MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly

MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly

“Too many people are drinking the MOOC Kool-aid (or dumping it out hastily) when what we need to do is look closely at the Kool-aid to see what we can learn from it. At this point, MOOCs are all untapped potential, mostly misunderstood and only potentially gangrenous.”
~ Jesse Stommel, “March of the MOOCs: Monstrous Open Online Courses”

In higher education, no ideas stay dead. MOOCs were festering at the verge of irrelevance, the arguments about them bloated and tired, then along comes a MOOC worth joining. Just when you thought it was safe, the meta-MOOC returns, this time all grown up with Duke University, HASTAC, Cathy Davidson, and her students at the wheel.


Today, January 27, 2014, Cathy Davidson launches “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education.” She wrote about the development of the course in a Hybrid Pedagogy article, “10 Things I’ve Learned (So Far) from Making a Meta-MOOC.” According to the course homepage, “all education is vocational” and the MOOC

is designed for anyone concerned with the best ways of learning and thriving in the world we live in now. It’s for students, teachers, professors, researchers, administrators, policy makers, business leaders, job counselors and recruiters, parents, and lifelong learners around the globe.

The course is not just about MOOCs, then, nor just about pedagogy, and only mostly about higher education. This is a MOOC about learning, about learning how to learn. And in it, we may be asked to construct a new drawing board for education.

In “We May Need to Amputate: MOOCs, Resistance, #FutureEd”, Sean writes,

Education needs different objectives than it did when the current system was invented; and so, just as we would for a course with an evolving set of outcomes, we must continually rewrite the syllabus of education. Cathy’s MOOC proposes one space for that revision to begin — and it is a branching, disparate, distributed space, not localized inside her course alone. It is, as she has said, not a MOOC, but a movement.

What we’re announcing here is a node of the #FutureEd festivities, centering around weekly #moocmooc Twitter chats. The topics will be emergent, rising directly out of conversations generated during the various offsprings of #FutureEd. The times for these chats will alternate each Wednesday during the course to allow for more global participation. This will be a meta-meta-MOOC, a MOOC MOOC about Cathy’s already meta-MOOC. During the planning we’ve been endearingly referring to this event as “MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly”, a place to unearth some of the deeper (and sometimes darker) issues implicated in discussions about the future of education.

Some potential topics include:

  • Contingency, precarity, vulnerability and academic labor
  • The problem of the “course”, the “term”, the “credit hour”, and learning outside those containers
  • Pedagogies of assessment, evaluation, and oppression
  • The veneration of completion, terminal degrees, and summative (or end-of-life) assessment
  • Lurkers, listening, and social learning for introverts
  • Outcast pedagogy, or how to foster marginalized voices, both instructors and students…

Alongside the MOOC, Hybrid Pedagogy will also curate some of the most interesting, creative, challenging, and on-point articles, blog posts, and more on the journal’s new Page Two and via our MOOC MOOC topic. These posts will both spur and continue the conversations in the hashtag chats.


“The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education” runs from January 27 through March 7. The MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly #moocmooc hashtag chats will take place on the following days and times.

So, join us on #moocmooc starting this week for a rowdy exploration of higher education where we’ll raise hell and make friends as acts of radical political resistance. And, if you want some light reading in between chats, we’ve archived all the materials from the various iterations of MOOC MOOC, the MOOC about MOOCs, at the original MOOC MOOC course site.

About the Authors

Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer) is Director of Hybrid Pedagogy and Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities in the Department of Liberal Arts and Applied Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an advocate for lifelong learning and the public digital humanities. His personal site can be found at

Sean Michael Morris (@slamteacher) is the co-Director of Hybrid Pedagogy. He considers himself a digital agnostic, and allies himself with adjuncts, students, and others who are contingent to the enterprise of higher education. His personal website can be found at

Discussions from the Community.
  1. Maha Bali says:

    Which hashtag are “we” using? #futureEd, #moocmooc, or something else?

  2. #moocmooc will be the hashtag. I revised the announcement to make this more clear. Thanks, Maha!

  1. […] I share below how I have set myself up to wade through the flood of #FutureEd, #rhizo14 and #moocmooc tweets to find the treasures that can be […]

  2. […] One of my favorite things I wrote wasn’t actually an article at all, but one of the prompts for MOOC MOOC: Dark Underbelly, a course-like thing I co-taught at the start of the year. I wrote several prompts for the six-week […]

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