#Change11 #CCK12 Value of MOOC and Purpose of Education

Recent advances in courses have led to a new debate on the value of MOOC and purpose of education.

Value of MOOC

I think the value of MOOC is that participants could take the opportunities in sharing their thoughts and experience, and learning together to explore the critical questions:

“How does learning change when formal boundaries are reduced? What is the future of learning? What role with educators play in this future? What types of institutions does society need to respond to hyper-growth of knowledge and rapid dissemination of information? How do the roles of learners and educators change when knowledge is ubiquitous?”

Here Graham Attwell shares his views on value of MOOC – “MOOC are here to stay”.

“160000 students from 190 countries signed up to Stanford’s “Introduction to AI” course” , with 23000 reportedly completing.

Only three years ago there was a debate at the F-ALT fringe event at ALT-C on whether MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were merely a passing fad. I can’t remember the results of the vote at the end of the debate but can remember that there was considerable scepticism. The truth seems to be that the MOOC model has taken hold. My only concern is that in adopting such a model for large scale commercial application by large and often private American universities, the values and dedication of people like Stephen Downes and George Siemens who pioneered the early MOOCs will be lost and such courses will just become an industrial treadmill for students.”

What could MOOC offer that the AI course does not?  I haven’t compared the courses in great detail yet using research surveys, but here are my views. I reckon MOOC offered by George and Stephen would be more suitable for lifelong learners (especially for the adults learners, though there are some young learners who may be interested) and experienced educators, whilst AI, Machine Learning courses are more suitable for those young students – university or college students, or those adults who would like to pursue college education, and those who are lifelong learners, but are just interested in learning about the content, rather than the social learning associated with MOOC.

Here George shares his views on Why universities should experiment with open online courses. I think the AI courses, Udacity and Coursera are responses to call from George and Stephen, and I wish that all these initiatives would be successful, rather than a wash-down as industrial treadmill or for profits initiatives.

This leads me to re-think about the purpose of education, in particular that of Higher Education and Universities.

May be I could relate to this video by Noam Chomsky in understanding how purpose of education has changed throughout the times.

Here are some notes that I made while watching the video. I have incorporated my views on education.

What is the purpose of education?

The traditional interpretation comes from enlightenment, which holds the highest goal in life – to acquire, to create, to search the riches of the past and try to internalize the part of them that is significant to you, a quest for understanding, to  further your own way of life.  The purpose of education is then to help people to determine how to learn on their own.  It’s you as a learner who is going to achieve that in the course of education, it’s up to you to decide what you would like to master, to determine your goals, and how to produce something that is exciting to you or others.

The other concept is essentially the indoctrination, that people have to be placed into a framework from childhood to adulthood, in which they would follow orders, and often not to challenge the orders.

At a graduate level, enlightenment is based on the inculcation of the urge to challenge, to question, to question authority, to search for alternatives, to use your imagination, and to cooperate with others.  Noam remarks that such education should be down to kindergarten.

There is certainly a powerful structure in the society which refers people to be indoctrinated, conformed, not to ask too many questions, and you’ll be in.  Just fulfill the roles that are assigned to you, and not to shake the system or power in the societies.

In reflection, I think Noam’s ideas of enlightenment are charting out a course where people would pursue their interests and passion, without fear of retribution.  My view is that if people are really passionate about education and learning, then they would go through the gateway where they could find enlightenment, rather than looking for a mediocre, conforming pathway, though such pathway may be easier for people to secure success.

I tend to associate such passion of enlightenment with those taking up the challenge of engaging in learning, such as those participating in MOOC, or those who are engaged in various learning networks or platforms, in its various forms, from active participants to lurkers.   I think that is how people could identify themselves in their own learning pathways, making meaning out of their interaction with the entities, artifacts or people in the networks or communities (as Stephen has mentioned here, that he prefers entities to people in networks), and not being subject to the conformance from any others.  There are certain constraints that may be inherent in the networks, due to “group and peer” pressure to submit or forward ideas, or to comply with powers which would lessen personal autonomy to learning.

Here, the purpose of education is to engage with the world, and to prepare ourselves (as learners) to be tenacious and resourceful, imaginative and logical, self disciplined and self-aware, collaborative and inquisitive.  And one of the most important purposes of education is learning how to learn.  Learn globally and act locally, and be connected to the international communities.

Here is another summary of the purpose and task of education, that I think would be important to reflect upon and share with others, especially through this Change 11 AND CCK12 MOOC.


I would like to share Stephen’s vision here:

Stephen Downes:

“I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through their avocations or lifestyle.

Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations – or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.

This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or influence. This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward.”

My vision

My vision is to follow my passion, as a Catholic and a learner, to engage in education and learning in a lifetime, to help myself and others in pursuing the dreams and passion, and to lead a fulfilling life that could contribute personally and community wise.

What do you think is the purpose of education? What is the value of MOOC? How about your vision?