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.

Learning is about doing, application of skills and reflection, not just theory alone.

How do you find that in MOOCs?  What is the pedagogy adopted in MOOCs (xMOOCs) in particular?

I reckon that MOOCs that I have been involved in were all application based, as I have to practice and reflect on what I have learnt through the practice, using Personal Learning Environment and Personal Learning Network (PLE/PLN), Web 2.0 tools application, collective inquiry and open discourse, and social networking.

Similarly, when it comes to instruction in class (both face-to-face and online), we used to explain basic concepts and principles, together with some case application or scenarios, followed by discussion and application of knowledge concepts and skills or case application, through various activities, projects and assessment.

So, to me instruction is just one part of the learning process, provided by the professor(s) or teacher(s) to the learners.  Instruction should lead to learning, though it is often restricted when there is limited practice following the instruction, especially in a lecture format.

Learning is about doing,  application of skills learnt, and reflection, in order to keep on improving one’s learning.  It is not just about the theory presented to us by the professors or teachers.   Learning is also about organizing ones’ work in a structured way, in order to achieve the goals through certain tasks.   So, it relates to the basic principles of instruction too, where one must demonstrate to others how certain tasks are done in a systematic and orderly manner, through explicit explanation, followed by demonstration.  Learning is then achieved also through teaching oneself, and others, like peer-to-peer teaching, in order to “become” an expert learner, or teacher.

In this connection, would MOOCs be designed and run with these principles in mind?  It is not just about multiple choice, it is not just about providing a “great presentation with wonderful explanation”.  It is about engaging and involving the learners to do something –  it may relate to their thinking, reflection, practice or demonstration and modelling of the skills, through their own actions, activities, assignments and application at home, or at work.  It could be demonstrated through blogging, tweeting, wiki or Google doc creation or collaborative or creative writing, or project and problem assignments, or peer assessment.

Here is a 3 part video on Teaching teaching and learning learning:

In summary, instruction is one part of the learning process, provided by the professor or teacher to the learners. Learning should be motivating, engaging, and interactive, where the activities and assessment should also be relevant, value added to the learners.  These learning could be demonstrated through blogging, tweeting, wiki or Google doc creation or collaborative or creative writing, or project and problem assignments, or peer assessment.

I hope my fellow colleagues and students would also provide some comments and feedback as to how they have learnt.

Are men and women different in expressing their opinions in social media?

Interesting to learn about the xMOOCs as reported by Mure on edX president predicts an online learning transformation – as evisioned by Professor Agnant Agarwal.

This is what we have found in “our” research: The research highlighted a difference between men and women in terms of their communication styles and preferences. Women tended to look for similarities or commonalities (i.e., in issues of language) that could become a source of bonding. In contrast, some men had a tendency to practice one-upmanship, in the sense of trying to keep one step ahead of other participants as competitors. Men were more task-oriented in their use of language, while women put more emphasis on socioemotional dimensions. (Kop, Fournier & Mak, 2011)

As Mary suggested: “Hard on problem, soft on people”.

There are now so many “opinion” & “marketing” pieces in media that many of us (including me) seem to be prophesizing with or without much evidences.  There are certain truths embedded in each claim : technology surely would enhance education and learning.

My questions are:

1. “How do we know we could transform the world of education with online education?”

2. “What is the theory behind such prediction?”

3. “Is the theory of disruptive innovation as proposed by Clayton Christensen predicting what we are experiencing?”

4. “Who have influenced the MOOC movement?”

Whilst I would anticipate that there would be a diversity of opinions on the above questions, I could only explain that we are now likely influenced by the “opinion pieces” in the major media, where the “super-star” professors and those in power in the media would likely be able to “convince” us well beforehand what would be a transformation of education.

Did we predict that in 2008?

I have great respects on many of the pioneers in xMOOCs – Agnant Agarwal, Andrew Ng, Daphne Koller, so please take these as questions, not as a way to dilute their assertions.

I also believe that men are more task – oriented, in that males are more than happy to “forge” their views and opinions than women.  Take a look at most of the news and media posts in most Higher Ed..  How many strong opinion pieces are written by males compared to females?  Male bloggers tend to include lots of evidences (despite that they are all re-mixed, re-purposed views and opinions) in their posts, but they are practically having the same message – a proponent or opponent of MOOCs.  On the other hand, female authors and bloggers are generally more careful in crafting their views and sharing them in blogs or major media.  They tend to hit the soioemotional dimensions, with a light touch on people, but great in rhetorical presentations.

I know this may be overly generalized, but it seems to be reflective of reality, as I have observed that in the decades of teaching and learning, and that throughout the MOOCs since 2008.  What do you think?

Intellectual property of MOOCs and who own them

MOOCs and intellectual property.  Who own the content of MOOCs?  Are they intellectual property of the professors, the institutions or MOOC providers?

In this post on professors want to own moocs before moocs own them by Meghan Neal:

“If we lose the battle over intellectual property, it’s over,” former American Association of University Professors president Cary Nelson said at the group’s annual conference this week. “Being a professor will no longer be a professional career or a professional identity.”

But since the explosive popularity of MOOCs, universities stand something to gain by retaining ownership over a course even without the original professor. Though some super-star teachers attract potential students on their own, more often than not students choose a course based on the institution offering it.

Read more: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/professors-want-to-own-moocs-before-moocs-own-them#ixzz2WuA7q4u4
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This would be the concerns for most professors, as that’s where professors would add significant values to the education system, under MOOCs.

Here is my part of my previous post MOOCs:

Are We MOOC’d Out? – Huffington Post – http://po.st/n1Ab8Y
Who would win this race of MOOC mania? Of course the institutions who have the resources, money, professors, and support from those who are looking for values from the xMOOCs. Time has proven that. Did you see most news on MOOCs are praises (hypes) which are unlike the typical news in newspapers which are more than 80% negative? Do we need more good news? To be more patriotic, and loving and caring the society and institutions? In my post  , I commented that this is what educators love to do – promoting good values of good citizenship, pro-social behavior, demonstrating and modelling wonderful professionalism in public. All these are good acts of being an educator.

The reality is: with the shrinkage of funding, more educators would need to work their way out, in order to remain “employable” and stay in their education business. Be proactive in learning, get skilled, be adaptive, and be innovative, or else, there is another exit for those who couldn’t cope or adapt to the system – would they leave, or “die”? This applies not only to teachers, administrators, but also to institutions and corporations. I am trying to be optimistic. But I reckon the ones who might have to worry most are those who are teaching MOOCs now, as once their work are shared, would you still need them any more?

In a Chinese proverb, when the cunning rabbit is dead, you could cook the dog. When the flying birds are gone, you could pack up the bow and arrows. The moral of this proverb is: if the teachers have already served its needs, do you still need them? May be for a different purpose, or a different job.

In xMOOCs, only the content and assessment is the most valuable part. We all know the interaction and engagement with the professors (through dialogue, conversation and feedback) is where students perceived to be most valuable for their learning, but that would be reserved for fees paying students, when these students attend the institution course. Once all content and assessment is opened to the public, there is limited added value that would be perceived by the teacher or students. The teacher might no longer be needed, as the videos are already prepared. Would you still pay the professors for that? May be for branding purpose! You could still employ the professors for face-to-face teaching, but as Sebastian Thrun mentioned, only some tens (was it less than 50 left out of his 200 students) attended the live sessions? Even the best professors would go and set up their own education business (Sebastian, and many who followed suite).

Learning from Social Media

To what extent could social media be used for formal education?

As shared in my posts here and here:

For autonomous educators and learners who are learning via the broader networks, with webs and internet, it seems that blogging would likely serve their needs better in “broadcasting” and reflection of their learning or teaching.

Forum and network platforms such as Moodle, FB, wiki would then be “gateways” for open sharing and discussion of ideas.

Twitter would be ideal of information links and dissemination of news and sharing of links to blog posts or event updates, and real time postings of presentation or conference.

How far would institutions be ready for the decentralized approach (i.e. Connectivist learning) be adopted in online education and MOOC?

“The adoption of MOOCs in formal education institutions is challenging, though it opens up new opportunities to experience the co-creation of networks within communities and new and participatory forms of communication and collaboration for both learners and educators.”

Kop, R., Fournier, H., Mak, S.F. J. (2011). A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online CoursesThe International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Vol 12, No. 7 (2011).

What would be critical in the introduction of social media in formal education?  Social media should be introduced with a vision and purpose in mind, especially under a formal institution infrastructure.  What sort of pedagogy would be aligning with the design and use of social media when fused into formal education?