Exploration versus Exploitation

Before enrolling in the MALAT program I had never heard of the term MOOCs. And until my teammates and I selected a MOOC, from Coursera, as our learning activity, I had never enrolled in one either. It quickly became apparent that MOOCs are indeed massive, which is only matched by the enormity of critical issues that can be explored in the study of this learning environment. During my initial research and analysis phase it emerged that there are many topics that are important to consider. But what resonated most strongly for me was the issue of  privacy and security as they relate to our digital presence.

The dilemma, of course: is how do we engage in the richness that the Internet offers while keeping ourselves safe from the dangers that are ever present as well? Otherwise the fear of the potential risks of MOOCs, and other valuable learning resources, may actually inhibit learners from taking advantage of them. The big question for me has become: how do we ‘play’ safely in our global learning environment?

With regard to MOOCS, and Coursera, registration consists of your first and last name and an email address, which appears innocuous enough. As Peterson (2015) notes however, “Inside the course […]the data observed is extensive” (para. 8) which may include a user’s IP address and possibly their geographic location. As a potential outcome, the imagined risks become exponentially much more dangerous. But, is the alternative to avoid the Internet all together?  To learn in a bubble? No.

Instead, I believe that as educators, we have an important role to play in helping learners understand what the risks are to better equip them to practice measures to protect their digital identity. Additionally, the protection of learners’ private information should be regulated exactly the same, regardless of the learning environment. In that, only what is necessary data should be collected (Marshall, 2014). Just because the online environment affords us the opportunity to acquire significant amounts of data, it does not mean that we should, much less exploit it (Watters, 2014).


Photo Retrieved from https://imagineimmortality.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/to-boldy-go/

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Coursera (2020) About page. Retrieved from https://about.coursera.org/

Marshall, S. (2014). Exploring the ethical implications of MOOCs. Distance Education (35)2, 250-262. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01587919.2014.917706

Nissenbaum, H., & Zeide, E. (2018). Learner privacy in MOOCs and virtual education. Theory and research in education 16(3), 280-307. Retrieved from  https://nissenbaum.tech.cornell.edu/papers/Learner%20Privacy%20in%20MOOCs%20and%20Virtual%20Education.pdf

Peterson, R. (2015, January) How MOOCs threaten your privacy. Minding the campus. Retrieved from https://www.mindingthecampus.org/2015/01/22/how-moocs-threaten-your-privacy/

Watters, A. (2014). Convivial tools in an age of surveillance, Chapter 14. In The monsters of education technology. Retrieved from http://hackeducation.com/2014/12/01/the-monsters-of-education-technology