MOOC as the silver bullet

I would like to relate to Alex Kuskis’ comments provided here where he points to:

  1. The unaffordability of the American campus model, based on tuition price increases year after year, with students incurring immense debts, leading to a student loans crisis and financial bubble that will sooner or later burst, just as the housing bubble did. See “A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College”, http://tinyurl.com/cw54epl ; “Universities on the Brink”, http://tinyurl.com/cdpmslo ; “College Bubble Set to Burst in 2011”, http://inflation.us/collegebubble.html .
  2. Questioning whether learning happens at all in traditional university education, especially undergrad education. See “Does College Make You Smarter”, http://tinyurl.com/5vxxnh4 .
  3. The traditional university’s crisis of purpose, http://tinyurl.com/ct9dgp9 . 
  4. The university: still dead – Andrew Delbanco’s insightful new book on the history and future of the American college exposes an institution that has no idea what it should be, by Angus Kennedy, http://tinyurl.com/cxult4h .
  5. The fading legitimacy of liberal arts colleges, http://tinyurl.com/clnv59chttp://tinyurl.com/cefr9gk .
  6. The widespread perception that universities require “fixing”, http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/08/24/fradella
  7. The fact that universities are ripe for disruption: http://tinyurl.com/bn3aqau .
  8. The ineffectiveness of lectures, still the dominant teaching method in universities: “The College Lecture, Long Derided, May Be Fading”, http://www.nytimes.com/pages/national/index.html?todaysheadlines .

Are MOOCs the silver bullets for education?  Not yet.

There are some positive results here with Udacity, though the experiment has again revealed that MOOCs could be helpful for certain students and learners whilst may not be a panacea for those who need individual learning or support, including mentoring, coaching or tutoring.  Such pedagogy has proven to be effective in traineeship and apprenticeship programs.

However, in an online environment and platform such as MOOCs, one on one mentoring with professors or personal tutors (teaching assistants) could be prohibitively costly and thus not possible.  An alternative is to arrange volunteer or paid tutors and mentors in such MOOCs who could provide the coaching required for novice learners, as I have shared here and here.   There are implications with such approaches, as additional mentoring and coaching may incur fees, and the need of an infrastructure with systems of policy, procedures and protocols as normally present in an institutional framework to assure quality support learning services.

There is also a need to balance between self-organizing nature of networked learning with a focus of autonomous learning embedded with the instructivist mastery learning approach in such MOOCs to ensure optimum learning outcomes.  Many novice learners may overly rely on the “teach, drill and test” sort of mastery learning.  Such instrumental learning is practised in senior high school or entry level college, in preparation of their entrance examination to university.  Though there are merits with mastery learning for prescriptive knowledge and learning on defined curriculum, the mechanistic and instrumental learning associated with the consumption of knowledge would limit their growth and development in critical thinking and metacognitive skills, sensemaking and way finding.

That is where MOOCs providers need to re-vamp their programs with technology as enabler, so as to cater for their learners’ needs. These would further foster new and emerging pedagogy in education, not just a reinforcement of what they are currently offering to their students.

In summary, continuous improvement and innovation in practice in an ever changing world of MOOCs and education.

A white paper on MOOC

Nice paper on MOOC:

As the text is copyrighted,  I would refer part of it here:

1. What new pedagogies and organisational mechanisms might be required if MOOC are to deliver a high quality learning experience?

xMOOCs have been criticised for adopting a knowledge transmission model; in essence, they are considered to be technology-enriched traditional teacher-centred instruction (Larry, 2012).

By contrast, cMOOCs provide great opportunities for non-traditional forms of teaching approaches and learner-centred pedagogy where students learn from one another.  Online communities ‘crowd-source’ answers to problems, creating networks that distribute learning in ways that seldom occur in traditional classrooms in universities.

Here I have elaborated on cMOOCs:

The c MOOCs

The second type of MOOC are those which focus principally on the learners’ preferences and thus be based on learner-centred model of teaching and learning.  Here the professors would negotiate the teaching with learners with networked based learning.  The focus would likely be on the education and learning process, with distributed learning and technology as an enabler, with a connectivist approach towards learning and crowd sourcing as a means to aggregate the distributed learning.  This could be the current model of c MOOC, based on emergent learning.

The new pedagogies and organisational mechanisms that might be required include a hybrid model of MOOCs where content and process are mixed and matched to suit different cohorts of educators, professors and learners.

My observation and comments about the paper:

1. It is great to have a summary on MOOCs, providing an overall view about the current trend of MOOCs and their implications on Higher Education.  This is surely welcomed by many MOOC providers, Higher Education Institutions and their decision makers and administrators.

2. The paper used a number of sources as references, including wikipedia, blog posts and media posts, rather than the formal peer-reviewed papers.  This seems a radical approach towards referencing, in white paper.  What criteria should be used in the selection of such sources as references in white and research papers?  It could be interesting to learn from the authors how decisions are made on this matter.

3. This paper is unique in that most of the findings are drawn from blog posts and discussion papers, which is pretty useful.  I think more research findings with empirical data (big data and learning analytics) would help in revealing the SWOTS of MOOCs.

The paper is a must read for any policy makers, administrators, professors and educators who are interested in the design and development of online/distance education and MOOCs.

Application of Game Theory in the design, delivery and assessment in MOOCs

This Lifelong education on Steroids provides an excellent and insightful overview about MOOCs.  What I would add is that MOOCs could be one the game changers in Higher Education, not just online education.  Why?  Higher Education has been a game in business, where each of the game players are playing a fair, though competitive game in a global arena for decades.  

The strategic alliance and partnership is one of the macro approaches in game playing where institutions are working with various other education providers or services in order to enhance the overall education and learning experiences of the learners, or consumers and customers.

How would Game Theory help in the design, delivery and assessment in MOOCs?

There are two main approaches that we could consider – a macro and a micro approach.

Macro approach:

First, to design MOOCs based on Game Theory, on a macro scale. What this involves is to compare and contrast the various design of x and c MOOCs, based on a set of principles where networked learning and mastery learning is leveraged, especially when an institutional education model is based.  This could be demonstrated and applied by taking into consideration the payoff and expected return with each probability (i.e. un-bundling of each of the present services of typical MOOCs services as described here) and re-bundling them with values and benefits for each cohort of learners and educators.

Second, to deliver MOOCs based on Game Theory principles which include those elaborated in this Understanding the MOOC Trend.

Third, to assess MOOCs based on a combination of automation and human intervention, where learning analytics and big data are used to provide feedback to both educators and learners on a continuous basis.  This paper on assessment on MOOCs provides an insightful approach to incorporate

Micro approach

This involves strategically designing MOOCs based more on the games with various multimedia and interactive game story, where assessment and learning are built in to engage both professors and learners to co-explore and learn through the education process.  Games could also be used for assessing learners in a personal and adaptive way, though this would involve a total different design from the instructivist approach.  This includes peer-teaching and learning as proposed by Eric Mazur and other educators.  Indeed peer teaching and learning is one of the pedagogy adopted in a connectivist approaches towards learning.

It should be noted that the majority of peer-tutoring programs for students are intended to complement, not substitute for, regular classroom instruction. Tutoring should never be a substitute for professional teaching. An ideal learning atmosphere is as a rich blend of peer and adult instructional strategies.

Cited From: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/peer-teaching/#ixzz2cTBZTEiL

In summary, game theory could be used in the design, delivery and assessment in MOOCs, with an overall improvement in the learning and education experiences of learners.

Telling experts from novices and spammers

Here is an interesting paper on Telling experts from novices and spammers.

See this making of an expert:

It takes time to become an expert. Even the most gifted performers need a minimum of ten years of intense training before they win international competitions.

May be MOOCs are still too new to professors and experts.  So, to become an expert in MOOCs, one needs to practice, practice and practice. Right?

What would you get out of MOOCs?

Do you want to teach in a MOOC? Why teach a MOOC?

For me, teaching a MOOC is an extension of what you teach in an online course, only that you would reach a massive audience. There is more, for learning, than teaching when MOOCs are structured with different pedagogical approaches, as they evolved.  MOOCs are not just about teaching though as they are more related to learning and educational experience that covers the social, teaching and cognitive presence.

MOOC won’t “correct” those teaching with “poor pedagogy”, but surely MOOC provides different avenues for teachers to design online courses with an experimental approach.

The best way to learn from MOOCs may be “mistakes”, not success, as this is captured here:

There is still debate about whether MOOCs can replicate the educational experience of a traditional classroom, but in general the large-scale online courses have managed to avoid being panned outright. Udacity, a competing MOOC provider, was forced to cancel a mathematics course last summer due to concerns over quality—but the incident appears not to have significantly damaged that company’s brand.

Isn’t it true that most of us made mistakes when doing experiments.  This is especially the case when performing social experiments on the web, or networks, where a scientific approach could be in “conflict” with the humanistic approach, facing lots of resistances and challenges, from each side of the schools – “the traditional school”, “the progressive school”, “the venture capitalist school”, “the innovative and disruptive school”.

There are lots of interesting learning we could gain from the MOOC experience, as an observer, researcher, participant, or professor. Some of these experience of MOOC have challenge our views about online education, learning and the role and mission of higher education institutions.

How would people view MOOCs?  Would MOOCs kill research university?

So what happens if undergraduate teaching is something that is magicked away through the technological change of MOOCs? Clearly that river of cash that supports the professoriate disappears. As does the need for quite so many professors of course. Which will in turn lead to there being very many fewer people conducting research as there just won’t be as many people in universities in the future.

When most of the resources are directed towards MOOCs, who would fund and conduct researches in the universities?  May be that is the downside of MOOCs on research universities, as the pendulum is now swinging from research to teaching using MOOCs.

We are further witnessing a crossroad where conservative school of teaching (where lecture reigns best) is challenged by innovative, disruptive, though instructivist school of teaching (where mini-chunked base video lecture coupled with mastery learning reigns supreme).

As we unbundled teaching, MOOCs have become a platform where a complex mix of activities are offered both by MOOC providers, teachers and “consumed” by the participants and students.  These have been elaborated in this Understanding the MOOC Trend.

What would we get out of this MOOC trend?  Why MOOCs?  That is the very basic question for every institution to consider.  To what extent would their MOOCs be differentiated from the other “mainstream MOOCs”?  Are they superior MOOCs?  Why would you teach in MOOCs?  Should teachers curate rather than teach and compete with the super professors of MOOCs?

Why not send our students to the MOOCs so they could learn there, whilst we as educators could enjoy the smart teaching and learning with our students with less efforts.  See George’s video on this.

Am I doing this now?  I have been thinking about this way of teaching for the past few years.

I have used many of the resources available on the Web for free and found great achievements by my students.  So, teaching could be done more effectively by being a curator, facilitator and supporter, rather than a pure “lecturer”.

Do you see it that way?

Is big data the next wave?

Big data and learning analytics would transform education, much more than MOOCs.

To what extent is big data  (big-data-not-moocs-will-revolutionize-education) the solution to higher education?

Big data in the online learning space will give institutions the predictive tools they need to improve learning outcomes for individual students. By designing a curriculum that collects data at every step of the student learning process, universities can address student needs with customized modules, assignments, feedback and learning trees in the curriculum that will promote better and richer learning.

In this post on learning analytics:

They found that people take classes or stop for different reasons, and therefore referring globally to “dropouts” makes no sense in the online context. They identified four groups of participants: those who completed most assignments, those who audited, those who gradually disengaged and those who sporadically sampled. (Most students who sign up never actually show up, making their inclusion in the data problematic.) The point of all this is not simply to record who is doing what but to “provide educators, instructional designers and platform developers with insights for designing effective and potentially adaptive learning environments that best meet the needs of MOOC participants,” the researchers wrote.

For example, in all three computer science courses they analyzed, they found a high correlation between “completing learners” and participation on forum pages, suggesting a positive feedback loop: The more students interacted with others on the forum page, the better they learned. This led the researchers to suggest that designers should consider building other community-oriented features, including regularly scheduled videos and discussions, to promote social behavior.

These findings were revealed in our earlier researches in MOOCs and so these latest researches were reinforcing what most of the researches have found, in particular the engagement and interactivity of learners as a critical success factor in MOOCs.

As I have shared in my previous posts, there are assumptions about design of curriculum, where students’ motivation and learning could be accurately traced, assessed and evaluated with the clicks of videos, engagement with discussion boards, and answering those “multiple choice questions” or assessment tasks.   To some extent, big data could provide some clues as to students’ skills and interests, and their degree of connections with others, resources and networks, the connectivity as one could define.  There are questions that still need to be addressed though, as each individual has his or her own learning style and motivation, which could not be predicted simply by tracing using the big data, especially when they are merely visitors to the sites, and have weak links to others in the networks or social media.

Trying to track down students’ attendance may be one way to gauge their engagement, but then again this requires enormous amount of follow up work and intervention from the professors or institutions in order to develop those customized units, assignments, and feedback.