Disciplines and the Digital: The Curricular Implications of Changes to Knowledge Online

By Kate O'Connor.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

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The question of the structure of knowledge and the foundations required for building new knowledge in the 21st century is one receiving considerable attention and response today as universities struggle with the extent to which content should be derived from what matters in the world now, what aspects of older forms of disciplinary organisation remain relevant, and what needs to be done differently to prepare for a rapidly changing world. This paper explores the relationship of emerging debates and practices about networked knowledge creation, utilisation and dissemination to understandings of the formal disciplinary organisation of knowledge in universities in this context. It draws on two lines of theory with conflicting views about appropriate directions for knowledge and curriculum today: (1) from theorists which emphasise the emerging possibilities and more fluid spatialisation that is core to knowledge in new times, and (2) from those emphasising the destabilising of traditional disciplinary hierarchies and criticising the extrinsic forms which now govern curriculum and pedagogy. The paper outlines these debates and examines some of the existing evidence about the recent rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in relation to the lenses offered. In the context of these new courses, it argues that although both arguments offer valuable insights, neither position can be seen as wholly adequate for characterising the shift towards these new knowledge forms.

Keywords: Knowledge, Disciplines, MOOCs

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.19-27. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 409.221KB).

Kate O'Connor

PhD Candidate, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

I am a researcher and PhD candidate in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education working on the ARC project Knowledge Building in Schooling and Higher Education: policy strategies and effects. My interests are in education policy, curriculum inquiry, sociology of knowledge and educational technology, and my PhD is exploring how knowledge is being conceptualised and framed in the development of new online courses such as Massive Open Online Courses. I was also previously the project officer for the ARC-funded project School Knowledge, Working Knowledge and the Knowing Subject from 2009–10 and co-edited the book arising from that project, Australia’s Curriculum Dilemmas (2011), with Lyn Yates and Cherry Collins.