Academics and Academia

The following is a re-post from a 2016 EDUCAUSE Review article of ours with minor updates.

Let’s be honest: as an academic term of art, personalized learning is horrible. It has almost no descriptive value. What does it mean to “personalize” learning? Isn’t learning, which is done by individual learners, inherently personal? What would it mean to personalize learning? And who would want unpersonalized learning? Because the term carries so little semantic weight, it is a natural for marketing purposes: “Our personalized learning is new, improved, and 99.44% pure!” Unfortunately, this also sets it up perfectly for the inevitable War of Definitions. Remember the Great MOOC War a few years ago? Were MOOCs the creation of the Canadian Constructivists or of the Stanford professor who invented a self-driving car? Are we talking about an xMOOC or a cMOOC? Which one is the good one, and which one is the bad one? Now that the furor has died down, there is relatively little debating over the definition of the term MOOC and much more focus on how the family of approaches that are collected under that term can best serve different educational purposes.

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