although Coursera suggests it might take 2-4 hours per week, here is no fixed amount of time that you have to devote to this MOOC (or any of these free, not-for-credit MOOCs — people tend to dip in when it suits them). Although we can all blog, tweet and interact with the course on our own, we hope to get more out of the experience by meeting face-to-face and discussing the relevance of the videos and readings to our specific context. We all understand the value of group work, right?

So, what do you think? If you are interested, sign up for the MOOC (it comes with a no obligation, money back guarantee). If you want to join the this MOOC Group (that would be a MOOCG, but I’m sure we could come up with a better acronym), leave a comment below, or contact me directly (email:; Twitter: @mark_mcguire). If you can form a local group (even two is better than one!), then you could get a face-to-face discussion going where you live. If you want to join the Otago group virtually, that’s great, too!

If not us, who? If not now, when?

Related Links

The Coursera course
History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education (27 Jan, 6 weeks)

History and Future of Higher Education
This describes the strategy for a global movement to rethink higher education.

History and Future of Higher Education (ISIS 640) (Prof Cathy N. Davidson, Duke University)
This is the online syllabus place-based course she will be teaching at Duke.

Designing Higher Education From Scratch (Google Doc)
Posted by Cathy N. Davidson November 23, 2013
Her place-based students will do this a project. MOOC participants are also encouraged to work with this template.

What If We Could Build Higher Education From Scratch? What Would It Look Like?(blog post by Cathy N. Davidson)

How To Take On the MOOCs—And the Rest of Higher Ed Too (blog post by Cathy N. Davidson, 21 Nov 2013)

Storyboarding the Future of Higher Education. (blog post by Cathy N. Davidson, 15 May 2013)

Technology, Learning and Culture

This is a HASTAC group for “The History and Future of Higher Education,” the multi-institutional collaborative project (that includes the Coursera MOOC), that was initiated by the HASTAC alliance. We will list the Otago group on this site.

Course Readings

The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. By Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg (Free download)

Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century (by Cathy N. Davidson) [Paperback on Amazon]

Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning
 Written and Edited by The 21st Century Collective (Online text)

Duke Surprise
An Innovative Course on Methods and Practice of Social Science and Literature,
Co-Taught by Dan Ariely and Cathy N. Davidson
Re-Mixed by #DukeSurprise Students as a Self-Paced Open Course (SPOC)

A version of this entry was also posted on the Open Otago Blog.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Alison Bulbeck permalink
    December 9, 2013 7:14 am

    Dear Mark

    I am very interested in participating in the exploration, discussion group and related activities which surround the “History and Future of HE” MOOC.

    I am currently reading for my PhD thesis, having shifted my attention from eLearning, specifically to the phenomenon of MOOC’s, because it has such a great potential to shape the future of education in the information and connected Age.

    I have today enrolled in the MOOC via the Coursera platform (fyi – I have already participated in 3 MOOCs, on of which is still in progress.) I am excited about the possibility of learning more about the MOOC method of learning and teaching, with guidance from your good-selves to help me navigate through this fast-moving phenomenon, where much is still to be discovered, formalised and exploited for future education.

    I would appreciate it if you could connect with me just to confirm whether there is anything further I need to do at this stage, other than to express my interest and excitement in this endeavour, and to give me support in the research. I note that the MOOC itself does not start until 27th January, so I was wondering whether we will be connecting for any discussion prior to that start date?

    Thanks and best regards
    Alison B Bulbeck
    PhD Research Student

    • Mark McGuire permalink
      December 12, 2013 7:10 pm

      Hi Alison

      It’s great to hear that you are interested in joining our conversation about MOOCs!

      I think Cathy Davidson’s #FutureEd Coursea MOOC provides a useful prompt and structure for a focussed examination about MOOCs and the future of HigherEd in general.

      As it stands, we have a list of 6-8 individuals who want to form a discussion group around Cathy’s MOOC. Most heard about it through the post I put on the Open Otago Blog (, and a few through our Copyright Community of practice email list. It will be good to have a participant who is not local, because it will encourage us to ensure that whatever we do is accessible online.

      The idea at the moment is to have a weekly meeting of people here with a link for anyone who wants to participate remotely. Most of the people who have expressed an interest here at Otago are based at the Higher Education Development Centre on campus, so we’ll have access to whatever technology and help we need.We may use the Open Otago blog as a site for archiving our discussions (perhaps brief reports), as well as Twitter and whatever other social media people want to use.

      Do you have a presence online (Twitter, blog, etc.?). Setting up a Twitter account would be helpful, as I can easily send out short messages, and we will make use of a hashtag (#FutureED or similar). I have to think through the best way of relating our group to the larger Coursera course group.

      I am in the process of putting together a list of MOOC resources (sort of a MOOC 101 list), as people have different levels of experience with MOOCs. I’ll send this to you and the others in the group soon. I have participating in MOOCs since 2008 and have been researching developments as they have unfolded and have amassed quite a lot of material. Many new variants and platforms appeared have appeared over the past two years (one blogger has listed about 40 MOOC providers). I know that several of my colleagues here (and in other universities) have also been following what is going on. There is a dispersed but well connected group of academics who are sharing views and keeping each other up-to-date. I can provide you with a list of the people/sites/journals that I am following (hopefully, we will all be sharing such contacts and information).

      Could you tell me a bit more about yourself and your interests so I have a better idea of where you are coming from and what assistance I can provide?

      Many thanks for reaching out. Let’s keep in touch.



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