#Change11 #CCK12 The significance and impact of MOOC on learning and education

Whilst the drumming has never stopped ever since it started on MOOC’s – its history and future, and more analysis were made in distinguishing the 2 course formats of MOOC, it is about time to reflect on the significance and impact of MOOC on learning and education.

MOOC’s significance and impact

Here Tamar writes:

The current, more technically focused MOOCs are highly automated, with computer-graded assignment and exams. But there is still plenty of room for social interaction. The Stanford MOOCs, for example, included virtual office hours and online discussion forums where students could ask and answer questions — and vote on which were important enough to filter up the professor.

Whilst this model of Stanford MOOC did provide an interesting model for students to have access to the course for free, its highly automated assessment has rendered it unique in an open educational environment open up at a massive scale – to the public, without “any” pre-requisites knowledge or fees.

As shared by George in this recent post:

The Stanford MOOCs are more traditional as they emphasize knowledge development not ontological development. The primary innovation of these MOOCs relates to scale and economics: the numbers of learners that can take a course (currently for no fee, but I think that will be short-lived).

I think that is the crucial point: for MOOC to be sustainable, it must focus on learning, rather than treating it as another business, and be an ontological development, rather than the mere knowledge development.

Bonnie succinctly highlights that MOOC:

But that market lens on massive open coursework misses one of the central elements of the great disruption: education is not solely a business, or a credential-machine. It’s also about learning.

Tony reiterates in his comments:

No learning is easy and some people have tremendous self-discipline, but most in my experience do need structure and deadlines and scaffolding. There is also another meaning of ‘discipline’ and that is an organised body of knowledge with certain requirements for ‘success’. This may appear old-fashioned now, but I still think there is merit in the idea. That’s what makes formal learning different from MOOCs as at present but I don’t see why they couldn’t be adapted for this purpose.

The notion of organised body of knowledge with certain requirements for success may be one of the debatable elements in a Connectivist Learning Model. Success on an individual level would likely mean the achievement of personal goals and accomplishment of tasks or projects by the learners.  However, this may not necessarily be achieved through the completion of the MOOCs and so there are differences in the achievement of personal goals, and the achievement of “learning outcomes” of the course MOOC one is taking.  Besides, many of those lurkers or participants (active or inactive ones) on a MOOC could be learning through different networks and communities and so MOOC is just one of the platforms for them to “integrate” their learning, between the learning through MOOC and the formal learning in formal institutions.

Here Bonnie writes:

It is this participatory element – the learning of being part of a large, distributed network of people from varied backgrounds, focusing on the same topic – that enables open online experiences to offer value, even to those of us already studying in conventional institutions. That, and the speed and flexibility inherent in networked learning.

Tony continues: The real barrier is what I call the business model – how can MOOCs be financially sustaining in the long run? The Udacity model is not good one for me.

I think the financial implications in working out a business model with MOOCs would be imperative, especially for institutions or business enterprises to consider.

Our past 2 decades on online learning basing solely on a business model reveals that if we treat education solely as a business, a credential or money making machine, then the disruptive innovation pattern model as researched by Clayton Christensen would emerge:

Because companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ lives change, most organizations eventually end up producing products or services that are too good, too expensive, and too inconvenient for many customers.  By only pursuing “sustaining innovations” that perpetuate what has historically helped them succeed, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations”.

Some examples of disruptive innovation include:

Cellular phones
Community colleges
Discount retailers
Retail medical clinics
Fixed line telephony
Four-year colleges
Full-service department stores
Traditional doctor’s offices

Clayton’s prediction of disruptive innovation could rightly provide us with the crystal  ball: that innovative disruption would likely be repeated for any businesses – including education, and HE in particular, especially in highly developed countries, or a global market.  These seem to have been demonstrated in the current MOOCs phenomena too.  Are we ready for these sorts of “disruptions” in education?  Time will tell.

In summary, the MOOC is significant in that it povides an environment upon which learning with complex learning ecology is experimented and explored, so as to inform learners, technologists, educators and administrators (k-12, HE) and managers, engineers and learners from various businesses on the pros and cons of learning using various platforms or spaces in a complex digital landscape.  The impact of MOOC includes the changes that would be accompanied with its adoption, with a possibility of exploiting it as an education business model, whilst at the same time pushing HE to the boundary with more innovative models of education and learning in order to be sustainable.


35 thoughts on “#Change11 #CCK12 The significance and impact of MOOC on learning and education

  1. I wonder if a workable business model would be somewhat akin to the sales creed of “we don’t sell the steak, we sell the sizzle?”

    By this analogy, I mean that (E)ducation might benefit by no longer attempting to sell the knowledge (the meat) but might instead sell the sizzle (the certification/badge/accreditation etc).

  2. Hi Ken,
    You are right. There are lots of providers who are selling the sizzle (the certification/badge/accreditation). How and what they are selling however, could be interesting, as only those who are within the education environment would know the details. Online education and learning is a huge market, especially in developing countries. It’s not bounded by the existing institutions or ivory towers any more, and so it has become a “movement” as I could see it. I have written about the implications of having more accreditation and skilled learners in another conversation, but will post it as a response here.

  3. Here are my comments (in my previous post):
    I am interested in researching in that direction, but this would require a different research approach than the survey only, as these courses are designed and delivered with different epistemology and pedagogy. If the participants of a course have decided to learn a particular set of skills (like the AI/Machine Learning), then surely a more structured approach would be a more effective and efficient way of presenting for the instructors and might be easier for the learners to learn. As those courses are testing the skills and knowledge through MCs and examinations with “known correct answers”, then these would more easily be aligned with the learning outcomes, if the learners are tested and assessed using those tools. The limitations with such approach are: when learners are confronted with problems with unknown answers, and that require multiple answers in order to solve the problems, i.e. in case of complex problems, would this approach be good enough? For example, what are the impact and risks involved in the application of AI and Machine Learning for a community (especially those developing countries)? From our past experience, once people got the skills in a particular area, they may be looking for jobs in the community. Is the community able to offer jobs for them? What happens if these skilled people couldn’t find a job? They would look elsewhere. Due to the demand-supply problems, skilled people who couldn’t get jobs in their local community would likely apply jobs in other communities, or even migrate to other countries. In some instances, this led to a brain-drain problem for the local community, or a country. How to solve this type of problem? I won’t go into details.
    So, solving a problem with educational solutions could also “create” another set of problems (challenges and opportunities) in the community or country. What I am interested in would not just be on how learning occurs in the networks, or how knowledge is “acquired, transferred, or constructed” personally, but how these would be translated into the notion of solving individual and social problems, and how solving these problems would inform us on what we could learn. This also applies to the research itself.

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  7. Sounds like you are concerned with social engineering rather than learning processes.

    Connectivism focuses on the sizzle, maintaining that our current/previous conceptions of knowledge are either in error or no longer relevant in a digital age. The steak, or knowledge of facts, is not so important. The sizzle, or connections, become the focal point.

  8. Hi Ken,
    I haven’t thought about that. An interesting metaphor/analogy. There are always pros and cons with each approach of theorising of knowledge, education and learning – with metaphors and theory of education and learning. That’s also part of critical thinking and systems thinking, as that is how I have been educated. We are all living in a world based on economy – supply and demand of resources, and education is also part of the system. That is also governed by a system of education and learning. We all are looking for both economically viable and sustainable solutions to our education and learning system, though we should equally value and support individual’s autonomy in learning. Isn’t that the spirit of a great education and learning in a democratic society?

  9. Thanks John. While it may seem of no consequence to others, it is refreshing to me to hear a connectivist admit that learning theories are merely a cog in the wheel of (E)ducation within the greater democratic economic system. What the admission suggests to me is that any discussion of connectivism as a valid theory is really a discussion of its utility within the system. Again, maybe everyone else understands this already but to me it is revealing, and I think a sales metaphor is likely appropriate, especially given that our (western) economic systems are driven by profit incentives and commodity sales.

  10. Hi Ken,
    Very interesting ideas – the sales metaphor. Economic systems are driven by profit incentives and commodity sales – at least, this is how some countries are run and where education is designed and administrated basing on a business model. You have got the crystal ball 🙂

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  13. That may be the interests of marketing people, or those entrepreneurs. I have taught marketing for sometime, so, is MOOC priceless? Or you can’t fix a price to it? From research: “We Are the MOOC!” Can you sell people? I think we have not published this “ownership of MOOC” but that would be the most revealing one, not just an emotional response. Aren’t we all on MOOC, though we don’t all perceive it that way, and not everyone is valuing it in the same way. That is why openness and diversity is important as a “MOOC” spirit – for people to appreciate and reflect on what it means to learn about others’ perspectives who might be different from us, and to value them, just as they value you. Is that the sizzle? May be different MOOCs have their own currency – in value. What do you think?

  14. Oh, I think MOOCs may have different appeals, and people place their differing values on them. But certainly there is an attempt to monetize MOOCs, don’t you agree? What sizzle would compel people to part with their money for a MOOC? Or, if we remove money from that statement, what sizzle would compel people to participate in a MOOC?

  15. Yes, I agreed, that there are attempts to monetize MOOCs. Treating MOOC as a commodity have lots of implication. What I am concerned is: when such “education” becomes a business for profits only, who would be engaged? Only those who could afford it would buy it. Business people talk, sell, trade, and profit from education. That’s fine. But is that education? What is the value of education to the society? What is its real purpose? If we reflect on what makes a great education, then would we be more interested in growing and developing people, in supporting each other to become more active, engaging, valuable and valued members and individual & independent learners of society? MOOC is owned by the people, not the rich who could pay, nor the poor who couldn’t afford to pay, but everyone who shows or shares an interest, in the conversation, in debates and discourse, or in games, or in education and learning, that would hopefully lead to the achievement of one’s goals and aspirations. Some may use it for upgrading their skills at work, or developing or enhancing knowledge in formal study or lifelong learning. I would be hesitant in using it as a “selling” weapon though.
    What could a MOOC offer? I think your sizzle metaphor could be applicable to those for profits MOOC. I like your question about removing money from that statement, what sizzle would compel people to participate in a MOOC? Can you force a horse to drink water when it doesn’t want to? You could only lead it to the river, and it will drink, especially when it feels thirsty.

  16. I think that one aspect of (E)ducation is not just about the profits earned by businesses that sell education, it is also about who maintains a living (or profits) from the institution of (E)ducation. Clearly, anyone who draws a paycheque from an (E)ducational institution profits from it/sustains a lifestyle.

    In my jurisdiction, certainly youth are made to drink from the river of (E)ducation directly via legislated attendance requirements based on age. After that age, economic incentives or disincentives compel further drinking. I hesitate to think that MOOCs are just another tool to compel river of (E)ducation consumption, but that is what was indicated previously in this discussion. Does increasing engagement, attention, etc. merely act to add sugar to the river, in order to ease the consumption of it?

  17. Thanks for this, John. I’m pondering your quote from Tony that “No learning is easy and some people have tremendous self-discipline, but most in my experience do need structure and deadlines and scaffolding.”

    I wonder if we hold an assumption that “most people” need structure and imposed discipline from others because they are so accustomed to someone else handing them a pre-made structure through traditional schooling (see Seth Godin’s recent manifesto Stop Stealing our Dreams). For adults currently taking part in moocs, who grew up with traditional schooling models, perhaps many of us are discovering the attraction of developing our own structure, borrowing pieces here and there from others and perhaps designing structures of our own (such as our own web hosting platforms).

    Think ahead, though, maybe 15-20 years into the future. What if a child grew up *only* learning in a self-directed, networked, connectivist, self-structured way? Would he or she really need someone else to provide the deadlines and scaffolding? Or would that child have no problem figuring it out for him/herself?

  18. @Ken,
    Thinking about business model, I found this interesting, about creating learning community not courses. May be MOOC suffers from the term course itself, as it really sends a message that it intends to achieve a set of learning outcomes, as traditionally set in a course. It is NOT. It is more than what the course intends to achieve, and much broader than just learning about the “content” of the course. As some of “us” has experienced, it is centered around conversation, and use of various media and tools to help us to engage, or to reflect more deeply into what those sizzle (badges, accreditation, certification) means, for the educators, and the learners (educatee?). Such misnomer could send the “wrong message” that MOOC is just a social club too, as there is in fact no one single club owner to direct what others should or shouldn’t do. Those belong to the “kingdom” of business, with centralised vision and mission. MOOC does provide value proposition, just like any business, those these values are based on what each of the “stakeholders” and participants would like to define. And that is what (E)ducation in a new and emergent community (or networks) would likely re-define, its vision, mission, and thus value proposition. Does increasing engagement, attention merely act to add sugar to the river, in order to ease the consumption of it? May I share the video on Why Mobile Learning? For some people (especially the case examples as shown in the video), they would be looking for access to “quality” information, to help them to think, to reflect upon, to raise a voice, or to learn some basic skills, or to help in solving a problem or making a decision. So, MOOC for the “disadvantaged”, for the “less than abled, not just disabled” and for the less than fortunate (due to lack of access, or their lack of academic or intellectual abilities) could be equally valuable. Have we forgotten these important values for the people in the society? Give them fishes, and they would live for another day, but teach them how to fish, and they could feed for their lives. I don’t know if that could convince the “rich” to bestow more “care” to the poor, but I do think as a Catholic, that is the value that I aspire to, even when I was young. It could be about leveraging technology, to get a certificate (recognition), to make a living (as an educator, or an entrepreneur), and each profession could add values to others or society on a different scale, in a different way.

    In summary, I could see the challenge of course, in this MOOC, but I reckon its the values that MOOC could bring along that is more important, as that might be the catalyst for awareness, in education, and in its transformation, within us, for us.


  19. >So, MOOC for the “disadvantaged”, for the “less than abled, not just disabled” and for the less than fortunate (due to lack of access, or their lack of academic or intellectual abilities) could be equally valuable.

    I would never argue against helping the less fortunate. Especially if it is not a case of disguised colonialism, or (E)ducational imperialism.

    I wonder how a MOOC would actually achieve the goal of helping the less fortunate? It seems there are barriers to participation, e.g. digital access, skills, tools.

  20. I have noted some initiatives relating to the provision of skills program, where participants would be learning how to design and fabricate solar cells, mounting them onto roofs of a house in rural areas, for the provision of low cost electricity. There are projects that are being facilitated by the universities, where participants were educated (or trained) to develop entrepreurship skills, in order to incorporate innovation into those small business when they go back to their home countries. There are also networks and communities for the students who drop out from schools due to various reasons, and so they would be at risks of long-term unemployment due to lack of skills. So, MOOC could be run in different formats, under different contexts, to serve different people. The ones as shown in the videos targeting people with mild/serious disabilities, with autism, ADD, etc. could all be potential MOOC, especially, if educators and institutions are willing to invest in making education available to them. Relating to digital access, skills and tools, I agree that there could be lots of barriers and challenges. Educators who were great (like Confucius) once said: When we educate, don’t separate them into classes (i.e. not because they are rich or poor, but because they have a right to learn), and when we educate (teach or facilitate), we need to consider the skills and abilities of those whom we are educating, and the context. So, raising goal posts (especially in a digital world) would only help these people if they could have access to educators and or technology, and have an opportunity to learn, with the appropriate (safe) learning environment. How to achieve the goal of helping the less fortunate is only empty words or promises if there is no action. But without any support from educators and institutions (including governments), networks, then these might just be our best wishes. Do you think there are better ways of breaking those barriers?

  21. Well, I guess I am referencing the MOOCs that I know of, and have participated in, and am having a little difficulty understanding how they might be accessible to all. It seems you are talking about something different than MOOCs, more of a philosophy of sharing knowledge, accessibility, inclusiveness and openness.

  22. Yes, I agreed with your points. As I have worked on numerous projects (courses, programs) in the past as course coordinator, facilitator, instructor for the disadvantaged students, I have experimented with the concepts of Connectivism and MOOC to varying degrees. MOOC could be used as an alternative approach of helping students with those needs, through various means, media, and technology as mentioned. Although MOOC sounds “chaotic, distributive, emergent” to the learners (and even educators), it is really through such learning that some would understand the meaning of learning in a digital era, in an authentic learning environment. Sometimes, these students may need to have a structured learning at first, but soon they would find it boring and lose interests in learning. This might be due to the lack of interaction or conversation, or the lack of interested engaging activities or projects, games etc. for them to learn. This is where hands on practice, and internship could add flavors to their learning. There are lots of assumptions too, when first designing courses of MOOC, and so an understanding of the needs of participants would be necessary, if it is to be based on course outcomes and specific learning goals. Up till now, MOOC has only been experimented on courses run at a “graduate” level or “undergraduate – education/technology” level. This could be interesting to see if the concepts are applied more widely. John

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  30. You could definitely see your skills within the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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