Small private online courses

Alan Jacobs writes on “the humanities and the university” and highlights SPOCs, or “small private online courses” as a counter to the MOOC boosterism of the past few years:

James Poulos has recently written about SPOCs — not MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses, but Small Private Online Courses: “In small, private forums, pioneers who want to pursue wisdom can find a radically alternate education — strikingly contemporary, yet deeply rooted in the ancient practice of conversational exegesis.

Everyone wins if that happens. Wisdom-seekers can connect cheaply, effectively, intimately, and quickly, even if they’re dispersed over vast distances. Universities can withdraw fully from the wisdom business, and focus on the pedigree business. And the rest of us can get on with our lives.”

Conversations enabled by live streaming are just starting to get to the point of push-button ease. Skype of course is the long time complicated example of tech enabling real time video conversations. Periscope is an example of a still evolving platform. 

In higher education, I think Canvas and other app and cloud LMSs have the potential to elevate SPOCs as a standard feature of the learning experience. But the tech has to become invisible, or “conversational exegesis” won’t occur to its fullest extent because the focus will remain on connecting to tech rather than connecting with people.