Our #digped chat about teaching composition massively (either within a MOOC, or as part of a “MOOCified” on-ground or hybrid course) was first and foremost inspired by Chris Friend’s article, “Will MOOCs Work for Writing?“, in which he proposes that the strategies employed in massive courses could be used to great benefit in smaller, on-ground courses. These ideas were further pushed by the #digped announcement, which proposed: “Writing, and the teaching of writing, is undergoing a fundamental shift; and it may be only within the massive, networked environment of a MOOC or other similar approach that we can investigate the nature of this shift.”
The idea of teaching a subject as highly individualized as composition in a massive environment strikes many dedicated instructors as problematic at least. While technologists support the idea of “robo-grading”, most writing instructors understand intuitively how technology will always fail to mimic the nuance present in human reading and evaluation. Our conversation developed primarily around three important matters: the role of students in their own assessment (peer-review), the role of the instructor in collective learning environments, and the matter of how we go forward as pedagogues upon whose innovation and knowledge the effectiveness of massive learning will depend.