BGSU Students discuss the question “what is a DOCC and why are we in it?”

by Anca Birzescu, Doctoral Candidate in the School of Media and Communication, Bowling Green State University and volunteer working with Femtechnet/DOCC2013

After reading several articles that introduce the DOCC project, students at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio posted on Canvas their answers to the question “So what is a DOCC and why are we in it?

The student postings reveal the diversity of lenses through which they look at the DOCC concept, their views on technology, feminism and education, and at the same time the sheer excitement with which they embark on this novel learning journey. It is of utmost importance to bring into discussion the feedback provided by students enrolled in the current DOCC, since they are the main stakeholders in this feminist enterprise. Their readings of what the DOCC stands for stressed a range of interests and expectations with regard to the goals and objectives of the DOCC.

Being aware of the different systems of inequality/identity markers that obstruct knowledge acquisition and discriminate among different types and levels of knowledge in such process, students highlighted the value of information access and information sharing provided by a DOCC environment:

What an unfortunate truth that gender, economic status, or geographic location have such an impact on the level of options available to retrieve historic/current event information.[…] The benefits of this type of format is the vast bank of knowledge through instructors, students, and libraries, and the ease of sharing this information. This format encourages the sharing of information and ideas while still focusing on local relationships.

Students also emphasized the patriarchal ideology circumscribing the Internet and the possibilities for resistance and challenge to this status quo that may arise in a DOCC context. One of the students thus wrote:

Patriarchal views of the internet and how it is used have hindered discussion and dialogue on feminism, sexuality, race, and gender. In this DOCC, technology will be viewed through a feminist lens. I am also excited about the “Wikipedia Storming” that will take place. Being able to effectively improve the accuracy and increase the prevalence of feminist works will further expand peoples’ knowledge and awareness.

Collaboration—as a challenge to the top-bottom approach to education perpetuated currently by the MOOCS, inter-disciplinarity, and active learning, were other recurrent features/qualities mentioned by students in regard to the nature and goal of the DOCC educational project. In this sense, one student wrote that

DOCC also allows the use of technology to our advantage to collaborate with other individuals from different institutions, unlike MOOCS, which are primarily created for individual institutions.

Another post explained that:

DOCC allows numerous institutions, instructors, and students to gather and collaborate on a specific topic, while also allowing the course to be individualized by each instructor at each institution. Each week, there will be a highlight topic across the entire DOCC and then each unit of the DOCC will focus on the topic at hand through a separate syllabus. This type of course offers an incredible wealth of knowledge, as it is taught and discussed by a broad range of individuals.

Always emphasizing collaboration, students showed thus their interest in a feminist approach to education:

The DOCC is a free flowing collaboration of support and knowledge that is working to open people’s eyes to feminism in a technology focused world. We are in a DOCC to help spread knowledge that others have been shielded from or have ignored. When you work alone, your message is never usually as strong as when you are working in a collaboration.

Likewise, one post pointed that:

The goal of the collaborative course is to get input and feedback from many different users and institutions. Why is this beneficial? This makes the course much more diverse than it would be with just one institution or the course being under just one instructor. DOCC’s are the new alternative to MOOC’s which were massive online courses. The problem with these is that they were branded by just one single institution. With using just one main institution it could be a bit more bias in a certain direction or could only attract a certain type of user which could eliminate the diversity that is needed in a collaborative course.

Yet another student emphasized the learners’ responsibility in the act of learning:

These courses allow for a broader area and sense of interaction. The students share the responsibility of addressing and supplying material and discussion in this class. With the technology and ability to mass communicate it allows perspectives and participation an essential part of this course. A mass audience (students) brings people together to focus on the similarities rather than their differences.

Students showed excitement about the new possibilities offered by DOCC:

In this course we will interact with many different Universities and we will have the opportunity to work with a student from a different university on our artifact project. We are “in it” in order to broaden the possibilities of the thoughts that will be provoked, and also to break away from the typical layout of an online course that lies just within one university.

Their answers also revealed students’ appreciation of diversity of viewpoints in the act of knowledge acquisition implicit in a DOCC context:

While the course specifics vary from the different instructors from each university, the overall collaboration abilities of this course allows you to tap into different viewpoints and information from a number of different people. I think that with that in mind the ability to take in a multitude of viewpoints from different areas of the country allows us to gain a better understanding of the topic at hand.  This broader view is the main reason why we are participating in this style of learning.

The customizing potential of the DOCC—not possible in a MOOC environment— was also highlighted by students:

“We are also going to use skype as a source to have one on one times with the instructor, which is greatly going to help keeping up relations with the students.”

Another student similarly wrote that

“The goal is to collaborate and educate on a particular topic as a whole yet also allowing the instructor the flexibility to structure their virtual classroom syllabus.”

Last but not least, the collaboration versus top-bottom approach to education was clearly emphasized in several posts, which also revealed students’ articulate perspective and awareness of the challenge represented by the DOCC in the current context of neoliberal education politics:

One of the goals is to allow an environment of learning, training and information exchange to a broader group of underrepresented, including women and economically struggling communities worldwide, while maintaining a more personalized and collaborative approach to teaching and learning. It is an honor that BGSU is one of the few universities participating in this groundbreaking method.

[DOCC] allows for students and teachers from various schools to create a course where they all can contribute to the topic of Dialogues on Feminism and Technology. DOCC is different from MOOC (massive open online course) due to the fact that DOCC is not branded by an elite institution. It involves many institutions and the work is distributed through participants from various networks, which causes more diversity.

There are multiple reasons why the MOOC was not seen as a suitable option, one of which being that MOOC’s are generally for profit at some point down the line. The size of the courses within a DOCC are also much smaller so that there is more discussion between a smaller group of people at multiple universities.