"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!" July 16, 2014 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Mefite Paul-Olivier Dehaye’s three-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) at Coursera, "Teaching Goes Massive: New Skills Required" 'reportedly launched on June 23 without controversy. The course targeted people in higher education who felt “threatened,” “lost” or “unprepared technology-wise,” -- a MOOC for MOOC skeptics, in other words.' And then the mindfuck began. Inside Higher Ed notes that in trying to figure out what is going on, someone uncovered a handful of comments he made on MeFi related to the project.
posted by zarq to MetaFilter-Related at 7:06 AM (70 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Now I'm confused.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:15 AM on July 16, 2014


I am beyond confused.
posted by Falwless at 7:18 AM on July 16, 2014


Disruption!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:22 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


This all reads like chaotic thinking rather than deep thinking.
posted by OmieWise at 7:22 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


If I might try to summarize: guy does really confusing things intentionally in order to confuse lots of people, for the sake of some really unclear and confused goal.

I think that's my best understanding.
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:24 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


Confusers gonna confuse.
posted by 724A at 7:31 AM on July 16, 2014


"I have painted my body blue and I hold up a sign containing racist epithets. I am doing this to show people the dangers of using unlicensed electricians."
posted by Bugbread at 7:38 AM on July 16, 2014 [28 favorites]


It seems more like "Oops" and then "I meant to do that" than anything else.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:55 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Does the University of Zurich not have an IRB system?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:57 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I feel weird about this being something that's getting a signal boost based on his presence here; the guy's basically been spamming Metafilter, we've deleted a couple blatantly self-promotional comments from him and only the idea that he was maybe more confused than aggressively spamming kept me from banning him outright, but I'm not convinced that was the right decision and the fact that Oh And He's On Metafilter has somehow become a lever for giving him exactly the sort of added attention he was chasing after through his flailings here is kind of pushing the needle hard in the other direction. Not that there's any bad behavior here but his, but, blech.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:57 AM on July 16, 2014 [23 favorites]


It's still not as bad as being trapped on the bus with a loud crazy person who has opted the be-as-offensive-as-possible mode.
posted by y2karl at 8:05 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


cortex: "I feel weird about this being something that's getting a signal boost based on his presence here

I think once his little project went off the rails this became less of a booster for him and his project and more of a clue people could use to figure out what the hell was going on and whether or not he'd screwed them.

I understood what he was trying to do with the course and on social media, even though the way he went about it was off. And I think the way he, Coursera and the students are resolving it is interesting.

the guy's basically been spamming Metafilter, we've deleted a couple blatantly self-promotional comments from him

Wasn't aware of that. I noticed that some of his comments could be borderline, but didn't read them all.

If you feel this post is contributing to Dehaye spamming the site, (not that you need my blessing or anything,) I'm obviously okay with it being shut down. FWIW, I would also have been okay with y'all killing this in the queue and explaining the situation to me privately. (Again, not that you need my ok. But I suppose it's worth noting for the future.)
posted by zarq at 8:27 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I understood what he was trying to do with the course and on social media, even though the way he went about it was off.

I'd be interested in hearing what the intent was, since I have no idea. I'm also not picking up on a lot of important context around Coursera and MOOCs, which probably isn't helping.
posted by naju at 8:37 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


"This one goes out to the metafilter massive!"
posted by octobersurprise at 8:39 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm obviously okay with it being shut down.

Nah, there's not much to do for it and I realize it's even a post here now mostly because other people elsewhere were already somehow taken with the idea of making it out as some sort of interesting detail or whatever. Just weird. Like some guy going around threatening to bite dogs for attention and then everybody's like HEY EVERYBODY THIS GUY'S GOT SOME INTERESTING THEORIES ABOUT CANINES instead of just routing around the bullshit.

FWIW, I would also have been okay with y'all killing this in the queue and explaining the situation to me privately.

I am probably The Grumpiest Mod on this subject and was asleep at the time, so mostly I probably just need to take some deep breaths and not worry about it so much.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:48 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


Spammer, troll, disrupter, whatever. I have no idea what he was trying to do, unless it was teach people that it's pretty easy to be a jerk online? Thanks?
posted by rtha at 8:48 AM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's like being trapped at a kegger with some 20-year-old guy who wants to explain Marxism to me even though I already know all about Marxism.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:53 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


His MeFi handle really stresses me out. It's like some weird cry for attention; it reminds me of when I like seven years old and behaved like "Look at me! I'm different! I'm different! Look at me!" in a way that must have annoyed the shit out of everyone that knew me.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:03 AM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


cortex: "I feel weird about this being something that's getting a signal boost based on his presence here; the guy's basically been spamming Metafilter, we've deleted a couple blatantly self-promotional comments from him and only the idea that he was maybe more confused than aggressively spamming kept me from banning him outright, but I'm not convinced that was the right decision and the fact that Oh And He's On Metafilter has somehow become a lever for giving him exactly the sort of added attention he was chasing after through his flailings here is kind of pushing the needle hard in the other direction. Not that there's any bad behavior here but his, but, blech."

I'm trying to suss out the deal on the linkned materials, but my gut instinct says he should be shown the door.
posted by boo_radley at 9:08 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think I understand about 5% of this.
posted by Think_Long at 9:09 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think this guy and his project are interesting from almost all possible points of view, and I would like this not to become a confederacy of dunces moment for Metafilter.
posted by jamjam at 9:11 AM on July 16, 2014


Please explain what's useful about it, then.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:18 AM on July 16, 2014


This is like that guy kickstarting potato salad, right? Without the salad.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:19 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think this guy and his project are interesting from almost all possible points of view, and I would like this not to become a confederacy of dunces moment for Metafilter.

I have no idea what this means but I'm suddenly moved to start exclaiming about theology and geometry.
posted by winna at 9:23 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think this guy and his project are interesting from almost all possible points of view

Can you explain more? Because from my point of view, I'm not getting it at all, and if there is something to get, I would like to.
posted by rtha at 9:23 AM on July 16, 2014


I mean the whole point of that book is that the main character is about as far from being oppressed by a confederacy of dunces as it's possible to be unless you think of he himself as the whole confederacy.
posted by winna at 9:24 AM on July 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


Unless you mean the original quote, which in this context is like the quote about 'They laughed at Einstein!' but they also laugh at Bozo.
posted by winna at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2014


> Can you explain more? Because from my point of view, I'm not getting it at all

To be fair, that's exactly how I feel about A Confederacy of Dunces.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:25 AM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Whoah whoah whoah, let's not use this an opportunity to badmouth John Kennedy Toole's novel, which had nothing to do with this, unless Paul-Olivier Dehaye’ is somewhere in the French Quarter right now pushing a hot dog stand while wearing a pirate outfit.
posted by maxsparber at 9:30 AM on July 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


naju, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is essentially an online classroom that can support large numbers of participants. MOOCs are by definition both open access and accessible through the web. It's similar to an MMPORG (massively multiplayer online game) in that many people can interact at one time, in a single, private space.

I should probably have said, "I think I understand" because I'm obviously not in his head. But my impression is that this project started out as a way for him to try to share knowledge with other academics about the basics of online teaching, and then he tried to think outside the box. What are the advantages of teaching online versus in a school setting? What are the disadvantages? Who is held accountable if things go poorly? What does a worse case "go poorly" scenario look like, and what would happen if one occurred? Who oversees content being taught, to ensure students aren't being screwed? Does teaching a class through the auspices of a private company bias content?

Maybe I'm overthinking it all and giving him too much credit, though. Perhaps he was teaching a basic, boring class and conceived a stunt to publicize the course and attract more students.
posted by zarq at 9:33 AM on July 16, 2014


Shitty trolling.

We should definitely discuss malicious uses of Metafilter in the interests of self policing.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:35 AM on July 16, 2014


unless Paul-Olivier Dehaye’ is somewhere in the French Quarter right now pushing a hot dog stand while wearing a pirate outfit

Call for Dr. Nut!
posted by octobersurprise at 9:35 AM on July 16, 2014


One of his mefi comments said, "The first week is positive towards MOOCs. The next two are much more critical."
That's why I thought he might be "thinking outside the box."
posted by zarq at 9:37 AM on July 16, 2014


cortex: " I am probably The Grumpiest Mod on this subject and was asleep at the time, so mostly I probably just need to take some deep breaths and not worry about it so much."

:)

The New York Cabal needs to take you on a donut crawl of the city.

Come to think of it, this would be a fun idea for a series of meetups. Donut Crawl!
posted by zarq at 9:40 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


So did he decide to turn his MOOC into an "experiment" in the same way that Facebook experimented on its users, to make a point about how damaging it is when private companies are trusted with controlling user experiences/relationships? And to what extent is he being critical of Coursera's actual policies? I'm straining to figure this out.
posted by naju at 9:40 AM on July 16, 2014


I think this guy and his project are interesting from almost all possible points of view

Loons can certainly be interesting. But this isn't the first time I've gone through his comments trying to figure out what the fuck he was on about, or assemble some coherent position or idea from them, and come up empty.
posted by RogerB at 9:42 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


naju, Dunno?

If so, it was handled pretty damned stupidly. I mean, this was essentially a 101 course. Locking the virtual doors and disappearing without an explanation or commentary about what you're doing, while only leaving a couple of cryptic notes for people to find on social media isn't going to teach people much of anything.
posted by zarq at 9:44 AM on July 16, 2014


Yeah, and if anything, it sounds like Coursera is doing the best they can to fix a professor going AWOL, so this shows that the system is... working?
posted by naju at 9:47 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Part of it appears to be that the class would have enough 'latent knowledge' to recreate the course, either by working together or from saved/stored materials from the MOOC, even if Coursera tried to prevent students from permanently saving lectures, notes, readings.
If information can be transmitted, it can be intercepted.

I have now given this more thought than it deserves.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:50 AM on July 16, 2014


His MeFi handle really stresses me out.


How on earth does he remember it?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:59 AM on July 16, 2014


> I think this guy and his project are interesting from almost all possible points of view...

Please explain what's going on, then. A variety of people who I consider to be insightful and well-informed about online education can't tell what the fuck he's doing.
posted by ardgedee at 10:06 AM on July 16, 2014


I don't think Marxists go to keggers.
posted by jonmc at 10:08 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maybe his handle is a code that reveals his motivations. Let's get crackin'!

(Or not.)
posted by Fig at 10:13 AM on July 16, 2014


That was the day when we learned that the Grumpiest Mod was the Best Little Mod of all!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:15 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


So he's like a real life Professor Professorson?
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 10:20 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Grumpiest Mod = Prettiest Monkey?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:26 AM on July 16, 2014


Groped its mum?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:31 AM on July 16, 2014


Congratulations he successfully proved that MOOCs are sketchy.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, I too want a kids' book on The Grumpiest Mod.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:42 AM on July 16, 2014


zarq: Come to think of it, this would be a fun idea for a series of meetups. Donut Crawl!

We have just started talking about a meetup here in NC that I have tentatively dubbed The Gathering Of The Biscuits.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:43 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't think Marxists go to keggers.

You need to get out more....
posted by Floydd at 10:52 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


benito.strauss: "Yes, I too want a kids' book on The Grumpiest Mod."

I eagerly await "Go the Fuck to MeTa" by cortex.

"I know you're not offended. That's bullshit. Stop lying. Calm the fuck down dude, and take it to Meta."

This should be a thing. We could get Samuel L. Jackson to narrate the audiobook
posted by zarq at 10:54 AM on July 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


I don't think Marxists go to keggers.

Hell yes, we did.
posted by scody at 11:04 AM on July 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


Yeah, but getting Marxist to pay for the fucking keg, that's the challenge.
posted by klangklangston at 11:13 AM on July 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


They pay, but it is from each according to their ability.
posted by maxsparber at 11:20 AM on July 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


he successfully proved that MOOCs are sketchy.

And a mook with a MOOC is twice as sketchy.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:23 AM on July 16, 2014


maxsparber: "They pay, but it is from each according to their ability."

and to each according to his own tolerance.
posted by boo_radley at 11:32 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


It looks like his original idea was using a MOOC for research purposes, where students would learn by helping him solve math problems. But then he turned the MOOC into a performance art thing, a "megaphone" that was meant to highlight how sketchy MOOCs can be by failing in spectacular fashion. I guess he wanted to shut the whole thing down and then watch participants piece together what happened through social media, but then he relented and turned the forum back on so the students would still have a place to talk. (Or maybe it was Coursera that turned the forum back on.)
posted by Kevin Street at 11:34 AM on July 16, 2014


A mook? What's a mook?

Weirdly, the word may be Cantonese and mean "dead wood" or "wooden dummy." I don't know how it entered the English language. In the context of Mean Streets, I wonder if it was because Little Italy and Chinatown were so close and they just picked up each other's slang. It might have come from "moke," which is British slang, originally meaning donkey but eventually meaning slow-witted person. Apparently mook was first used by SJ Perelman in 1930, when he wrote "Even ordinary mooks like you and me have been stuffing their blotters and backs of envelopes in safe deposits for posterity" in the pages of Judge.

And that's been your "Max gets lost down a linguistic rabbit hole" episode for today.
posted by maxsparber at 11:34 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

If, in the course of explaining what is going on, someone could act it out with plastic dinosaurs, I'd be much obliged.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:40 AM on July 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, but getting Marxist to pay for the fucking keg, that's the challenge.
I like best the wine drunk at the expense of others.

Diogenes of Sinope
posted by y2karl at 12:22 PM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sketchy MOOC is sketchy. Seems pretty simple to me.
posted by jferg at 12:32 PM on July 16, 2014

But my impression is that this project started out as a way for him to try to share knowledge with other academics about the basics of online teaching, and then he tried to think outside the box. What are the advantages of teaching online versus in a school setting? What are the disadvantages? Who is held accountable if things go poorly? What does a worse case "go poorly" scenario look like, and what would happen if one occurred? Who oversees content being taught, to ensure students aren't being screwed? Does teaching a class through the auspices of a private company bias content?
Ok, see, I think these are super interesting questions, speaking as someone who works in higher ed and is surrounded by sky-is-falling MOOC-haters and who once took and enjoyed a MOOC. I think the whole discussion of them is really limited and stupid, in part because people in higher ed are so justifiably freaked out by anything that seems to be further threatening our already threatened institutions, and I don't see a lot of people asking probing, intelligent questions about what, if anything, they might actually be good for. I want someone to do that. Then I want someone to link to it on the blue so we can talk about it.

But it doesn't sound like this dude was actually doing that, whatever the hell it was that he was doing.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:38 PM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


I agree.

Inside Higher Ed has a follow-up article.
posted by zarq at 12:49 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


How on earth does he remember it?

It looks like the output of SHA-1. I'm not sure what the input is. It's not his name, for example, and it's not in any of the rainbow tables that I checked. Or it could be a random string of 40 hexadecimal digits.
posted by jedicus at 3:18 PM on July 16, 2014


A professor bailed and trashed all his teaching materials and all the projects-in-progress of his students. But, unlike the physical world, where a teacher going crazy and destroying lab work is irreversible, Coursera was able to restore the stuff he wiped out.

I'm not a big MOOC supporter, but it seems that in attempting to show its failures he's instead accidentally highlighted one of its strengths.
posted by Bugbread at 4:10 PM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


So you're saying that people tried to use the economies of scale of the internet to disrupt the conventional and somewhat hidebound traditional methods and then it turns out that certain things requiring human eyeballs and judgment do not actually scale along with this stuff and the lesson is that you need to keep people in the mix in not just token ways even if this interferes with your bottom line...? I know that song!
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 9:13 AM on July 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Inside Higher Ed has a follow-up article.
If Coursera were to monitor every course, Goel said, it would risk infringing on instructors' academic freedom. “There’s a very careful balance between ensuring learners have the best possible experience and the professor’s ability to guide that experience,” he said.
Oh, nonsense. There is a huge difference between monitoring and policing content and monitoring and policing procedure. My campus is pretty alert to Academic Freedom issues and no one would have a problem with the Administration cracking down on a faculty member who canceled class on a whim during the middle of the semester. Or asking them for their IRB approval when they claimed it was "an experiment." A major problem for MOOC delivery is exactly this kind of day to day and case-by-case administration. Don't pretend your business model is somehow protecting Academic Freedom, guys.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:24 PM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have something extremely informative and insightful to say about this, but I choose not to share it. I'm sure that if all of you work together, you'll figure it out for yourselves.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:43 PM on July 17, 2014


potsmokinghippieoverlord: "His MeFi handle really stresses me out.


How on earth does he remember it?
"

There is another user with a very similar user name who has been around for a while and who is not involved in this, as far as I know. We call him hexy dexy in chat.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:47 PM on July 17, 2014


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