Feminist digital initiative challenges universities’ race for MOOCs

(Toronto—August 26, 2013) FemTechNet, a network of feminist scholars and educators, is launching a new model for online learning at 15 higher education institutions this fall, including OCAD University. The Distributed Open Collaborative Course (DOCC), is a new approach to collaborative learning and an alternative to MOOCs, the massive open online course model that proponents claim will radicalize twenty-first century higher education. FemTechNet’sfirst DOCC course, “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology,” will launch fall 2013.

The DOCC model for 21st-century higher education recognizes and is built on the understanding that expertise is distributed throughout a network, among participants in diverse institutional contexts. This model explicitly departs from the typical MOOC approach organized around the delivery of information from an “expert” faculty (or a pair of instructors) to the uninformed "masses." The organization of a DOCC emphasizes learning collaboratively in a digital age by enabling the active participation of all kinds of learners (as teachers, as students, as media-makers, as activists, as trainers, as members of various publics and/or social groups). By virtue of its reach across institutions and learning sites, the DOCC also enables the extension of classroom experience beyond the walls, physical or virtual, of a single institution.

The participating institutions range from small liberal arts colleges to major research institutions. They include: Bowling 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, OCAD University, Pennsylvania State University, Pitzer College, Rutgers University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Yale University.

Faculty members at each institution (working singly or in teams) have developed courses within their specific educational setting. Both faculty and students will share ideas, resources, and assignments as a feminist network: the faculty as they develop curricula, and deliver the course in real time; and the students as they work collaboratively with faculty and with each other at their institutions and beyond. Participants may engage as onsite or online students enrolled in a course, or as "at-large" or "drop-in" learners.

At OCAD University, the Digital Futures Initiative will offer “Dialogues in Feminism and Technology” (DIGF 5B90), taught by Dr. Maria-Belén Ordóñez, to graduate and senior undergraduate students. This project has been realized and initiated through the ongoing collaboration of FemTechNet scholars at OCAD U including Dr. Paula Gardner, Dr. Caroline Langill and Dr. Sara Diamond.  Feminist scholars whose research is in media, technology and science at OCAD U will be collaborating through organized discussions that will ultimately facilitate the development of FemTechNet initiatives. A public panel discussion and two video dialogues featuring feminist scholars will be recorded live at OCAD U on September 27: 

Dialogues on Feminism and Technology
September 27, 6 to 8 p.m.
Free and open to the public


  • Dr. Sara Diamond, President, OCAD University
  • Dr. Paula Gardner, Associate Professor, Liberal Arts and Sciences & School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Graduate Studies; Co-Director, Mobile Experience Lab


  • Dr. Anne Balsamo, Dean of the School of Media Studies and Professor of Media Studies, The New School


  • Dr. Brenda Laurel, Chair and Professor at the California College of the Arts Graduate Program of Design
  • Dr. Janet Murray, Professor, Graduate Program in Digital Media, School of Literature, Communication and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Dr. Kim Sawchuk, Professor, Concordia University
  • Shu Lea Cheang, multimedia artist

Generously supported by a Connection Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

These dialogues are also anchored by video curriculum produced by FemTechNet. “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology” are currently twelve recorded video dialogues featuring pairs of scholars and artists from around the world who think and reimaginetechnology through a feminist lens. Participants in the DOCC — indeed, anyone with a connection to the web — can access the video dialogues, and are invited to discuss them by means of blogs, voice threads and other electronic media. As the course meets, students and teachers can plug in and join the conversation. Through the exchanges and the participants’ input, course content for the DOCC will continue to grow. From this process emerges a dynamic and self-reflective educational model.

The DOCC’s feminist focus highlights the interactions of art, science and technology as foundational knowledge areas for the twenty-first century and aspires to create innovative learning contexts that value the voices and expertise of both students and faculty.

While the DOCC initiative will be piloted primarily in North America, international participation in future projects ensures the kind of challenging dialogue and stakeholder inclusiveness necessary to imagine, and then create, more equitable and socially just educational models in the digital world.

About OCAD University
OCAD University (www.ocadu.ca) is Canada’s “university of imagination.” The university, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

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For more information please contact:

Sarah Mulholland, OCAD U Marketing & Communications
416 977 6000 x327
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