#Change11 New Learning Initiative with MIT and Future of Education and Learning

This new initiative with MIT sounds exciting:

“MIT will make the MITx open learning software available free of cost, so that others — whether other universities or different educational institutions, such as K-12 school systems — can leverage the same software for their online education offerings.

“Creating an open learning infrastructure will enable other communities of developers to contribute to it, thereby making it self-sustaining,” said Anant Agarwal, an MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “An open infrastructure will facilitate research on learning technologies and also enable learning content to be easily portable to other educational platforms that will develop. In this way the infrastructure will improve continuously as it is used and adapted.” Agarwal is leading the development of the open platform.

President Hockfield called this “a transformative initiative for MIT and for online learning worldwide. On our residential campus, the heart of MIT, students and faculty are already integrating on-campus and online learning, but the MITx initiative will greatly accelerate that effort. It will also bring new energy to our longstanding effort to educate millions of able learners across the United States and around the world. And in offering an open-source technological platform to other educational institutions everywhere, we hope that teachers and students the world over will together create learning opportunities that break barriers to education everywhere.””

This is really good news, and together with Stanford’s and Khan’s initiatives here and here in reinventing education – where Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig of Stanford University and Salman Khan of Khan Academy shared their experiences, would benefit many learners around the world.

I am still reflecting on what these mean to learners – from novices to veteran learners, and educators, and how these would impact on the education and learning around school system, informal learning, social networks, and social media.

As George mentioned here, he was pleased to see these new initiative but was disappointed with the lack of mention of MOOC.

“It’s encouraging to see educators and trainers exploring the scaling capacity of learning through the use of technology. I enjoyed listening to the reflections of Sal, Sebastian, and Peter. They are excited, as many of us teaching open online courses are, about the capacity for accessible learning opportunities to increase student control and empowerment. Many of their proclamations (decoupling assessment from teaching, the creativity of learners when they don’t face organizational barriers, the power of the online experience) will be familiar to many who have followed our open courses. Interestingly, Thrun stated that online learners did better (by a factor of 2 with those making top grades) than in class learners.

It’s good to have growing diversity in researchers and educators offering alternative course models. As more people experiment with open online course, new tools will be developed and recognition of the value of open learning will also (hopefully) increase.”

MOOC is well in advance of the current education system, and so as Jenny has mentioned in her post:

I notice that Heli (who I met in CCK08) is also thinking about this. What is interesting for me, is that in my ‘day job’, i.e. the job that earns the money – only a few have so far been interested in MOOC pedagogy as Heli calls it. But I sense that this is changing. I remember talking about CCK08 to a group of academics in 2009 and being met by a wall of blank faces. That group is now hoping to design a course on MOOC principles. Exciting times!

What I see would be a pattern of education and learning with the following features:

1. Future of education and learning and Future of education. This is a transitional period where the traditional pedagogy, together with instructivism, constructivism, social constructivism will be applied in courses with a teaching and education focus, followed by a gradual movement towards more learner-centred approaches towards personalised learning, when those educators and learners fully mastered the skills and could learn more independently or inter-dependently.

MOOC seems to appeal more to experienced educators and learners (also with the older aged groups participants with the past MOOCs – CCK, PLENK2010, CRITLIT), but when the topics are more analytical and specialized like Learning Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, or elementary mathematics or high school subjects, then it seems that these courses would attract the young learners (teens, K-12, or HE undergraduates, or young graduate students).  These are based on both research and observation, and although there are many assumptions behind such assertions, I reckon the motivations behind doing the courses have always been based on a few basic ones:

(1) Learners who are of the younger aged group would need to acquire qualifications, such as a Diploma, a Degree  – Bachelor etc. and so learning within a school system is what they are looking for (or at least, what is available from a credential point of view).  This is what the potential employers are looking for, and what the learners are expecting to achieve upon graduation from the institution.

For young learners, educators who are in the K-12 and HE, the pattern of school system would still persist for another five to ten years, with basically a system which is framed under the existing pedagogical frameworks of instructivism, coupled with social constructivism, where I have elaborated here.  This is also in alignment with the zone of proximal development where novice learners would be guided by the sage on the stage or on the side.  The purpose of instruction, both formal and informal, is to stimulate growth and development. “The only good instruction received in childhood is the one that precedes and guides development” (Vygotsky, 1987, p. 48). Therefore, “good learning” would be in advance of development. Development takes place within zones of proximal development by first determining the learner’s current understanding. Next, the processes are stimulated through interactions with teachers and peers in an educational environment. Last, development leads from collaboration to independence in new understanding.

(2) Learners and/or educators who are of an older aged group, like the adults in the 30-50 age group are more likely to have by passed the normal education period, and so their needs might be the pursue of an advanced degree (graduate qualification – graduate certificate/diploma, Masters or Doctorate qualifications), and/or they might prefer to learn in an informal manner, pursuing the  life-long and life-wide learning through informal means, by learning with and through learning networks and communities, technology and medias.

(3) Learners and/or educators who are after 50s aged group would likely pursue their interests in a different manner as compared to (1) and (2).

As Heli mentioned in her post on Research about MOOC pedagogy:

“I know from myself that I want to broaden my perspective now when I am retired and I have time. I do not follow any courses any more, but I follow many interesting conferences, sessions etc. I feel free to participate, I have learned the basic skills for it. The biggest age group seem to be 55+ years, so I am not the only one. We experienced people could organize something interesting, integrating our experiences to this new online life. I am tired to hear that old people have stopped learning.”

This is an interesting trend, and I do think MOOCs which are designed with the pedagogy to support human beings are more aligned with those with an older aged group of learners, though it could equally be applicable to that of (1) & (2) if educators and learners understand why they are the agents to support and nurture the younger learners and educators so they could develop themselves in their learning journey.

In summary, MOOCs could be designed with different pedagogy, based on different target educators and learners, and would still serve their purposes.  In the long run, I would see a transitional period of pedagogy from traditional behavioural, cognitive and social constructivist moving towards a more emergent, connectivist and open sourced education ecology, with all pedagogy compensating for each others’ weaknesses, and a learner-centred approach supported by both education authorities, educators and learners coming into fruition, and community as alternative basis of education.

Refer to this for further details on MITx and post here.

 
 
 

14 thoughts on “#Change11 New Learning Initiative with MIT and Future of Education and Learning

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