The article I am going to discuss in this post is “MOOC Professors’ Agency in the Face of Disruption” written by Andy Saltarelli, Amy Collier and Chris Glass in 2015. The article discusses the claims of disruptions of recent technological changes as MOOC, on the higher education and describe how Stanford University has built a supportive and innovative environment in digital learning.
Stanford built a “soft structure” that served as a platform for faculty to experiment different strategies and try various forms of digital learning. The goal behind soft structure is to empower people and allow faculty members to share insights and ideas embraced by responsive support to direct the digital learning experience. The open idea environment with no-constraint approach implemented at Stanford resulted in a welcoming response among faculty to bring their ideas and curiosity into the virtual learning world. The spark of this project started in 2011 where three instructors opened their courses to public which gained the attention of the media and motivated the school administrators to move forward with the concept of online courses.
The key factor that led to a successful experience at Stanford was the open space given to the faculty to design and suggest whatever ideas they had without any limitation and instructions. A team for logistics support was formed to provide assistant to the faculty members and provided feedback. Additionally, a seed grant program was developed to support faculty ideas.
The authors conducted in-depth interviews with faculty who taught MOOC to describe their experience in digital learning in a framework of intellectual and professional generosity; experimentation and risk-takings; personal expression; and healthy skepticism:
- Intellectual and professional generosity: Faculty members expressed the positive effect of freedom on their experience with MOOC, wondering why would anyone not want to share any learning opportunities with as many people as possible.
- Experimentation and risk-taking: the environment created at Stanford allowed everyone test all kinds of ideas despite how crazy, or weird they were which gave them a feel of safety
- Personal expression: Professors were able to express different individual styles in teaching with their unique personality insights.
- Healthy skepticism: the concerns about MOOC voiced among the faculty were heard and tolerated, and even encouraged sometimes.
Finally, the authors suggest some advice for a better digital learning experience, as the one at Stanford, by hiring the right people, embracing trials before launching a mega project, empowering faculty, and celebrating diversity.