#Change11 A reflection on MOOC

I enjoyed reading Jon’s and Jenny’s post.  Matthias also provided a detailed response as to the decreased engagement in MOOC.  Here are my reflections:

1. Motivation: As pointed out by Jon, “Apart from anything else, the only motivation for most people being here is intrinsic – apart from a very few who are getting some kind of professional or academic credit indirectly or directly as a result, no one is going to punish them for failure to attend, no one is going to reward them with grades for pleasing the teacher or demonstrating knowledge of a fixed set of stuff. But that does make me wonder a little – if we had such an intrinsically motivated crowd in a traditional course we would be pretty pleased and would have very high expectations as a result. And yet, many fall by the wayside.”  As to the motivation of participants, I think there is a need to analyse who are in the course, and what motivated them to participate, engage and contribute to the course.  I still think “What is in it for me” could make a difference, where I once wanted to learn about Connectivism and Connective Knowledge in CCK08.

2. Role of instructors.  When it comes to instruction, to what extent could people apply what they have learnt in the course in a workplace context?  In this transformative learning

The educator’s role is to assist learners in becoming aware and critical of assumptions. This includes their own assumptions that lead to their interpretations, beliefs, habits of mind or points of view as well as the assumptions of others. Educators must provide learners practice in recognizing frames of reference. By doing so, educators encourage practice in redefining problems from different perspectives.[5] The goal is to create a community of learners who are “united in a shared experience of trying to make meaning of their life experience”.[21]

Stephen mentioned here about engagement in MOOC

3. Technology – The soft and hard technology do play a significant role in structuring this MOOC, and Jon is right in that getting it right is crucial in balancing the abundance with adequate streaming and filtering of information.  Jenny mentioned: “An imbalance between soft and hard technologies. Are MOOCs too open/too soft? According to Jon Dron, the ‘sweet spot’ in networks, sets and groups is the balance point between the hard and soft technologies where emergent things happen. Do some of the soft technologies in ChangeMooc need to be replaced with hard technologies?” This requires a continuous review of the current state of information flow and the hardening of certain soft technology – such as the grouping of certain information streams using hashtag in Twitter as suggested by  Jon, and the clustering of people based on common, shared interest like the current research group, or the setting up of various groups on FB, wikis (more like a net), that would leverage technology and its affordance to individuals, nets, groups and collectives.  The Goldilock story here well illustrates how fitting into the “learners” would help.  Perhaps we need, the porridge, chair and the bed  (technology and tools) to try in MOOC, and see which one suits us best.

4. Key Literacies – Digital Literacy, Critical Thinking, Pragmatics in Education, Creative Learning Literacy and Emotional Intelligence The sort of literacies necessary to navigate in this sort of MOOC (a miniature of Internet and Web) includes different sorts of literacies, with the information curation, aggregation and filtering being one of the most important literacies.

Rheingold outlines what he considers to be the five key literacies:

  1. attention literacy (fundamental)
  2. participation literacy
  3. cooperation and collaboration
  4. critical consumption (Crap detection)
  5. network awareness

According to Rheingold, these literacies work together and are connected, not separate.  Our focus should be keeping up with these literacies and to not get distracted by the technologies.  The power has shifted from the hardware, software, services  to the “know how” around these things.

Here participants of MOOC often felt overwhelmed at the start.  However, once they have understood the need of tools and the creation and setting up of Personal Network Environment, they soon realized that such navigation based on sensemaking and wayfinding are just part of the strategies in working and learning through with the abundance of information.  As shared in the paper on Blogging and Forum as Communication and Learning Tools in MOOC, many participants have used them in a strategic and nuanced manner.  So, it is just a matter of time and experience when novice learners would learn those skills through observation, dialogue and conversation with the knowledgeable others, learning with the experts, practicing them in their PLE or applying them at work etc.  As Jon has mentioned, though many participants might not have created or posted using blogs, or have used other social media tools, they might have learnt those literacy and skills merely by consumption and lurking.  Here Jon mentioned:

I don’t think it’s too much of a problem that many people do not write anything public – people learn in different ways at different times and respond in different ways to different things, so (though it greatly helps the learning process to write about it, especially in public, as well as helping to provide one of the pillars of intrinsic motivation, connection with others) it is fine that only some of the participants are visibly ‘there’.”

5. Structure – The structure of the existing MOOC is still evolving.  Is massive course an issue?  I think it depends on the topic and the sort of learning that we are referring to, especially in Change11.  If the topic is of interests to the majority of the participants, then they would likely engage and participate in the activities or contribute to the creation or production of artifacts, as pointed out by Matthias:

In previous MOOCs the 2-3 main facilitators were slightly more in the foreground, and they modeled and demonstrated their own thinking about the emergent connectivism. These concepts and the resulting teaching appeared as, if not messy, then somewhat unfinished, and hence encouraged a similarly messy learning to be openly shared by the participants.

In this MOOC, by contrast, I have the impression that many of the weekly speakers appear as experts whose opinion is more settled and tends to intimidate learners from uttering possible discomfort or objections. Even in Stephen and George’s institutions, research about connectivist phenomena seems already more scientifically settled.

The AI MOOC course has attracted tens of thousands of learners (students) and surely such course is more technical in nature, with the focus on the content and learning outcomes.  So, the pedagogy adopted may align better with the instructivist and social constructivist pedagogy, whereas students and learners would learn better through direct instruction of the professors, with the aid of technology and tools, as a support and learning would also be achieved through the assessment of student’s performance.

With Change11 MOOC, as mentioned by facilitators, Stephen and George, that there is no single body of knowledge to learn here, so the emphasis is to structure the course to suit individual’s needs, where individual could choose and pick whatever that suits them, and engage with those areas or connections which are of interests.  This sort of learning aligns well with life long and wide pedagogy, as knowledge is then viewed as a growth for the learners, rather than just the acquisition of knowledge content, or the acquisition of factual information or prescriptive knowledge.  Besides, such structure is flexible enough to cater for new comers or novices, as one could shape the course, and re-design it using their own PLE, in order to filter through the vast course landscape.

6. What is the solution?  As Stephen,  Jon, Matthias, and Jenny have all provided their own insights, I would instead post them as questions:

(a) What do participants want from MOOC?  Is achieving personal goals and objectives what the participants are looking for?

(b) What are the assumptions behind each of the solutions that we might have considered?  Is MOOC too soft a technology?  Do we need to automate more features of MOOC – i.e. hardening it?  What would be the impact of those hardening – such as having hashtags of “groups of beginners”, “clusters or sets for advanced or veterans”, “networks of technologists and instructional designers” etc within Change11?

(c) What have we found from researches in MOOC?  What could be applied in this Change11 MOOC?  Is collective intelligence or Wisdom of Crowds a feasible solution?

(d) Is self-organized learning, emergent learning working in Change11 MOOC?  Is connectivist learning the solution to MOOC?  Why/Why not?  What are some of the merits and limitations in using tools and technology in MOOC?

I have also posted our paper here A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses for your further consideration.