DOCC 2013, or Feminist Anti-MOOC

The creation of the first DOCC – a distributed open collaborative course – is a response to MOOCs by FemTechNet, a network of feminist scholars, artists, and students. Their response is motivated by a shared concern regarding MOOCs as centralised courses offered by a professor or instructor to a massive audience, more reflective of xMOOCs than cMOOCs. The centralised format of one (or two) professor(s) and the pre-established courseware or syllabi appear to maintain distance between an all-knowing professor who owns or transmits knowledge to subordinate learners, which is perceived by some FemTechNet collaborators as patriarchal. DOCCs are meant to challenge the concept of MOOCs. The DOCC’s introduction for Self-Directed Learners states: “Unlike during a MOOC, SDLs (self-directed learners) will not receive knowledge from DOCC 2012, but rather SDLs will participate in designing and directing their own experiences with DOCC 2013 materials and with other participants.”

The nodal course or DOCC 2013 is entitled Dialogues on Feminism and Technology. Seventeen institutions are designing, delivering, and constructing the course, with F2F classes and self-directed learners participating, including: Green State University, Brown University, California Polytechnic State University, Colby-Sawyer College, The CUNY Graduate Center, Macaulay Honors College and Lehman College (CUNY), The New School, Ohio State University, Ontario College of Art and Design University, Pennsylvania State University, Pitzer College, Rutgers University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Yale University. Building on theoretical feminist principles and feminist pedagogies, the nodal course explores the following themes: labour, sexuality, race, differences, body, machine, systems, place, infrastructure, archives, and transformation. The video dialogue series feature Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Media Studies at the New School, and other scholars interviewing two guest speakers at a time for 45 minutes talks. Theorist Donna Haraway and her 1985 essay The Cyborg Manifesto have heavily influenced the guest speakers, who are scholars, artists, and activists (Judy Wajcman, Julie Levin Russo, Lucy Suchman, and Donna Haraway herself). The interdisciplinarity and blend of academics and artists in the DOCC’s video dialogues are very appealing. Learners enrolled in the course through an institution for credit can engage with their F2F colleagues and disseminate individual and groups projects. Self-directed learners can also participate in various networked spaces such as Facebook and Google+. The WikiStorming Project invites participants to write and edit Wikipedia content in order to augment the presence of women and to create awareness of the gender bias existing in in the encyclopedia.

In terms of weaknesses, the DOCC, which is meant to be global, has drawn primarily on American, British, and Australian guest speakers and the majority of participating universities are American. The interviews have been in English and no transcription is available for potential translation (through automated translation programmes, for example). The potential to reach learners internationally could be facilitated by engaging with universities outside the English speaking world.

It is not clear how different a DOCC is from a connectivist MOOC. The distributedness of a DOCC seems to correspond to connectivist principles. Can connectivist MOOCs exhibit elements of patriarchy? Connectivist MOOCs might still be run primarily by men. The first DOCC has involved all women scholars and deals with gender and feminism(s), without defining the construct of women. The dualism of gender and the essentialism of the category of women are called into question by various speakers. Further research could explore if and how connectivism is compatible with feminism and if DOCCs apply connectivist principles.