#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?

43 thoughts on “#Change11 #CCK12 Value of MOOC and Purpose of Education

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  3. >And one of the most important purposes of education is learning how to learn.

    Are there prescriptive ways of learning? What are they?

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  6. Hi Ken,
    Great questions. Under the education banner, many educators had suggested prescriptive ways of learning – from formal to non-formal to informal learning. The behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and social constructivism, situational learning and connectivism all have a certain degree of prescription in what, how and why learning occurs, though no one single learning theory could cover the different learning scenarios. There are also non-prescriptive ways of learning – serendipity in learning, where such learning may be emergent, or one that arises out of a surprise event. Or emergent learning, where the learning arises from a complex learning scenarios – based on interaction with agents. These likely occur in the learning scenarios under Cynefin Framework – the Complex situation, or Chaos event. Please refer to what is learning theory in my blog post for some of these learning.

    From a learning perspective, I reckon prescriptive ways of learning are only helpful if the learners are receptive to the learning approach, and such learning is meeting their learning needs, capability, and talents, including their intelligence.

    How about your views on purpose of education? What are those prescriptive learning?

    Thanks Ken for your visit and comment.

  7. Hi John. I think you are saying that formalized education is prescriptive, while learning is non-prescriptive. I wonder if this is a good distinction to make?

  8. Hi Ken,
    Most formalized education are based on a structured curriculum, with courses designed with specific learning outcomes. For instance vocational education and training is mostly competency based, and they are designed for the industry, by the industry. This is the current vocational education system in Australia. An unit of competency contains purpose, elements and performance criteria, and so the outcomes are prescriptive. Learning under a competency-based education and training system could be open, flexible, and so are not always prescriptive, in that so far if one could produce valid, reliable and authentic evidence in the support of claim of competency, one could be deemed competent. Under a classroom based education system, a teacher could decide (with the students) what and how learning could be achieved through instruction, learning activities, assessment tasks, workshops or participation in learning management system (forum) etc. and so learning could be prescribed explicitly to a certain extent. However, learning occurs not only in classroom. It could occur in the workplace where the students learn the various tasks on the job, or in various extra-curricular activities or assessment projects. Could all these learning be prescriptive? Would that be possible? For instance, how would you prescribe our learning here through comments and conversation over blogging? You said “I wonder if this is a good distinction to make?” What would you suggest as a better distinction?

  9. El propósito de la Educación es aprender a Aprender. Pero como todos somos distintos, tenemos distintas maneras de aprender y de enseñar.
    “Dime como enseñas y te diré cómo crees que aprende la gente”, dice Javier Martínez. Con mi certificación en Value Drivers, he comenzado a diseñar los contenidos y a impartirlos tratando de abarcar los 4 estilos de pensamiento. Una clasificación simple que permite conocer al formador y conocer a la audiencia; para determinar lo más adecuado para ella.

    I have included a translated version here (John):
    The purpose of education is learning to learn. But we are all different, have different ways of learning and teaching.
    “Tell me how to teach and tell you how you think people learn,” says Javier Martinez. With my certification in Value Drivers, I started designing the content and impart trying to cover the 4 styles of thought. A simple classification that allows the trainer to know and meet the audience, to determine the most appropriate for her.

  10. Hi John. Reading your comments, I have to conclude that the purpose of education is to train citizens. Learning may be something different entirely.

    It appears that on the one hand we have the concepts of education, prescription, outcomes, and on the other hand we have the concepts of learning, non-prescription, emergence.

  11. Hi Ken,
    Like to learn more from you relating to such propaganda. What do you think would be the reality, if that is an attempt to justify or sugarcoat? I reckon I am looking at these from a learner point of view, but may be I have shifted my frame of reference when critiquing on it. John

  12. Haha. My last response was my knee-jerk reaction to the article, without reading it all the way through. I have seen for some time this business about learner-emphasis, learning not teaching etc. I remain a skeptic about the sincerity of those professing this position – seems to me they are still trying to teach…..or maybe preach……

  13. “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.”
    — Oscar Wilde

    The article uses the above quote, seemingly to introduce the learning perspective for education. But the quote, in my opinion, could just as easily infer that education has no business with learning.

  14. Hi Ken,
    I see. I try to separate education from business, especially business about learner-emphasis. I try to think about myself as a learner, to explore what it takes to learn. As I have shared with you through various conversations, I don’t think the mere teaching (by preaching, lecturing) would always be in the best interests from the learners points of view, as it could take away the learning opportunities of the learners in terms of their choices, their curiorsity of learning, their exploration, and advancement of their personal potentials. I have been learning using that approach since my graduation, and I still believe it works. I understand some people (professors, educators) like teaching, in particular preaching, that is also their choice, as a teacher. So, in an educational institution setting, teaching as a professional practice would require accountability and responsibility, in carrying out the duties in order to achieve the vision set by the institution. I think this would then relate back to the purpose and vision of education, and to see how this would impact on learning, in particular formal education and learning. Back to you.

  15. I guess I have an issue with the attempt to formalize and create formulaic education. I think diversity should prevail, but education seems instead to strive for uniformity, even though it may utter statements in favour of diversity. At the least, I see a tension between the goal of training citizens, which seems to have some essence of uniformity in mind, and diversity of learning, which seems to be based on the individual.

  16. Hi Ken,
    I shared your views on this, “a tension between the goal of training citizens, which seems to have some essence of uniformity in mind, and diversity of learning, which seems to be based on the individual.” One size doesn’t suit all, isn’t it? But, diversity is only possible in networks, not within the walled garden- classroom, where individualized education or learning is only partially possible, I am afraid! How to resolve those tensions?

  17. If it is not possible to permit diversity in a walled-garden, then perhaps society should be de-schooled, ala illich. Perhaps traditional schooling has outlived its usefulness.

  18. Thanks for the reference. “The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies. (Illich 1973a: 57)” The dilemma that we are facing in a world with new and emerging technologies in favor of prosperity and uniformity makes it difficult to isolate and disconnect with the “mainstream” society. Schooling has its roots and merits for centuries. How did people view and value education in society? Wouldn’t that be critical in deciding what sort of schooling we and our generations would like to have? If I were to live in the era and environment that Illich had experienced, I might be equally empathetic of his situation. Mass education could inculcate the values of disciplines – both mass or group discipline and individual self discipline, and may be ideal for the development of team working and collaboration. However, it also takes away the liberty of individuals to exercise their “full autonomy” to live, to work and to learn.

    If I were to reflect on what my parents had experienced and had taught me, I could say that they were wise, because they lived their lives with their full values and dignity. Although they were not as “educated” as I was, and in fact they hadn’t got much opportunities of education, but they could tell stories, and were full of compassion. They learnt how to read newspapers, not through the schooling system. They communicated with others, with empathy, not by being told how to empathize, but through intuition, and experience.

    What happens if schools were like families, and teachers like our parents? I am not trying to convince you that we should be thinking of a school system with such “family values” because it would soon become another family “business” sort of education. However, if we look at the humane side of education and learning, then we would soon find that each of us as a human is different, as an individual, and not just another node in the network, though that is the reality. I don’t think Illich’s ideology would be realized in a commercial world based on capitalism and a competency based society. May be it could work in small tribes with a socialist ideals, where family values are upheld. I am not sure if the de-schooling would soon turn back to schooling, as a result of pressure to modernise education with technology. Or would it be a struggle with the ideology in response to authority, power and societal values? How do you see such an ideology be possible in your community? What outstanding questions do you have?

  19. Maybe you are right – “I don’t think Illich’s ideology would be realized in a commercial world based on capitalism and a competency based society”.

    It does appear that the institution of education, along with several other social institutions, including capitalist systems, are likely to perpetuate, at least in the foreseeable term. However, with the increasing vulnerabilities in financial sectors, and increased pressure on social welfare net systems (e.g. Greece), I wonder if the capitalist world will evolve into a different world, and our other institution will evolve along with it? I am speaking from a Western community perspective.

  20. Hi Ken,
    I love your points, and that is an exciting area of research, to envision how our institution would evolve as resulting from this financial crisis, and the associated impact on the overall economy, including the education economy. Now, this could be a test bed on how sustainable and economically viable are our institution systems. I think a MOOC on this could illuminate light on our future of education, with a collective wisdom – crowdsourcing of insights. See the current MITx and I reckon we would surely be amazed further on this trend. John

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