#Change11 What is research?

I enjoyed reading this post on research by Brent Roberts:

“So what is research anyway?  Let me answer a slightly different question that my wife’s aunt asked recently as it will help frame the answer.  She asked, “What purpose does research serve?” Now there is probably less consensus on the answer to this question than I’d like, but ultimately, I think the answer is knowledge.  Research is supposed to provide knowledge that can be used by others and hopefully the broader society.  To illustrate, let me describe the number of ways in which the knowledge we generate might be used.

The most common way that the knowledge we create is used is by other researchers.  This is what you’ll hear described as “basic” research because it may or may not have a direct applied purpose.  This is about all most researchers can aspire to.  We are pretty happy if other researchers not only read our work, but also draw on it to inform their research too.  This is important because the knowledge we generate is not only read, but also built upon and extended in meaningful ways by others.  The next way our knowledge is used – and ultimately the way our research will most likely influence society – is through teaching.  Yes, our research hopefully gets incorporated into the classroom because it is summarized in textbooks or our original research articles are assigned as core reading.  In this way, our research forms the material that thousands of students learn in order to make themselves better-informed citizens who hopefully go on to be productive members of society.  Finally, our research might be used for more practical aims like shaping social policy set by State and Federal authorities, informing decisions made by employers or other organizations, or helping practitioners treat illness.”

So resonating.

For me, research is about the exploration and creation of knowledge, and the development of wisdom that reveals the truths.

I think research is the bread and butter of many researchers in educational institutions and consultancy businesses.  It’s also part of every scholar’s aspirations to pursue their life-long quests for knowledge and wisdom.

Research could allow one to climb the knowledge tower, in educational and research institutions.  A researcher could also achieve the pinnacle of fame, through research.




#Change11 How to build an environment/learning platform to host a virtual community of learners around the world?

What would the future education be like? Would it be based on a learning platform where the community of learners learn together, based upon their goals, and their social needs?

As reported in this MIT initiative:

“M.I.T. said its new learning platform should eventually host a virtual community of learners around the world — and enhance the education of M.I.T.’s on-campus students, with online tools that enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences.

The development of the new platform will be accompanied by an M.I.T.-wide research initiative on online teaching and learning, including grading by computer.

And because the M.I.T.x platform will be available free to people around the world, M.I.T. officials said they expected that other universities would also use it to offer their own free online courses. Mr. Reif said that M.I.T. was investing millions of dollars in the project, and that it expected to raise money from foundations and others.”

In reflection, MOOC could be the ideal new learning platform which would host such a virtual community of learners around the world.  This is also the start of their research initiative on online teaching and learning, where we once have undergone in our past MOOCs, and is undertaking in this Change11 MOOC.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see such pattern of massive online course design, delivery with teaching and learning is now being replicated and amplified in Stanford University and MIT initiatives?

I would speculate that their research would tend to go with the scaling up based on automated assessment (grading by computer) and a shift towards more personalisation of learning once communities and networks of learners are built and formed, as more learners would interact with each others, thus forming clusters, groups, collectives, and networks around their focus of interests of study, and beyond, like the MOOC.

If my assumptions are correct, then what happens next would likely be similar to the scenarios that we had in a few years ago (in 2008), with the CCK08, (and CCK09, CCK11) experience, where participants were excited to share their learning and knowledge, especially in their own specialist fields in the subject domain.  This would then be developed in the community members of (AI course) in Stanford University and MIT.  There could be some differences though, as the approaches of teaching with Stanford University and MIT are still institutionally based, meaning that there would be fixed curriculum and structured course learning outcomes and standardized assessments and tasks.

My experience with young adults and learners also revealed that younger learners are generally more competitive as compared to older adults, educators and learners, one “upmanship” as one would call, in order to stay ahead of their colleagues and senior educators and learners.  This creates a very interesting learning environment, where younger learners are more eager to have their voices, perspectives heard in the open media and spaces.  This could also lead to a proliferation of the creation of artefacts, as young learners are more curious, and more “creative” in such production, in order to display their talents, and their comprehension and application of knowledge.  This would also provide opportunities for the more experienced educators and senior learners to learn with these young learners in the networks, and to provide support or coaching where appropriate.

Young learners also tended to acquire a qualification in the process of such learning, as that would allow them to look for jobs upon graduation from the course.  So their desire to learn may be very different from the life-long and life-wide senior learners who would like to learn more based on their passion, and their interests.

I would like to re-quote my summary in previous post here:

“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.”

Due to the complexity of education and learning, no one could predict precisely what would have happened to these initiatives.  However, based on our collective wisdom, it seems that we could easily predict that outcomes – more learners would embark on this journey if it is offered free (free of charge in particular) and are available in open spaces – especially when the learning environment is open, where learners are allowed to exercise their autonomy, where diversity of opinions is valued and connectivity is enhanced through a structured course of study, in an institutional environment or a network environment, where recognition could come in various forms – accreditation, certification, or a mere badge indicating that they have such an online experience.

This relates back to my previous post on From Digital Pedagogy to Netagogy, where professors, researchers, technologists, designers, educators and learners in the world all want to explore this whole new “complex” and emergent learning system and ecology, in order to create and disseminate knowledge, and in building knowledge nations and global communities.

These require research, creativity and collaboration in the academy.

#Change11 Purpose of Higher Education, Creativity and Collaboration

What is the purpose of Higher Education? Here in this post of top-ed-tech-trends-of-2011-the-higher-education-bubble by Audrey Watters:

“What about the promise of opportunity and advancement that comes with a college degree?  What about the intellectual demands of university life?  What are students learning?  What should they learn?  What degree programs should schools keep or ax when there are fiscal (and perceptual) constraints?”

I have posted here some views about the purpose and tasks of Higher Education.

University (and Higher Education) is about the creation and dissemination of knowledge.

How to achieve such a vision?

Through creativity and collaboration in the academy.

A wonderful summary.

Your views….