In MOOCs, more is less, and less is more (Part 1)

What do I mean by the more is less and less is more in MOOCs?

There are two types of MOOCs,  the cMOOCs and xMOOCs.  We have more x MOOCs than c MOOCs.  We might however have less chance to transform education, if we don’t go beyond the boxes in thinking and designing the learning.  There would be less “learning” if we are  to adhere only to the traditional way of teaching and learning – by mere lecturing, video taking, or just flipping the classroom, without reflecting and learning what they mean to our education and learning.

In this part 1, I would focus on c MOOC.

More is less in Connectivist MOOCs:

The more connections there are in c MOOCs, the less effective it seems to individual learners in learning when information or ” knowledge” is “pushed to the learners”.  Most learners (novices) would find difficulties in filtering information, in online learning such as MOOCs.  There are also associated emotions of confusion, feelings of overwhelming of information, and self-doubt in confidence when using new and emerging technology, or in conversing with others in social and learning networks.

In nearly all cMOOCs, the caveat is:

Adopt a pull approach in filtering information, pattern recognition and knowledge creation or construction.  McMOOC is a knowledge and learning ecology.  May I call it a McMOOC – The Meta Connectivist MOOCs?

As Jenny says:

Maybe a better approach is to focus on the novices, i.e. get the mentors working with them from the word go (my understanding is that the mentors haven’t started yet), make posts which explicitly state what the nature of open courses is, tell them to expect to be confused and find it overwhelming, tell them to pick and choose and so on.

The more novices there are in a MOOC, the more “guidance or direction” there seems to be required in order that the novices won’t get lost in the midst of chaos of information and space.   ‘Safety’ and ‘constraints’ might need to be considered in the design (Mackness, 2012).  However, too much protection and guidance given to the novices would only turn a c MOOC into a traditional or typical online MOOC, which would again deter novice learners from learning how to learn through “experience”.

Besides, advanced learners, veterans, knowledgeable others and experts  in the MOOCs who are there to support novices would find it difficult to help others, if they don’t see clearly what their roles are in the MOOCs.

Jenny again:

Pedagogy First course site, for example, we are urged to keep our posts short, to not use ‘jargon’, to not discuss things that might be ‘jumping ahead’ in the syllabus, to focus only on the tasks required by the syllabus, to not post anything controversial. If we want to do this, then we should not tag our posts with ‘potcert’ even if we think the topic is related to online pedagogy.

With the novices in MOOCs, less “complicated post” is needed, in terms of “less words” in posts, and less number of “expert” advice from different sources, as such advice could be confusing, and conflicting for them.

What sort of spaces would be helpful in learning?

Lisa in her post higher-ed-and-the-monastic-space says:

Our exciting “new models” for higher education are models that counter industrialized and standardized education, which is great. They emphasize collaborative work, social learning, and the affordances of the web in achieving greater learning through guided exploration and community, all fabulous things. But in promoting them as a substitute for “old style” learning, they also risk eliminating a place that may have become the last monastic space in which to work with the mind.

There are different spaces for learning. I think the old style learning has its genesis rooted in which learning existed in closed spaces, and often learning in solitude.

I found solitary learning quite enjoyable, though it is also challenging, as that requires lots of self-organised, disciplined and paced learning in order to succeed, when there aren’t lots of people learning with you.

For me, the physical spaces and virtual spaces could serve different learning purposes.  c MOOC is resorted to the virtual space, but offer spaces that are distinctly less confronting than the physical spaces, with face-to-face teaching and learning.

More connections, more experience with less dependence on “teaching”

When I first joined CCK08, I realized the importance of striking a balance between connections and expert advice at an early stage of the course.

Most people might get confused when they think a c MOOC is like a traditional online course where the teacher teaches, and the students learn and consume the knowledge from the course, like reading a book, an artifact, or watching and listening to a video lecture, and be assessed on what has been taught or covered in the texts and references.  That was the instructivist approach – based on behavioral/cognitivist learning theory, where the learners master the content, probably with the transfer of knowledge from one person/information source to that of the learner.

What actually happens in a cMOOC, and is expected is: the learners would learn best through participating in the various discourse, engaging with the learning activities, projects, interacting with each others (instructors, participants, peers, guest speakers or experts etc.), and connecting through a diverse space and learning platforms.  The focus of learning has shifted from learning as acquisition of skills and knowledge to learning as conversation, participation, and a peer-cooperative and collaborative process, and a knowledge as network formation and re-creation, and learning as knowledge creation (emergent knowledge in particular), growth and development, centered around the learner, and the community of learners or network of learners.

More connectivity, less structure

The more connectivity there are, the less formal structure of learning is required.  The more knowledge developed and grown, the less the dependence would be on the instructors and experts.  In other words, the learning cycle could ensure that the learners are transformed into experts within such a learning-growth-development-maturity cycle, through continuous planning, learning in action, reflection, adjustment of learning, re-action of learning and re-planning of the learning in action.

Motivation and Access First

As pointed out by Gilly Salmon: Access and motivation is essential for novices in any online course.

Without motivation, participants would either lurk or drop out from the course.

So, the more motivated the learners are, the less chance they would withdraw from the course, and the less constraints we should impose on the learners.

If our ultimate goal is to support the learners to achieve their goals, then we all need to help the learners in searching and “defining” their goals if possible, at the early stage of the course.

Mark highlights in his post on education and motivation

We establish our identity and reputation online to the extent that we contribute. We can’t be heard (or seen) unless we speak. We do this by uploading, commenting, and registering our presence through our interactions with others. This has important implications for how we approach education (offline as well as online).

Passion is important

The learners also need to find their passions in their search for “knowledge” and wisdom.  This may be part of the pathways in the MOOC.

Refer to Sir Ken Robinson’s” The element: How finding your passion changes everything”.  I think MOOC is about finding your passion through the engagement and conversation with others, leading you to more readily understand your identity and relationship with others and the society at large.

MOOC as learning and research platform

MOOC provides a platform for both novices, veterans and experts to share, learn and co-operate together, and so they could be connected to those like-mindedness networkers, different dissenters and knowledgeable others on a global basis.  That is where more exposure to the platforms would give rise to less “group think”.

MOOC is a GAME we all could play

Besides, there needs to be certain elements of fun, curiosity to learning and moments of excitement, or the AHA moments, in any introduction in MOOCs.  I have summarised them here in my previous post.  Let’s hedge the golden eggs with more fun, and less anxiety – of failure in MOOCs!

Isn’t it interesting to incorporate the pedagogy of gamification in education in MOOC?

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29 thoughts on “In MOOCs, more is less, and less is more (Part 1)

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